Loved iconic series
50TH ANNIVERSARY CLOSE
It remains one of the most iconic comedy series of our time, spawning films, books, records and tours — and even now as it nears its 50th anniversary next year, Monty Python is as loved as ever.
Coinciding with the milestone, founding member Eric Idle, 75, has written his ‘sortabiography’, Always Look On the Bright Side Of Life, which charts some of his recollections of the series and its spin-offs.
Mr Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman worked together at the Cambridge Footlights (Cambridge University’s now famous dramatics club), later meeting their Oxford Revue rivals Terry Jones and Michael Palin at the Edinburgh Festival.
Terry Gilliam, whose animations would form a stream-of-consciousness f low to become the basis for Monty Python, was introduced to the gang after Mr Cleese met him in New York when on tour with the Footlights Revue.
Did they think Python was going to be something big?
‘‘Absolutely not. It was just a little late night show we were all doing, but which we were fortunate enough to have total control of. We weren’t told what to do or stopped from doing anything,’’ Mr Idle said.
‘‘We suddenly had the opportunity to do a show exactly how we wanted to do it. That encouraged us to make it something completely different.’’
They were given more freedom as the show started life as a late-night slot the BBC wanted to fill.
‘‘There were fewer executives, who are, of course, the death of comedy. We had worked on light entertainment shows but didn’t feel we belonged in that slot,’’ Idle said.
‘‘Terry Gilliam made a tremendous difference because he was able to put that Victorian animated framework around it, which gave it a stamp look which other shows didn’t have.
‘‘The sketches appeared to be connected by this odd surrealistic framework.
‘‘Python wasn’t a popular show at first. We really annoyed people. Middle-class ladies would say, ‘Monty Python’ we hate you lot’. It was much more effectively insulting, rude and nastier than this cuddly group it now appears to be. Continued page 21