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With a Foreword by John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of its BBC debut, a revised and updated edition of the complete oral history of Monty Python—an insightful, in-depth portrait of the brilliant and hysterically funny show that transformed modern comedy.
Broadcast by the BBC between 1969 and 1974, Monty Python’s Flying Circus introduced something completely different: a new brand of surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness comedy that pushed the traditional boundaries of format, style, and content. Blending brilliant satire with slapstick silliness, The Pythons—Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin—spoke to a generation eager to break free of the conventional. Making their way across the Atlantic and the world, the Pythons’ zany approach to comedy would have a monumental influence on modern popular culture, paving the way for farcical entertainment from Saturday Night Live to The Simpsons to Austin Powers.
In Monty Python Speaks, David Morgan has collected interviews with Monty Python’s founding members, actors, producers, and other collaborators to produce a no-holds-barred look at the Pythons’ legendary sketches and films, including Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Spamalot), and The Meaning of Life. Featuring four new chapters that focus on the group’s oeuvre since the first edition’s publication twenty years ago, as well as a new foreword and updated resources, Monty Python Speaks offers a fascinating peek behind the scenes of the Pythons’ creative process—including the friendships and feuds—that catapulted a comedy revolution.
The Pythons and several key colleagues look back in a broad retrospective, presented in oral history format, that begins just before the 1969 premiere of Monty Python's Flying Circus, the landmark TV series, and follows the story into the troupe's movie years and beyond. More than anything else, the book reveals that the blend of anarchic themes, unconventional show structure and chaotic pace that defined Flying Circus was not the product of madcap rebels, but rather the result of hard work by ambitious craftsmen determined to reinvent a form. Fans will be disappointed to find few intimate looks at specific shows and skits. Comparisons of the Pythons' philosophical differences and writing styles are handled in broad strokes. Not until the discussion of the group's film work (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, The Meaning of Life) will readers encounter specific accounts of clashing artistic attitudes: for instance, how an actor's director (Terry Jones) views production differently than a cinematographer's director (Gilliam), and how the other writers and actors (especially John Cleese) absolutely hated the tedious process of filming. By the time Morgan is done with Life of Brian, the philosophical battles are over, and the discussion consists of good and bad business decisions. Although the book is redundant at times, such clever mates can't help offering some insightful and entertaining perspectives on comedy writing, television and film.