Tag Archives: #johncleese

Happy Birthday Graham

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Been a little while since I’ve posted. Sorry. In the past month, I’ve had one graduation, the holidays, getting the kid ready for a move and a new job, and getting ready for another Cleese trip, not to mention my 103-year old Aunt Betty passing away unexpectedly.

But this would have been Graham Chapman’s 76 birthday, and that’s always worth a thought. Graham was an active member of Python for 20 years, and a considerably less active Python for 28 years now. It took nothing less than death to slow him down, and even then, he’s still been popping up in places like the O2 show, and making an ash of himself in various reunions. In fact, one thing that Graham never was, was inactive, and I’m glad that trend continues.

I’ll start posting more regularly as I travel with Mr. C this month. If you’re in the Northeast or parts of the Midwestern US, keep watching–John Cleese is coming your way. And in keeping with our theme, he’ll doubtless have lots to say about Graham.

 

Cleese on Grail

Grail B&W1

Looks like it’s okay to announce this now.

If you’re disappointed because your part of America didn’t have a chance to see Eric and John last year and this year. you’re still out of luck. But if you’ve always wanted to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail presented by John, with a full discussion of the film and audience Q&A, you’re in luck. During the month of January, there will be lots and lots of opportunities. Only three have been announced so far, but there will be more. Honest.

14 January – Providence Performing Arts Centre, Rhode Island.  Tickets are on-sale NOW, right here.

20 January – The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, Maine.  You can access the PRE-SALE tickets using the password: GRAIL here. Pre-sale ends Monday 10 October at 10pm.

 
22 January – The Chicago Theatre, Chicago.  Tickets are on-sale NOW, right, here.  

Pythonic Paragraphs

Been a while since I checked in with any Python news (or any 
news at all, for that matter).
Unfortunately, two of the three items today are sad ones.
Most folks have probably heard of the death of Kenny Baker,
best known to most as R2D2, but better known to Terry Gilliam fans as
Fidgit of Time Bandits. Here's a little more information
courtesy of the Monty Python web site, as well as a tribute by
Terry G and Michael Palin:http://www.montypython.com/news_kennybaker/373
And Flying Circus fans hold Fred Tomlinson near and dear to
their hearts. The leader of the Fred Tomlinson Singers passed
away in July, with more information here:
http://www.montypython.com/news_FredTomlinson/368
I don't think I ever met him (although we were apparently
at some of the same parties); but if his singers did nothing
more than back up the Pythons on Lumberjack Song and Spam (and
they did plenty more than that), I would owe him a huge debt
of gratitude.
Finally, some very good news indeed. My old boss and dear
pal John Cleese is receiving the Rose d'Or Lifetime
Achievement Award in Berlin in September for a lifetime in
entertainment. Well deserved and congratulations John; more
information is here:  
http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-37093116
Glad I could end with a happy story!
Python stamp

Why #MontyPython is still not dead yet

Here’s an article on how Monty Python nearly ended before it began:

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/06/the-unknown-hero-who-saved-monthy-pythons-flying-c.html

Although there isn’t much longtime fans didn’t know, it never hurts to point out how precarious history can be, and how important it is to save, document, and archive as much as possible.

Just a few things to point out. Terry Jones usually told me that it was Flying Circus editor Ray Millichope who gave him the warning that the Python shows were going to be taped over, but there were a couple of times that he credited someone in the archive department. Terry usually sat in with Millichope and series director Ian MacNaughton when the Flying Circus shows were being edited, which drove MacNaughton crazy at first, but Terry and Millichope became much friendlier. I suspect–and this is only a guess–that Millichope found out about the planned videotape wiping from someone in the archive department, and he passed the news along to Terry. Or, Terry became such a familiar face in that area of the BBC while he sitting in on the editing, that someone felt comfortable enough to pass the news on to him. While Terry doesn’t remember anymore, his presence at the BBC is almost certainly the reason he got the phone call.

