I was there

Roger Last, who worked on the sur­real com­edy that be­came a global phe­nom­e­non

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - — In­ter­view by Mick Brown For de­tails of all an­niver­sary events, visit mon­typython.com

Fifty years on from the first Monty Python’s Fly­ing Cir­cus

The first show was broad­cast 50 years ago to­day

This pic­ture [below] was taken in Jer­sey, not long af­ter the launch of Python. The team had wanted to film abroad, but we didn’t have the bud­get; I think the BBC thought Jer­sey was abroad enough. It was a chilly day, but warm in the sun. I’d been do­ing some­thing in­side, which is why I’m there in the mid­dle wear­ing a jer­sey, while Eric [Idle, sec­ond left] and Mike [Palin] had taken their shirts off. It looks quite odd. The lady on the left is Lyn Ash­ley, who was Eric’s wife at the time. The oth­ers were all mem­bers of the crew.

I wanted to work in arts pro­grammes at the BBC. I’d been do­ing a long film about Ge­orge Eliot – pretty se­ri­ous stuff – and was told I’d have to spend two weeks on this new com­edy pro­gramme.

At that stage it was called Bun, Whack­ett, Buz­zard, Stub­ble and Boot. But that turned out to be just a work­ing ti­tle. An­other idea was 100 Things To

Do With Vase­line. That wouldn’t have got through in 1969. So I did the film­ing and had such a good time, I asked, ‘Can I stay on?’ I ended up work­ing on it for three years.

Orig­i­nally as­sis­tant floor man­ager, I was pro­moted to do lots of things above my pay grade. I found lo­ca­tions and se­lected the mu­sic for the show, apart from for Terry [Gil­liam]’s car­toons. The Python team were all so bright and in­tel­li­gent, they had a lot of ideas and they’d take risks. It was a dif­fer­ent age, 1969. Tele­vi­sion was very up­tight, in fact so­ci­ety was. They were try­ing to break down so many taboos, which they suc­ceeded in do­ing in a good-na­tured, sur­real way.

To be with them was re­ally a great treat; they were jok­ing all the time. Mike and Terry [Jones] wrote to­gether, Gra­ham [Chap­man] and John [Cleese] wrote to­gether, and Eric would usu­ally write by him­self. There would be some ri­valry. John would say, ‘Well, this isn’t very good,’ be­cause Terry and Mike had writ­ten it – he was jok­ing, I think. But it all went into the pot.

Most of the pro­gramme was filmed in Tele­vi­sion Cen­tre, but we’d go out when the script de­manded. We should have got per­mis­sion to film in the streets, but what we did at times was so out­ra­geous, we didn’t like to ask. I re­mem­ber when we filmed the Span­ish in­qui­si­tion sketch at the Old Bai­ley. The script called for a dou­ble-decker bus to ar­rive, and Mike and Terry – dressed as car­di­nals – to jump out and run into the build­ing. You can imag­ine what the re­sponse would have been if we’d asked to do that of­fi­cially. So we hired a bus and got Mike and Terry on board. The cam­era went down to the Old Bai­ley. As soon as the bus ar­rived, we started film­ing. Mike and Terry jumped out and ran into the Old Bai­ley, past the at­ten­dant, and [the crew] all quickly jumped on the bus and drove away. It was won­der­ful, an­ar­chic fun.

The Monty Python team in 1969 (from left): Terry Jones, Gra­ham Chap­man, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gil­liam and Michael Palin

Some of the cast and crew take a break from film­ing in Jer­sey, March 1971

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.