How It’s (English) Irish: The Pythons are British!
One of my favorite teenage memories is the endless hours spent in my brother’s attic bedroom learning all the skits from the Monty Python album Matching Tie and Handkerchief. Even now at family gatherings we devolve into the Penguin on the Telly sketch or the Cheese Shop, and the silliness of The Spanish Inquisition. The delight of these memories was amplified when I heard of the Python reunion event happening in London in 2014. Alas, I didn’t make it over to London to see it in person, but now that I’ve seen this hilarious documentary from Director Roger Graef I feel I’ve had a taste of the madcap mayhem.
Covering the rehearsal period and actual shows from the run, the film gives an inside look into the creation of the reunion show as well as a rarely-seen-before glimpse of the relationships between this band of funny men. At times they seem like the bunch of college kids they were when they first started out, deliciously riffing off of each other as they retell their past exploits and mapping out which of their classic bits to include in the show.
Graef jumps back and forth between rehearsal scenes, interviews and footage from the run at the O2 Arena in London. There are a wealth of clips of the original version and modern retakes on some of the better known sketches, and their lustre hasn’t faded in the least. These guys obviously have still got it, even though they go on in detail about how creaky they now are and can’t do as much physically as they used to. They crack each other up, go up on their lines and even feign indignation with each other.
Terry Gilliam is probably the most vocal and frenetic during the interview sessions, constantly trying to stir the others up and repeatedly sending John Cleese into giggles. Cleese and Michael Palin were the calm and cool elder statesmen of the bunch, the two Terrys (Jones and Gilliam) kept the zaniness flowing, and what can be said of Eric Idle other than he is epic! Their entrance in a custom “Retardis” (apologies to Dr. Who fans) in the opening segment of the show had the entire audience laughing hysterically.
Their iconic Galaxy Song from the film “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life” is celebrated both in the stage show and through a fabulous scene showing Eric Idle meeting scientist Stephen Hawking and showing him the segment with his voiceover of the lyrics to the song. You can see this here on YouTube:
It is quite moving, not only for the audience, but for most of the Pythons as well, and in the end credits Idle expresses a wish to release it as a single, which they eventually did in advance of the premiere.
Overall, they just seemed to be having a great laugh and really enjoying themselves. Michael Palin says in one segment that he asked Spike Milligan once if he could sum up what it was like doing the Goon Shows and he said it was like having one good summer. Now to English folk, or anyone in the UK for that matter, there is nothing like that one memorable summer where you could have picnics and outings to the beach, with loads of sunshine lashing down. So, the Pythons may have hung up their boater hats and crazy Spanish Inquisitor costumes, but they’ve brought us a load of wonderful summers.
Hopefully this wonderful romp down Python memory lane will be coming to a theatre near you this summer. Keep your eyes peeled and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.