For a short time, Terry was convinced that the videotaped copies he had at his house would be the only evidence that Monty Python ever existed, and he wanted the tapes to show to his children some day.

But it was right around this time that PBS made their first overture to the BBC about Python. It did not end well, but it gave the BBC the idea that these programs just might be worth keeping after all. And sure enough, a short time later, Ron DeVillier successfully convinced the Dallas PBS station to try the show in America. And the rest is comedy history.

And by the way, the videotape reels were not small back then, and they took up enormous shelf space, which was another reason the BBC didn’t want to keep anything they didn’t have to.

But Monty Python was almost forgotten for another reason. If they had launched Flying Circus a year or two earlier, it would have probably been in black and white instead of color. By the late 1960s, black and white shows were much less marketable than color programs, both in Britain and abroad, and there would have been much less reason for keeping them around. That’s why so few BBC comedy shows from the 60s survive–to the BBC, they looked old-fashioned and much less interesting than anything in color. And that seems to be a huge reason why Python pre-cursors Do Not Adjust Your Set and At Last the 1948 Show were thought lost–and why it has taken so many years to reconstruct both series. John says that except for the faces, the final 1948 show was not very different from the first Python shows–except, of course, the latter were in color.

It’s amazing how much that could have been easily saved, was instead wiped and thrown out. I know that several of the scenes cut from Life of Brian were saved on videotape by Terry Jones when the film was being edited. Those are apparently the only copies that still exist. One time when I was visiting Terry at his house in the ’80s, he showed me the deleted scenes on his VCR; it’s hard to believe that those were the videotaped versions used for DVD extras when the deluxe version of the film was released. The film copies were apparently thrown out, possibly as a cost-saving measure.

Less than five years ago, one of my students mentioned that he had seen some rare outtakes and rehearsal scenes from Meaning of Life, thanks to a professor friend in the Southwest U.S. I was skeptical, but discovered that he had, in fact, a large box of videocassettes from the film. It turns out that a friend of a friend knew Terry J, and when they were having dinner, Terry mentioned that he had all sorts of tapes left over from editing the film, and he was about to throw them out (he had recently finished the film). The professor recognized their value, and offered to take them. As a result, I was able to contact him, and today the Meaning of Life outtakes, rehearsal scenes, and alternate takes are all in the Python archives in London. Don’t be surprised to see them turn up on DVD when the time is right.

So, there are success stories, and we can only hope that in the future, even more Python material will turn up.

The Pythons always give credit to the BBC for giving them almost unprecedented creative freedom, but the penny-pinchers there almost wiped out the results of that freedom. Let’s be grateful that they didn’t succeed.
Visit Kim “Howard” Johnson’s author’s page at amazon.com

Fawlty Report

Fawlty TowersJohn Cleese is looking to have a very busy 2016. In addition to everything else on his schedule, including an Australian tour with Eric Idle (which I wrote about here), filming a movie, scripting a Feydeau farce for a possible West End production, and lots of writing, The Daily Telegraph is now reporting that a stage production of Fawlty Towers will be opening in Australia in August.

I haven’t had a chance to confirm this yet with @johncleese, but this would undoubtedly be similar to a very successful Scandinavian production that was presented recently. John has found a way to stitch together three episodes of @fawltytowers into a full-length play, and will doubtless be down under overseeing the production this summer. No, John and the rest of the cast of the original TV series won’t be on stage, but if John is involved, this will be good.

 

Together Again, Again…

John Cleese and Eric Idle are continuing their two-man sit-down comedy tour of the Southeastern U.S. If you are anywhere it Florida, it will soon be impossible to escape them. So why not give in? Ticket info is here, and the sooner you do, the better your seats will be.

#cleeseandidle

Happy birthday Monty Python!

On October the 5th, 1969, the very first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus first aired on the BBC.

montypython

A lot of things have changed since then, but those shows are just as funny now as they were then. The second episode recorded was the first one aired. Here’s what BBC audiences first saw that evening: