Absurdist comedy and bouncy tittiesOriginally, this comedic team of five brits and one yank came together to author and star in two 45 minute episodes of Flingender Zirkus, a German version of the soon to exist British comedy show. The team: John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and Eric Idle learned German phonetically, except for Cleese and Jones, who spoke relatively well already. This was rather like The Beatles, semi-contemporaries of the group, who performed in Germany prior to their big break in the States and Britain.
Monty Python's Flying Circus was wildly popular in the Kingdom, as well as quite controversial, especially among the church and the royal family. Both were common targets for the absurdist group.
One particularly interesting habit of the Pythons was their propensity for performing in drag as well as in the nude. Terry Jones was rather prone to appearing naked on TV, and even the traditionally stoic John Cleese showed up in knickers and skirts no fewer than 20 times over the course of the four year show.
In 1971, Cleese left the group to pursue his own projects. The troupe stumbled on through their fourth and final season, only producing six episodes. While much of the season was considered inferior to the original three seasons, there was the bright point of the Michael Elis episode, largely considered to break through the barrier from comedy to art.
The first Python movie was Monty Python and the Holy Grail a farsical jaunt through the dark ages of England, following a prancing King Arthur and his merry band of roughshod knights. When the film premiered in New York, the first 3000 viewers were given free coconuts.
For their second film, the Pythons tackled the story of Brian, a contemporary of Christ. The Life of Brian was considered too controversial for any large Hollywood backer to sign on, and floundered in the abyss for almost a year. Finally, the late Beatle George Harrison put up the funding needed to complete the project. Harrison is listed as Producer in the credits of the film and even makes a tiny cameo in the movie, being jostled around in a crowd scene.
The final Python film, The Meaning of Life plays host to what some consider to be the most disgusting vomit scene ever filmed. Truly a high point in filmaking.
TodayToday, the Pythons are mostly alive.
Animator Terry Gilliam, the only American in the group, is now a respected filmmaker, despite the utter failure of his most recent endeavor, Don Quixote. His other films include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil, Time Bandits, and 12 Monkeys.
Terry Jones owns a brewery in England and, aside from brief cameos in small productions and a South Park short, has remained out of the public eye.
Michael Palin and John Cleese continue to act, sometimes together, as in "Fierce Creatures," and "A Fish Called Wanda."
Eric Idle, usually considered to be the sell-out of the bunch, staged a tour of the United States in which he and a group of hand picked actors performed old Python skits to rabid fans. He originally had wanted to tour with the real Pythons, but was unable to roust them from the cooshie retirement positions.
Finally, Graham Chapman came over all dead. He was cremated and his ashes were accidentally spilled across the stage during a Python reunion interview.