The collective nickname of five zany Oxford/Cambridge graduates (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and American artist, Terry Gilliam who created the comedy skits on MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS/BBC/1969-74.
The name “Monty Python” was just that…a name. It had no deep value and as Shakespeare might say the program was filled with tales “told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Before settling on the name Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the group considered calling themselves “Owl Stretching Time, Toad Elevating Moment, Sex and Violence, The Horse, a Spoon and a Basin, Unlike a Bloody Stumbling Boot, and Gwen Dibley’s Flying Circus.
The blackouts, surreal skits, and irreverent humor on the series, which targeted virtually anyone in any position of power, was a continuation of the craziness typical of the British 1950s classic radio series THE GOON SHOW.
Amidst the utter confusion and insanity of their skits (“And now for something completely different…”) came a wonderful litany of verbose put-downs and insults espoused by John Cleese.
Some of his greatest insults were “You stupid, furry Bucktoothed gits!,” “You excrement! You lousy hypocritical whining toadies with your lousy color TV sets and your Tony Jacklin golf clubs” and “I unclog my nose in your direction…I wave my private parts at your aunties, you cheesy-lover, second-hand-election donkey-bottom-biters!” (As taken from “And Now For Something Completely Trivial: The Monty Python Trivia and Quiz Book” by Kim Howard Johnson – St. Martin, 1991).
Of the forty-five episodes produced (13 each season), the most memorable skits included “The Minister of Silly Walks,” “Blackmail,” “The Lumberjack Song,” “The Argument,” “The Spanish Inquisition,” “Spam,” The Killer Joke,” and “The Dead Parrot” where John Cleese walks into a pet shop with a dead parrot and says, “I wish to register a complaint…”
In addition to their British television series, the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus created a number of memorable theatrical releases, including:
- And Now for Something Completely Different (1971)
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
- Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
- Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
- Monty Python Live, Mostly (2014)
Note: Graham Chapman died of tonsil and spinal cancer on October 4, 1989, on the eve of Monty Python’s 20th anniversary. John Cleese delivered this eulogy at the funeral:
“I guess we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, of such capability for kindness, of such unusual intelligence, should now so suddenly be spirited away …. Well, I feel that I should say, ‘Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries!’ And the reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him, but mindless good taste.”