Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - In Business -

T re­mains one of the most iconic com­edy se­ries of our time, spawn­ing films, books, records and tours. Monty Python marks its 50th an­niver­sary this year and is as loved as ever. Co­in­cid­ing with the mile­stone date, 75-year-old found­ing mem­ber Eric Idle 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.

Eric, 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 fit­tingly bizarre ad­di­tions to Monty Python episodes, was in­tro­duced to the gang af­ter John Cleese met him in New York while on tour with the Foot­lights Re­vue.

As the count­down to Monty Python’s big birth­day in Oc­to­ber be­gins, we join Eric for some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. 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. 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. Did the show’s late-night slot on BBC al­low you more free­dom? 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. It was late at night, no­body cared and we were al­lowed to ex­per­i­ment.

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. What was the ini­tial re­ac­tion? THERE were lots of com­plaints but the BBC ig­nored them. They were try­ing to open up this late-night slot, and were sud­denly find­ing there were peo­ple up that late who liked a com­edy show on Sun­day night.

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. Peo­ple didn’t like our at­ti­tudes. We were mock­ing. Up­per-class twits were mocked. All the things you were sup­posed to look up to were mocked. Pan­tomime Princess Mar­garets were raced around. It wasn’t re­spect­ful. The show ran for 45 episodes. Did it help that it was one of the first se­ries shown in colour? PYTHON be­gan right at the start of the dig­i­tal era, which meant that 50 years later, the show phys­i­cally still doesn’t look as dated as it would had it been shot in black and white and on film.

Python isn’t just one type of hu­mour, it is a com­pen­dium of styles. While the cast re­mains the same, the WE only did the sketches once. Some­times we did them on stage. I liked do­ing Nudge (Nudge, Nudge, Wink Wink) but I also liked to do the travel agent, with the guy who goes on and on about be­ing on hol­i­days, how they are aw­ful, and never stops talk­ing.

When we were on tour, I’d end up on the bal­cony rant­ing on and on. At Eric Idle has writ­ten a book on his mem­o­ries from half a cen­tury with the Pythons

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