Monty Python: A Retrospective of The Most Influential Comedy Troupe of All Time

This British Comedy troop formally introduced themselves to audiences in October of 1969 on BBC 5, when they made their debut with their outrageous and surreal sketch comedy program entitled “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” This six-man team included comedians of numerous talents and skills and was loosely based on the existing sketch show set-up. However, its unique premise followed a string of consciousness format, with narrators, observations and monologues used to generate laughs. Join WatchMojo.com as we look back at the history of Monty Python.
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Monty Python: A Retrospective of The Most Influential Comedy Troupe of All Time

And now for something completely different! Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be taking a look at back at the history of Monty Python.

This British Comedy troop formally introduced themselves to audiences in October of 1969 on BBC 5, when they made their debut with their outrageous and surreal sketch comedy program entitled “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

This six-man team included comedians of numerous talents and skills. Together they included the straight-faced Graham Chapman, cheeky and suggestive playboy Eric Idle, animator Terry Gilliam, outrageous female impersonator and upper-class gentleman Terry Jones, the wide-ranging and working-class northerner Michael Palin, and John Cleese, who was best at playing the ridiculous authority figure.

The name from this series resulted of The Pythons comedy troupe being forced to use the show name “Flying Circus” as the result of the BBC selecting the title as a placeholder in their schedule. The group subsequently added the name “Monty” due to their love of the absurd, and as a tribute to a legendary British general from World War II.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus was written and performed by its stars, and loosely based on the existing sketch show set-up. However, its unique premise followed a string of consciousness format. Namely, narrators, observation and monologues were used to generate much of the laughs.

The group similarly decided to forgo capping their sketches with a final punch line, instead allowing them to abruptly end or blend into one another. These shifts were accompanied by the use of surreal stop motion animations, created by Gilliam.

Flying Circus also made use of a cold open, which had the program start without an introduction, and regularly broke of the fourth wall by addressing the camera. The cast even cross-dressed, going so far as to play women impersonating men.

Writing for the show was done alone and in pairs, with the group meeting to critique each other and exchange ideas. Seeing themselves as writers, rather than performers, the crew never found themselves fighting for roles in their popular sketches, which included “Spam”, “Dead Parrot”, and “The Lumberjack Song.”

In 1971, the Pythons released their first film titled “And Now For Something Completely Different.” It was merely a low budget reshoot of earlier sketches meant to gain the attention of foreign audiences.

Largely ignored overseas, it was their 1974’s feature “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” that managed to break new ground. In that picture, the group embarked on a medieval romp that followed the mythical tale of King Arthur and his quest for the cup of Christ.

Later that year, their television program wrapped, due to their internal perception that the Flying Circus had lost much of its freshness and originality.

Meanwhile, its production company decided against generating an American version of the show, explaining that British Comedy cannot be faithfully translated for an American audience. Yet, re-runs began running stateside and attracted countless new fans, sparking a deep American interest in British content.

Afterwards, the group continued to thrill fans around the world with “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”, their concert feature “Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl”, and “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.” This final film sought to offend, and served as the last major project that all of its group members would collaborate on.

During their four series and various film endeavors, the group became recognized as a cultural phenomenon. They had even spawned touring stage shows, albums, charitable projects, books and a stage musical.

After the disbanding of the group, its members took on various projects. The most successful of the performers became its oldest member, John Cleese. He not only starred in the hit BBC sitcom “Fawlty Towers”, but also appeared in over sixty theatrical films, including a part in the James Bond Series, and over two-dozen television works.

Considered the comedy equivalent of The Beatles, Flying Circus remains one of the greatest and most beloved pieces of entertainment Britain has ever produced. Still relevant and funny today, it continues to make us laugh with its risqué and observational humor that pokes fun of the idiosyncrasies of British culture.
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