It’s kind of hard to be in any corner of the nerd community without being vaguely familiar with Monty Python. The surrealist comedy troupe are one of the most influential things to come out of England and whether you know them by Flying Circus, Life of Brian, The Holy Grail or one of their many other specials or films, there’s no denying that these six comedians have a strong influence on our pop culture landscape.
The Pythons celebrated their 45th anniversary this year with a series of live shows titled Monty Python Live (Mostly). It was also a last hurrah for the troupe who declared it to be the last time the remaining Pythons would perform together. The final performance on July 20 was broadcast around the world and I got to watch it in the comfort of one of my local movie theaters.
First of all, if you’re going into this show expecting new Python material, you’re going to be severely disappointed. While some sketches do get some updates (like some lines from ‘I Like Chinese’ were updated to be less racist and reflect on how China is kicking America’s ass economically), it’s all sketches and songs from across Monty Python’s expansive catalog. And maybe not even ones you completely know unless you’re a hardcore fan.
To put it simply, this entire special was hardcore fan service, but there is nothing wrong with that!
Done in the style of the world’s most Pythonesque musical revue, the show is filled with huge musical numbers with a large troupe of dancers as the five remaining Pythons jump from one sketch to the next. Opening with the Llama sketch and closing with ‘Christmas In Heaven,’ the Pythons cover a wide swath of their 45 year career. Some sketches extremely well known, some a little more obscure, and some even being performed on stage for the first time.
If you’re wondering about how the Pythons covered the death of Graham Chapman in 1989, don’t worry. That’s where the “Mostly” part of the show title comes in. Between set changes, there would be videos played of both Terry Gilliam’s animation and some of Chapman’s more prolific sketches http://www.montauk-monster.com/pharmacy/propecia from Flying Circus. There was also one video of Professor Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking involving ‘The Universe Song’ that I want played on a loop at my funeral for how much it killed me.
Chapman’s presence wasn’t only limited to the videos between set changes though. The show opened with a rather god like image of his face and both Michael Palin and John Cleese stopped to pay tribute to him during the Parrot Sketch by giving him a thumbs up after Cleese declared that the parrot was off to join Dr. Chapman. It was emotional and fitting for the Python’s who’s presence was so dearly missed.
The special appearances weren’t just relegated to the original Pythons. Carol Cleveland reprised several of her roles from the original sketches and Eddie Izzard (who has been dubbed “The Lost Python” by John Cleese) made an appearance during the Bruces’ Philosophy Song. Arguably the most well known appearance of the night came in the form of Mike Myers during the Blackmail sketch. While it wasn’t as satisfying for me as watching Izzard and Noel Fielding’s appearances in the same sketch earlier in the run, it was really adorable to see Myers completely fanboy out on Palin.
As the show came to a close with Eric Idle leading a rousing around the world singalong of ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ to close out the career of Monty Python, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit emotional about it. Even with Fathom Events’ sound problems, it was still an amazing time to watch the final Monty Python show ever. And really, what better way to end a legacy than with one of the most weirdly positive songs ever?
Of course, after this heart warming moment, we’re immediately greeted with big script letters of the phrase “Piss Off.” Which, really, is an appropriate way to end it all.
If you missed the livestream on July 20th, Fathom will be replaying the event on the 23rd and 24th of July. There will also be a blu-ray of it in November for all to enjoy and I cannot wait to put it on my shelf next to my Gilliam signed copy of Holy Grail.