Monty Python's Flying Circus
|About the group
||Monty Python and the Holy Grail
||Life of Brian
||The Meaning of Life
The shows often targeted the idiosyncracies of British life (especially professionals), and was at times politically charged. The members of Monty Python were highly educated (Oxford and Cambridge graduates), and their comedy was often pointedly intellectual with numerous references to philosophers and literary figures.
- The "It's" Man (Palin), a dishevelled man with torn clothes and long, unkempt beard who would appear at the beginning of the programme and say "it's..." before being abruptly cut off by the opening titles.
- A BBC Continuity announcer in a dinner jacket (Cleese), seated at a desk, often in highly incongruous locations, such as a forest or a beach. His line, "And now for something completely different," was used variously as a lead-in to the opening titles and a simple way to link sketches together. It eventually became the show's catch phrase, even serving as the title for the troupe's first movie.
- Mr Praline (Cleese), an odd, raincoat-clad man (except in the Crunchy Frog sketch, in which he wears a police uniform) with a distinctive, florid style of speech delivered in a cockney accent. He has a penchant for getting into the most absurd arguments, though he is alternately the victim and perpetrator of this absurdity.
- An armoured knight carrying a rubber chicken (Gilliam), who would end sketches by hitting characters over the head with it.
- A Viking (Palin or Gilliam) who would inexplicably interrupt sketches to say "Anyway," after which the sketch would (usually) resume as normal.
- A nude organist (played in the first episode by Gilliam, afterwards by Jones) who provided a brief fanfare to punctuate certain sketches (usually game show parodies) or as yet another way to introduce the opening titles.
- The Colonel (Chapman), a straitlaced military officer who would sometimes abruptly end sketches for being too silly.
- Biggles (Chapman, and in one instance Jones), a fictional WWI pilot from a series of stories by W. E. Johns.
- The "Gumbies," a group of slow- witted individuals identically attired in high-water trousers, suspenders, and round, rimless glasses, with tiny Chaplin-style moustaches and handkerchiefs on the tops of their heads (a sterotype of the British holidaymaker). They hold their arms awkwardly in front of them, speak slowly in loud, low voices puncuated by frequent grunts and groans, and have a fondness for bashing bricks together. They often complain that their brains hurt.
The troupe's most well-known skits include:
- Army Protection Racket
- Dead Parrot
- The Argument Clinic
- Cheese Shop
- The Funniest Joke in the World
- The Lumberjack Song
- The Ministry of Silly Walks
- The Philosophers' Song
- Piranha Brothers
- The Spanish Inquisition
John Cleese left the group after the third series, so did not appear in the final six episodes that made up series four, although he did receive writing credits where applicable. Neil Innes and Douglas Adams are notable as the only two non-Pythons to get writing credits in the show - both in the same episode late in season four. Innes frequently appeared in the Pythons' stage shows and can also be seen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and (briefly) in Life of Brian.
The final episode was recorded November 16, 1974, and broadcast on December 5. That same year, Devillier-Donegan Enterprises syndicated the series in the United States of America among PBS stations, and the show appeared for the first time in that country on the PBS station KERA in Dallas, Texas. It was an instant hit there, rapidly garnering an enormous loyal cult following nationwide that surprised even the Pythons themselves, who didn't believe that the humor was exportable without being tailored specifically for the North Americans. The discovery of this additional legion of fans would inspire the troupe to reunite to create the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, since they now knew they had a world-wide audience.
Two episodes were produced in German for WDR, West Deutscher Rundfunk -- the first, Monty Python in Deutschland was produced in 1971 and was performed in phonetic German, while the second, Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus (also known as Monty Python Blödeln Für Deutschland) was a dubbed version of a British show, produced in 1972 and was also transmitted by the BBC in October 1973.