Author Archives: Julian James

Monty Python Mojis on Skype

Today, Skype added Monty Python to their Mojis colllection, introducing an exclusive new set of 37 Mojis of clips of classic Python moments from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Life of Brian” and “Holy Grail,” including the Monty Python giant animated foot and clips of classic one-liners from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”.

Each Moji is a short, sharable, clip that you can use in your Skype chats.

Mike said of the venture:  “We welcome Moji Python’s magic moments. It’s easy to forget how gown-breaking and auspicious Monty Python was and how well, millions of years later, these ice-cream culinary moments stand up. Unlike most of the team. Please help us. Thank you.”

To make sure you can share in the fun, make sure you’re on the latest version of Skype and then find the Python Mojis in your emoticon picker.

Also, let us know what Monty Python moments you’d like added to the Moji collection by using #PythonMojis on social media.

Happy Skyping with Monty Python!

To find out more visit here.

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Alas, at 81 Kenny Baker has left us and rejoined the Supreme Being. Kenny was made famous by Star Wars, but Time Bandits made him great. No longer did he have to be the faceless man in the can, he got to be a real action hero. Kenny was irrepressible, funny, game for anything, and attracted to tall blondes… and they to him. He was an utter joy to be with… a consumate pro. Goodbye with love, St. Fidgit, Kevin will have to stay here and carry on the fight.  Terry Gilliam
RIP Kenny Baker. Small marvel and great Fidget!  Michael Palin

Kenny Baker, the British actor most famous for playing R2-D2 in the Star Wars films, has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. 

Kenny Baker, who was 3ft 8in tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.  He appeared, with his face uncovered, in Terry Gilliam’s jolly fantasy Time Bandits (1981).

Kenneth George Baker, actor, born 24 August 1934; died 13 August 2016.


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In Memory of Fred Tomlinson (1927 – 2016)

We are sad to announce that on 17 July 2016, singer and choral arranger Fred Tomlinson, the founder and leader of the Fred Tomlinson Singers, who provided vocals for “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” passed away aged 88.

On behalf of the Pythons, Michael has written the following about Fred:

Fred Tomlinson and his singers were an indispensable part of the Python TV shows. They had just the right attitude for Python – a willingness to do, wear and sing anything so long as it was different and outrageous. Fred insisted on high standards, and much work and rehearsal went into ensuring that something extremely silly was also extremely polished.

Fred was never rattled and always willing to help out whenever possible. When Terry Jones and myself had completed the lyrics to the Lumberjack Song, I remember calling Fred late one evening and tunelessly singing a sort of cheery version of the song down the phone. By next morning Fred had written the score to the Lumberjack Song, and when we performed it his singers were the backbone of the chorus. The way they played the Mounties was definitive, and reprised later by such as Harry Nilsson, George Harrison and Tom Hanks (at the concert for George)

Fred caught the spirit of Python perfectly. And he loved a challenge. I’m sure we all have nothing but happy memories of a great work-mate. Our sympathies and condolences go out to his family.

Obituary (kindly written by James Gent)

On Wednesday June 27, 2016, composer and arranger John Altman (Monty Python’s Life Of Brian) announced on Twitter that singer and choral arranger Fred Tomlinson “who contributed so much to Monty Python”, had recently died.

In collaboration with Michael Palin and Terry Jones, he composed those evergreen comedy earworms The Lumberjack Song and Spam Song, as recited in school playgrounds, sixth form common rooms, student union bars and pubs up and down the UK over the last five decades.

His all-male vocal group, the Fred Tomlinson Singers, appeared onscreen in numerous episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus whenever a musical number was required, whether accompanying Michael Palin’s jaunty singalong about life as a cross-dressing lumberjack, extolling the virtues of Spam in full Viking regalia, or performing madrigals about Marcel Proust.

Eric Idle fondly recalled the Fred Tomlinson Singers’ willingness to adapt to the silly, surreal world of Monty Python in a June 2014 interview with Uncut: “We had this great singing group called The Fred Tomlinson Singers who would come in and happily climb into Welsh drag for The Money Song and record Sit On My Face for us.” On another occasion, Idle observed that Fred Tomlinson’s contribution to Python was that “he brought Northern song to Python.”

Fred Tomlinson was born in 1927 in the Lancashire mill town of Rawtenstall.  He came from a musical family – his father, Fred Tomlinson MBE, founded the Rossendale Male Voice Choir in 1924. Fred’s elder brother Ernest Tomlinson, was a successful composer of light orchestral music, of which Little Serenade is probably his most popular composition.

“We were all musical, because my father was very musical; I don’t know where he got it from because he was just an ordinary factory worker, but he was a brilliant conductor. My dad was an absolute classic conductor, brilliant.”

“We all sang within the choirs, to start with. My mother was musical as well, came from a musical family.  We all went to Manchester Cathedral, and there were all three of us in the choir – first time they had all three brothers. So, music’s always been with us.”

