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Our Monty Python memories... and 11 things you never knew about the Pythons

PUBLISHED: 18:55 30 January 2020

Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Michael Palin from  Monty Python Picture: PA.

Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Michael Palin from Monty Python Picture: PA.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus changed comedy forever. Following the recent sad loss of Terry Jones and “seventh Python” Neil Innes, we’re looking back at the team’s 50-plus years of comic genius.

Whicker Island: Members of the Monty Python team,, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and Terry Jones, filming the famous sketch at Winterton in 1970. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYWhicker Island: Members of the Monty Python team,, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and Terry Jones, filming the famous sketch at Winterton in 1970. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

So what's your greatest Monty Python moment? There were so many great sketches and classic lines that it's almost impossible to choose.

Many people have been reminiscing about their all-time favourite episodes and films, as tributes pour in after the death of Monty Python legend Terry Jones, described by Sir Michael Palin as "one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation".

Terry Jones's death at 77, after suffering from a rare form of dementia, came just a few weeks after the sad loss of another comedy great, long-time Suffolk resident Neil Innes, aged 75, sometimes known as the "seventh Python".

Neil Innes, who lived in Debenham for many years, worked with the Python team as well as creating the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band and Beatles spoof The Rutles.

Terry Jones (right) and Michael Palin Picture: Ian West/PA WireTerry Jones (right) and Michael Palin Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

The overwhelming public reaction to both deaths shows just how much public affection there is for the Pythons and the whole anarchic style of comedy they introduced.

Always colourful and often controversial, the show is loved around the world and has some strong links with East Anglia.

Sir Michael Palin has had lifelong links with Southwold, since meeting his future wife, Helen, on holiday in the town as a teenager in 1959.

The team also filmed several sketches for Monty Python's Flying Circus around Norfolk.

Tributes have been paid to Neil Innes Picture: ARCHANTTributes have been paid to Neil Innes Picture: ARCHANT

In 1971 several of the linking scenes used in And Now for Something Completely Different were filmed in Norwich near the castle, and Elm Hill was used for the Beethoven sketch.

The sketch entitled The Idiot in Society (also known as The Village Idiot) in episode 20 was filmed at Heydon, where John Cleese, dressed in a smock, sat on the church wall and then fell off backwards into the churchyard.

And the Whicker Island sketch, in which all the inhabitants of a tropical island were Alan Whicker clones, was filmed at Winterton.

Soundman Philip Chubb, from Wymondham, travelled the world working on the Python films.

Michael Palin (right) with production staff at the filming of Monty Python's 'Queen's Own Kamikaze Highlanders' sketch at Norwich Castle on November 10, 1971. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYMichael Palin (right) with production staff at the filming of Monty Python's 'Queen's Own Kamikaze Highlanders' sketch at Norwich Castle on November 10, 1971. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

And of course, Ipswich famously gets a mention in the Dead Parrot sketch!

Our favourites - from the Argument Clinic to the Cheese Shop

A few intrepid souls have been trying to choose their all-time favourite Python moments.

Simon Weir writes: "There's something majestic, sad, silly and strangely uplifting about the final scene of the Life of Brian.

Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life

Starring John Cleese

© Universal StudiosMonty Python's The Meaning Of Life Starring John Cleese © Universal Studios

"The principal character is, after all, dying - one of dozens of people crucified. He gets visited by the suicide squad (er, who commit suicide rather than rescue him - very silly); by his lover Judith and his mother, Terry Jones (both sad); his revolutionary colleagues and, the Spartacus parody, as everyone claims to Brian... which sees Eric Idle being released by mistake.

"And finally, topping it all off, is the strangely uplifting song: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Neil Innes reputedly did the whistling."

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David Hannant writes: "There are far, far too many sketches and moments to choose from. Whether it's the absurdity of the Black Knight in the Holy Grail or the drollness of the disputes between the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea in the Life of Brian.

The Railway Tavern, Coltishall staged a Monty Python Night in 2009 - with free Spam for all Vikings, an argument room in the back, quizzes and themed cocktails. David Chisnell is pictured dressed up ready for the event.
 Picture: ARCHANTThe Railway Tavern, Coltishall staged a Monty Python Night in 2009 - with free Spam for all Vikings, an argument room in the back, quizzes and themed cocktails. David Chisnell is pictured dressed up ready for the event. Picture: ARCHANT

"However one sketch that always has me howling is the Argument Clinic sketch. It's bizarrely idiotic and very, very clever in equal measure."

Paul Geater said: "How do you pick just one? But Bruce's Song - first performed in the early 1970s and playing up to the reputation of the "ocker" style of Australian at the time - has always been a favourite (even though I'm not sure the stereotype of an Aussie as uncultured is particularly PC today!)

The song itself makes what would be (if they were alive) some fairly libellous accusations about the drinking abilities of some of the world's foremost philosophers using language which would today be described as 'bar-room"' rather than particularly offensive.

And it was a song that I often recall being sung at the end of a convivial night in the student union bar while I was at university in the late 1970s (I can still remember the words today if you really want to push me - but only at the end of a VERY long evening!"

Judy Rimmer writes: "One of my favourites is the Cheese Shop, where Cleese requests ever more obscure cheeses, from Japanese Sage Derby to Czechoslovakian sheep's milk cheese, and the shopkeeper keeps coming up with ever more ridiculous excuses for why he doesn't have them in stock. I love the momentary excitement when it seems as if Camembert may actually be in stock... but no, the cat's eaten it.

While some of us remember watching the original shows at the time, younger generations have been busy discovering classic sketches via the internet.

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis writes: "Last year my son found a new obsession - Monty Python. While over at a mate's house his friend's dad introduced the boys to some of the Python sketches, and they moved on to watch Holy Grail which remains to this day one of his favourite flicks.

"In fact, the three of them are so enamoured with the comic collective's films they have a WhatsApp group where they share quotes from the films with one another. My son is 12! It just goes to show how their genius can touch the lives of all generations."

READ MORE - Stars pay tribute to Neil Innes

11 things you never knew about Monty Python

1. Various other names were considered before Monty Python's Flying Circus was chosen. They included The Toad Elevating Moment; A Horse, a Spoon and a Bucket; Vaseline Review...- and Bun, Wackett, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot.

2. As students, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle were all in the Cambridge University Footlights revue. Other members included future Goodies Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden, as well as broadcaster Clive James and feminist writer Germaine Greer.

3. One survey found that Always Look on the Bright Side of Life was the most popular song to play at a funeral in the UK - having overtaken Frank Sinatra's My Way.

4. Pink Floyd, Genesis and Led Zeppelin all invested in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

5. Ex-Beatle George Harrison was a massive fan of Python, and played a cameo role in Life of Brian, as well as providing four million dollars of funding.

6. The classic Dirty Fork sketch (with one or two words muted!) has been used in schools to teach conflict resolution, as part of key stage two PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education).

7. The official Guinness World Record for the largest coconut ensemble was set when 5,877 people played their coconuts to the tune of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life in Trafalgar Square in 2007. The event was organised by the West End production of Spamalot.

8. The TV show's famous theme tune, John Philip Sousa's Liberty Bell, was chosen partly because it was in the public domain and was free. The show uses a recording by the Band of the Grenadier Guards.

9. Tapes of the show were nearly deleted. In a documentary, Terry Jones said someone at the BBC rang him to tell him old episodes were due to be wiped, so the videotapes could be reused - but Terry Gilliam stepped in and bought them.

10. The term "spam" for emails comes from the classic spam sketch, with its catchy song: "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!"

11. Several councils banned The Life of Brian on its release in 1979 - including some which didn't have cinemas in their areas.

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