We learned yesterday that the surviving members of the Monty Python team, all now in their eighth decade, are to announce this week that they are re-forming in order to produce a brand new stage show.
I wonder whether I am alone in feeling rather under-whelmed by the prospect.
This is to take nothing away from their achievements and success, or indeed the various participants’ wide-ranging post-Python careers.
I was in my late teens when Monty Python’s Flying Circus first became a cult hit on the BBC in 1969.
Everything about it – the absurdities, the sketches morphing from one to another, the irreverence, the quality of the acting, parodies and humour, yes even the silly animation sequences – was refreshingly new and different to anything previously dished up in the name of television comedy [well, barring Spike Milligan, who was so completely ‘out there’ he was already a law unto himself] that it particularly appealed to those of us who were young, impressionable and keen to embrace anything and everything which the Establishment and/or conservative-minded (with a small ‘c’) would fail to ‘get’ or enjoy.
There was something additional to their appeal in that they were an ensemble, wrote their own material and, as comedy actors, were almost interchangeable. In other words, about as far away as it was possible to be from the stereotypical British mainstream peak-time comedy acts – backed by scripts provided by career comedy writers and supporting casts of ‘light entertainment’ singers and dancers, who were then tickling the nation’s funny-bone (e.g. Morecambe and Wise, Cannon and Ball, Mike and Bernie Winters, Mike Yarwood and the Two Ronnies).
If being long-haired, surly and unwashed was part of the Rolling Stones’ attraction as ‘pop music’ stars for we 1960s teenagers – i.e. in comparison to the ‘safe’ antiseptic images of counterparts Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Matt Munro, Val Doonican etc. – then Monty Python were the comedy equivalent.
Inevitably, perhaps, since then there have been innumerable Python projects – feature films, books, records, DVDs and the more recent Spamalot stage show masterminded by Eric Idle.
So why am I lukewarm about their reunion?
Frankly, it has nothing to do with any suspicion they must only be doing this for the money. Or indeed, any personal concern that they might not be funny – lest they detracted from the Python brand and place in history if they proved not to be.
It’s actually to do with the original essence of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
‘Leading edge’ though it certainly was forty-five years ago, whenever I’ve caught repeats on television – or seen extracts used to illustrate news stories about Python members – in more recent years, they have seemed sadly dated and ‘of their time’.
I’m not sure which might be worse – the prospect of witnessing the Pythons trotting out two hours of their ‘greatest sketch’ hits, or them writing and performing an entirely new and original show together. Or indeed, a combination of both.
As someone who regards himself as a Python fan, I do hope that I am wrong.