Fred began to develop his skill set as a master arranger under George Mitchell ,the founder and bandleader of the Black And White Minstrel Show, as part of the George Mitchell Glee Club and later the George Mitchell Choir for BBC Radio. One notable engagement was on Tuesday 20 April 1964, when BBC2 was launched and what had always been simply ‘BBC television’ became BBC1 in order to accommodate the new arrival.

It was in 1969 that Tomlinson found himself at the forefront of a new wave of comedy, when his arranging skills were called upon in-house for a new late night BBC comedy series, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The exact process of how Fred met the Pythons is lost in the mists of time, as the Pythons’ production manager, Roger Last, mused in 2013: “I don’t know where the Fred Tomlinson Singers came from, I have no idea.  I think it was like how the BBC would always use the same bloke who wrote signature tunes, Ronnie Hazelhurst.  They had this set group and they liked him, so they said, we’ll have him again, get Fred in to do this.  I think the BBC produced them, or Ian (MacNaughton) produced them from somewhere.”

Nevertheless, for the episode in question – ‘The Ant, An Introduction’ – Michael Palin and Terry Jones had written a sketch about a homicidal barber but found themselves in need of an ending, and dreamed up a ditty to wrap it up.

Terry Jones recalled the genesis of this sketch in a 1999 interview with Tellyspotting.  “We’d written this sketch about a barber, a psychotic barber, and we were getting a bit stuck with it and we needed to finish. I said to Mike, in the old days, you’d end with a song! Bit of a corny thing to do, but he said, OK, well let’s write a song!  We wrote I’m A Lumberjack And I’m Okay in about half an hour. I don’t know where it came from, but Mike and I just broke the lines, just sitting there together, and they came, and we hummed the tune to each other, and there it was. And then we went to the pub!”

It was Fred Tomlinson who was tasked with realising Palin & Jones’ ditty into something hummable. Fred recalls:

“I remember it vividly. I got an audio tape from Michael, and he just sang it roughly, and sent the script, and it went from there…  We did the rehearsal run, then the studio. After that, it was, if they needed music – ‘Get Fred!'”

The Fred Tomlinson Singers enjoyed a good natured working relationship with the Pythons during rehearsals for the series at the Pythons’ regular rehearsal venue, The Old Oak Common, Acton, with frequent breaks for games of five a side football.  Fred Tomlinson Singer Michael Clarke recalls, “During breaks we’d play football with the Pythons, and one time suddenly Fred thought John Cleese had kicked him, but in actual fact John had snapped a ligament in his leg!”

Fred Tomlinson’s association with the Monty Python phenomenon continued beyond the small screen, as his gang – affectionately known by the Pythons as “the Fred Toms” – loaned their golden throats to musical numbers in their movies (Camelot Song from Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Always Look On the Bright Side of Life in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and Accountancy Shanty from Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life) and the Pythons’ much loved run of studio albums for Tony Stratton-Smith’s Charisma Records.

In 1975, Charisma released a 45 of The Lumberjack Song, featuring “the voices and feet of the Fred Tomlinson Mounted Singers”, produced by George Harrison and recorded at the former Beatle’s Friar Park Studios. An alternative mix appears on Monty Python Sings.

In 1989, Monty Python effectively ceased to be, when Graham Chapman died on 4 October 1989, just one day before the team’s twenty-fifth anniversary. A memorial service was held at his alma mater St Bartholomew’s on 3 December 1989, bringing together the remaining Pythons and the Fred Toms one more time.

Fred recalled:  “One of the most interesting things was after Graham’s funeral, and there was a meeting for the memorial, and various people spoke, and I remembered that Graham had done one sketch, with Terry Jones as a Japanese director who couldn’t pronounce his Ls, and in one of the rehearsals when something had gone wrong, and they were killing time on the floor, Graham got everyone to sing, Jersuarem (sic), and I got everyone to sing it.  I had my usual gang. It was quite tricky… Quite tricky, with all those smiling faces around.”

Fred’s piano accompanist, Jennifer Patridge, remembered: “It was lovely to see them all again at Graham Chapman’s Memorial which, though a sad occasion, was full of laughter.”

On a happier occasion, Fred Tomlinson and his singers briefly became bona fide pop stars, accompanying Eric Idle in a rendition of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life on Top Of The Pops in Autumn 1991, after Virgin’s re-release of the song scaled the top ten, reaching the dizzy heights of number three in the charts.

“Yes, with Top Of the Pops, with Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, how they do these things, they don’t tell you for certain, until the beginning of the week, that you might be on, so I didn’t get to see Bob (Hunter) and the lads until the actual day, when we did it on telly at half past seven, so we just had to make it up as we went along.  When it came to it, the audience knew it better than we did, they all joined in, and it was just fantastic.”

Once a lumberjack, always a lumberjack, and on 29 November 2002, at a concert commemorating Fred’s one-time producer George Harrison, on the first anniversary of his death, the Fred Tomlinson Singers took to the stage one more time, to extol the virtues of chopping down trees and wearing suspenders and bras. They were joined by Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Carol Cleveland and Neil Innes. On this occasion, the Fred Tomlinson Singers gained a new alumnus, as Tom Hanks joined the Mounties chorus

Fred Tomlinson died at his home on Sunday 17 June 2016.  Fred Tomlinson’s funeral will be held on Wednesday 3 August 2016, at Breakspear Crematorium, Breakspear Road, Ruislip, HA4 7SJ at 1.15pm.

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John to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) will be honouring John Cleese with the Rose d’Or Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 55th annual ceremony to be held in Berlin on September 13.

John said of the honour: “I am delighted by this chance to annoy Terry Gilliam and I’m also very humbled by the offer of an all-expenses-paid holiday in Berlin.”

The award recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to television or radio entertainment throughout their careers. The Rose d’Or Awards, first presented in 1961, are given to the best radio, television and online entertainment programmes from the previous year.

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“Time Bandits” to be screened on Art House Theater Day 2016

The first inaugural Art House Theater Day will be celebrated on September 24, 2016 and will feature screenings of the 2K digital restoration of “Time Bandits” at art house theaters across the United States.

Texas Theatre have created a “Time Bandits”-inspired trailer, “Theater Bandits,” to celebrate the screenings. You can watch it here.

In recent decades, a colorful constellation of art houses has emerged across the globe. This art house movement has nurtured a flourishing ecosystem of adventurous audiences, independent productions, and an incredible diversity of original filmmaking. Art House Theater Day is a worldwide celebration in honor of this movement, a day to celebrate cinemas that stand the test of time and the tremendous film culture that art house theaters promote.

Art House Theater Day will provide a new generation the chance to see “Time Bandits” once again on the big screen.

To find out what cinemas are screening the film, and to find out more about Art House Theater Day, visit here or follow Art House Theater Day on Facebook and Twitter.

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It’s… The Big Vintage Merchandise Sale!

Today, we’ve launched a sale of all the Monty Python “Vintage Merchandise,” available in our Online Store.

Get 30% off of all vintage products in our online store by using the code PYVINTAGE30 at checkout. 
Offer ends 30 September 2016.

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Terry Jones to be Honoured at 25th British Academy Cymru Awards

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in Wales, BAFTA Cymru, has announced that Terry Jones will be presented with the BAFTA Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television at this year’s awards, on 2 October 2016. 

Terry J said of the announcement: “I am proud and honoured to be recognised in this way and I am looking forward to the celebrations.”  

Terry J’s personal representative took the opportunity to publicly announce the news that Terry has been diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a variant of Frontotemporal Dementia.  Terry G, Mike, Eric & John said of this announcement:  “Terry is greatly loved by us all and we will offer whatever support we can. He’s still a treasured part of Python and will always remain so, not just to us but to all his fans around the world. We’re very much aware that his family are bearing the brunt of his illness and would urge people to respect their privacy.”

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John Cleese at “Holy Grail” Screenings in the U.S. in January 2017

ust announced! John Cleese will be in the U.S. in January for a number of screenings of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” followed by a live conversation and audience Q&A.  Dates and venues announced so far are:

14 January – Providence Performing Arts Centre, Rhode Island.  Tickets go on-sale TODAY, 7 October 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 go on-sale TODAY, 7 October, here.  

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Terry J presented with the BAFTA Cymru Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television

Last night, Michael presented Terry J with his BAFTA Cymru Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television, acknowledging Terry J’s 50 years of contribution to film and TV.

In his speech, Michael shared fond memories of his friendship and work with Terry: “My friend Terry has really come home tonight. He was always very proud of his Welshness, even though John Cleese used to think it was the root of all his problems… We were both at Oxford… I was immediately drawn to him. Life seemed more exciting when Terry was around… When Monty Python came together in 1969, Terry quickly established himself at the very heart of the group… When the first series eventually came out it was Terry who made sure that he recorded and stored the videos of all the programmes in his garage… [Terry’s] force of character and tireless workaholism kept us all up to the mark and the results were “Holy Grail” and “Life of Brian”… One of Terry’s finest creations is from “The Meaning of Life.” It was the song “Every Sperm is Sacred.” In coming to the end of his speech, Mike said, “Terry has been relentlessly prolific, whilst remaining the nicest man, and the most wonderful friend. For all the joy and the pleasure and the laughter and the stimulation he’s brought to so many people, I can think of no one more worthy of recognition tonight.”

Terry’s son, Bill, accompanied him to the stage to collect the award. On being handed the award Terry jokingly held it up to his face as a mask.

Bill, on Terry’s behalf, thanked everyone, adding: “I know it’s a great honor for dad to win this award. The struggles we’ve been going through … We are so proud of him.”

John Cleese tweeted congratulations to “Terry ‘Creosote’ Jones, a hugely imaginative writer, a great Monty Python director, the best Pepperpot, and a lovely friend.”

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Help Fund the Final Book in Terry J’s Medieval Adventure Trilogy

After much discussion with Terry J’s family, Unbound are continuing to crowd fund his last book, the third and final part of his medieval adventure trilogy, “The Tyrant and the Squire”.

The book is written but they need to fund the publication. It’s currently 55% funded and everyone involved would love to get this fully funded in time to give Terry a copy of the finished book by his 75th birthday in February 2017.

You can become part of the project and pledge your support here.

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