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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

Monty Python and the birth of modern comedy

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

When you think of comedy in Britain, the first thing that immediately comes to mind is the surreal British comedy group Monty Python. For more than five decades, this group has brought laughter to the world. Monty Python went on to revolutionize comedy not only in Great Britain, but also in nations across the world, and their projects are still held to high esteem.

Monty Python was brought to life in 1969 with their famous sketch-comedy-show, "Monty Python’s Flying Circus." The comedy troupe included Terry Jones, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and Michael Palin. The whole concept of "Monty Python’s Flying Circus" was to act out absurd situations, while at the same time, fusing the situation with risqué and innuendo-laden humor, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines. The Pythons' goal was to make something that was unlike anything that was on British television.

When "Flying Circus" first aired in Great Britain on BBC1 on October 5, 1969, it became a huge success. It initially failed to draw an audience in the United States, but it soon gained popularity after the Public Broadcasting Service affiliates began airing it in 1974. With this success, the Pythons began to go on live tours and created three additional films.

After the success of "Flying Circus," the Pythons made a film, related to their previously loved series, named "And Now for Something Completely Different" on September 28, 1971. The film includes sketches from the show’s first two series; however, the film received mixed reviews from both British and American audiences, and it did not make a decent profit compared to the budget.

In 1975, the group created the famous film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." This film is centered around the legends of King Arthur and the film was conceived around the hiatus of the third and fourth seasons of the "The Flying Circus." The Pythons that starred in this film were Chapman as Arthur, King of the Britons, Cleese as Sir Lancelot, Gilliam as Arthur’s servant Patsy, Idle as Sir Robin, Jones as Sir Bedevere and Palin as Sir Galahad. This film was considered one of the best comedy films ever made in the mid 1970s, despite the mixed reviews from critics. With a $400,000 budget, the film turned in a profit of $5 million.

After "The Holy Grail" and "The Flying Circus," the Pythons went on to make "Life of Brian." Released in 1979, the film depicts the life of a young Jewish man named Brian Cohen, portrayed by Chapman, who was born on the same day and literally next door to Jesus Christ and is subsequently mistaken for the Messiah. Interestingly, this film was financed by George Harrison of the Beatles, and the film was said to be almost rated X due to the amount of nudity, sexual references and accusations of blasphemy, but it got a AA (14) rating in the UK. The film received positive reviews from critics and earned $20.2 million from a $4 million budget.

In 1983, the Pythons released their final film titled "The Meaning of Life." The film was structured in same style as "The Flying Circus," where there are many sketches pieced together to create the film, and these sketches were loosely based on the true stages of life.

After the release of "The Meaning of Life," the Pythons parted ways in 1983. In 1989, Graham Chapman passed away after cancer spread to his spinal cord. The Pythons did reunite for benefit shows, but they officially discontinued reunions in 2014.

Since 2014, Monty Python has made audiences laugh to crude humor, and the films are considered to hold nostalgia and they will bring a smile to anyone’s face.

This story is in honor of Terry Jones, who passed away on January 21, 2020 at the age of 77.