Who is Monty Python?

“Origins of Monty Python” Why, Monty Python is the product of six very talented gentlemen, each unique in his own special way; bringing his own fashion of performance into the mix, never discrediting another.

I would like to introduce you as to how Monty Python was born. How did six very different individuals (some of whom held a perpetual distaste for each other) come to harmonise and collaborate so well on screen, despite disputes and dependency behind the scenes?

Oxford University, Cambridge University… and humble Minnesota – the starting point for Monty Python.

Oxford University presented Terry Jones (born 1942, in Colwyn Bay, Wales) and Michael Palin (born 1943, in Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire.)

Cambridge University gave us John Cleese (born 1939, in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset), Graham Chapman (1941-1989, born in Maidstone, Kent) and Eric Idle (born 1943, in South Shields, County Durham.)

And last, but certainly not least, Terry Gilliam (born 1940) joined the scene all the way from Minneapolis, MN, whom Cleese had met in New York City whilst on tour with the Cambridge University Footlights Revue, entitled Cambridge Circus.

Before the six pooled together in comedic harmony, they had worked with one another in the mid-late 1960s, writing and performing on various television shows and even on radio in I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, which ran for nine years.

The Frost Report would take credit for uniting the British Pythons, all writing for the show and Cleese also a cast member in 1966-67.

However, it was with Do Not Adjust Your Set! (which ran for 21 episodes between 1967 and 1969) that Gilliam was first permitted to shine in the years before Python, alongside Idle, Palin and Jones.

As the three wrote sketches and starred in the show, alongside David Jason (perhaps best known as Derek ‘Del-Boy’ Trotter in Only Fools and Horses) and Denise Coffey (both of whom wrote additional material), Gilliam was adding to the pre-Python insanity with his amusing animations.

Do Not Adjust Your Set! also provided music for its viewers (intended for a younger audience) in the form of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, where Neil Innes (sometimes called the ‘Seventh Python’) was a member.

Innes later wrote material for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, appeared in later films and stage shows such as Live at the Hollywood Bowl, both within the Python time frame and also collaborated with them post-Python, such as composing the music for Terry Jones’ film Erik the Viking (1989.)

While four Pythons synchronised together on Do Not Adjust Your Set! Cleese and Chapman had made a name for themselves on At Last the 1948 Show (1967) where Idle provided additional material, and How to Irritate People (1968) in which Palin also appeared.

After Do Not Adjust Your Set! Gilliam, Idle, Palin and Jones were offered a late-night adult comedy series on ITV, whilst Chapman and Cleese were offered the opportunity for a two-man partnership by the BBC, having more than proved themselves on The Frost Report and At Last the 1948 Show.

Cleese possessed reluctance for this, due to Chapman’s (who was a qualified doctor; later the on-set doctor on The Life of Brian, having reformed from alcoholism) unpredictable personality.

However, due to his enjoyment on working with Palin during the run of How to Irritate People, Cleese invited him to join. Palin agreed and referred Jones and Idle to join the team. Idle suggested Gilliam do animations for the show.

Six men writing and performing together, who (as is my personal opinion) changed the face of British comedy forever.

Monty Python.

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About The Author

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amy Melville, A.P.N.M.E. (Hons) and I'm 24-years old. I was born in the North West of England; what one might call a Cheshire Cat. I'm a professional musician and qualified teacher of music. I also enjoy tap-dancing (all too often falling in the sink), playing my array of instruments (with varying degrees of success) and collecting collectibles.

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