As the screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was concluding in front of the audience, backstage the Pythons were obviously having a great time chatting with John Oliver in a very Anglo-centric conversation. They were all miked and waiting for their cue, posing for a few last-minute shots. As Terry Jones nibbled on a few of the snacks set out in the wings, none of them seemed particularly nervous about stepping out in front of the sold-out crowd. (Of course, if you can walk out in front of 16,000 people ten nights at the O2, perhaps the Beacon may not seem as intimidating.)
We heard their introduction and Jeff, Holly, a few Tribeca Film Festival folks and I stepped into the auditorium. The crowd roared as they slipped into their row of chairs and John Oliver began the conversation. It wasn’t long before the boys became restless however, and John Cleese walked offstage for a few moments. He returned with another chair, and pandemonium–very hilarious pandemonium–slowly began. Among the highlights: each of them re-arranging chairs so that half of them were facing the back of the stage; all of them but Eric dragging their chairs over next to John Oliver, encircling him; and John Cleese disappearing again and eventually waving his hand through the backdrop, causing enormous laughter completely out of context so that John Oliver was visibly baffled at the audience’s reaction (until he saw John’s waving hand).
After it drew to a close, we all convened backstage. “I think you needed a whip and a chair out there,” I told John Oliver who laughed, but I assured him he did a great job controlling the uncontrollable.
We all proceeded to the green room, where the guests would soon be arriving. I quickly learned the reason for the Marx Brothers routine: “We couldn’t hear a thing!” John explained. He decided to go backstage because (a) it was a bit of physical comedy, and (b) because he felt that if they couldn’t hear, the whole discussion would be a disaster. Later on that night, the two Terries confirmed it (and they were sitting closer to John Oliver than John was). Nevertheless, everyone was in a jolly mood and the party began.
To be continued…
@montypython #montypython @ericidle