NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition – or a reunion of Monty Python.
The surviving members of the cult BBC comedy show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, are set to announce that they will reunite for a new stage show.
In the comedy equivalent of red-robed clerics suddenly bursting into one’s living room armed with a cushion as an implement of torture, news broke of the surprise reunion.
While full details of the new stage production are not set to be announced until a press conference on Thursday, Terry Jones broke the news on Tuesday by telling the BBC: “We’re getting together and putting on a show – it’s real.
“I’m quite excited about it. I hope it makes us a lot of money. I hope to be able to pay off my mortgage.”
Meanwhile, Eric Idle tweeted: “Only three days to go till the Python press conference. Make sure Python fans are alerted to the big forthcoming news event.”
He added: “Python meeting this morning. Can’t wait.”
For the past few months the surviving members – Idle, Jones, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin – have been involved in secret talks to iron out the details of what will be their first new comedy material for 30 years.
The five remaining members of the comedy group last appeared together in public in 1998 at the Aspen Comedy Festival in America.
The legendary comic actors and writers will make their announcement at the Playhouse Theatre, the London venue where Monty Python musical Spamalot is running.
The groundbreaking show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, famous for its Dead Parrot sketch and for breaking the rules on traditional sketch writing, was made for TV between 1969 and 1974 and drew fans around the world.
When writing the comedy show the team would work regular office hours, arriving at 9am, finishing at 5pm and working in teams.
Cleese and the late Graham Chapman worked together, as did Jones and Palin, while Idle preferred to work alone, as did Gilliam, who produced the cartoon sequences such as the foot which squashes characters in the much-loved title sequence.
As Cleese said in an interview: “Most of the sketches with heavy abuse were Graham’s and mine, anything that started with a slow pan across countryside and impressive music was Mike and Terry’s, and anything that got utterly involved with words and disappeared up any personal orifice was Eric’s.”
The Pythons went on to make comedy feature films together including Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975) and the
controversial Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), the story of a man who is mistaken for Jesus Christ.
The movie was attacked as blasphemous by religious groups, but despite being banned by some councils it was a huge box office success in the US and UK and went on to be named the “greatest comedy film of all time”.
The team’s final film, Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life, released in 1983, was the last time the six Pythons worked together on a full-time project and won the jury prize at the Cannes film festival.
The sixth Python, Chapman, died of cancer in 1989 aged just 48.
In 2006, Idle, Gilliam, Jones and Palin attended the London opening of Spamalot, a musical adaptation of Monty Python and The Holy Grail – Cleese was busy filming in Australia – after the show first opened in Broadway.
Following the end of Monty Python, the comedy group have enjoyed success in their own careers.
Cleese showed off his comic talent and co-wrote hit comedy series Fawlty Towers as well as co-writing and starring in A Fish Called Wanda, which also featured Palin.
US-born Gilliam directed films including The Brothers Grimm, Twelve Monkeys, Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas and Jabberwocky.
Palin became known for his travel documentary series for the BBC and Idle penned the Spamalot musical while Jones directed Idle, Palin and Cleese in a 1996 film adaptation of The Wind In The Willows.
Earlier this year, film producer Mark Forstater, who claimed a share of profits from Spamalot, won a High Court royalty fight with the Monty Python comedy team.
A spokesman for the Pythons remained tight-lipped about the announcement, saying: “A press conference is set for Thursday where the Pythons themselves will be unveiling their plans to work together again.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Since leaving Monty Python Michael Palin, 70, has become a national treasure as well as earning the soubriquet of ‘the nicest man in showbusiness’. Palin began his new career as a traveller in 1989 when Alan Whicker turned down the offer to present Around the World in 80 Days. Since then he has made seven more travel series for the BBC. Last year he wrote his second novel, The Truth, about the perils of fame. An art enthusiast, Palin has also made a film about the Scottish Colourists, The Bright Side of Life. He has been happily married to Helen Gibbins for 45 years.
The 72-year-old built a successful career as a film director, but the profession has dealt him a number of personal blows. Since last taking to the stage with Monty Python, Gilliam has seen one film collapse mid-production, while in 2008 Heath Ledger died while making The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Gilliam had to re-write the film and finished it with Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell in the title role. JK Rowling said he was her first choice to direct Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone but Warner Bros eventually said no.
Five years ago Cleese, now 73, and his American wife, Alyce Faye Eichelberger, divorced after 16 years of marriage and under Californian law, the comedian was forced to pay her £8 million in cash and assets, then another £600,000 per year for the next seven years. To fund the settlement, Cleese embarked on the Alimony tour of the US and Europe. While a dedicated supporter of the Liberal Democrats, he refused the offer of a life peerage as this would involve spending the winter in England. He married for a fourth time in 2012.
In the past 15 years Terry Jones, 72, has developed an alternative career as a TV historian, hosting documentaries that frequently present the opportunity to cavort in period costume. In 2004 he wrote and presented Terry Jones Medieval Lives, which won an Emmy for outstanding writing. His marriage to Alison Telfer broke up after he fell in love with a 26-year-old student, Anna Soderstrom, with whom he had a daughter in 2009. A keen follower of politics, he was an ardent critic of the ‘War on Terror’.
The closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics involved Eric Idle, 70, floating above the crowd while singing Always Look On The Bright Side of Life. In 2004 he created Spamalot, a musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It became a massive success, earning more than £100 million with its initial run. The impetus for the show was Idle’s frustration at the failure of the group to reunite for a stage show. As well as developing Spamalot, Idle, who moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s, embarked on The Greedy Bastard Tour of America and Canada.
PITHY PYTHON QUOTES
• BBC Announcer: ‘We interrupt this programme to annoy you and make things generally irritating.’
• Alan Whicker: ‘Father Pierre, why did you stay on in this colonial Campari-land, where the clink of glasses mingles with the murmur of a million mosquitoes, where waterfalls and whisky wash away the worries of a world-weary Whicker, where gin and tonics jingle in a gyroscopic jubilee of something beginning with J?’
• Senor Biggles: ‘Miss Bladder, take a letter.’
Miss Bladder: ‘Yes, Señor Biggles.’
Señor Biggles: ‘Don’t call me “Señor!” I’m not a Spanish person. You must call me Mr Biggles or Group Captain Biggles, or Mary Biggles if I’m dressed as my wife, but never “Señor!’
• ‘I’ve definitely ‘ad enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not ‘alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein’ tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.’
• ‘He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.’
• ‘What Jesus blatantly fails to appreciate is that it’s the meek who are the problem.’