“Monty Python Live (mostly) – One Down Five to Go”
The O2, London
10 shows: 1-5 July, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20 July, 2014
Stirred by a losing court case that cost the group a large share of profits from “Spamalot,” the five surviving Pythons agreed to appear in a one-night-only reunion stage show at The O2, London, 45 years after the group debuted on television.
At a November 2013 press conference, Eric Idle, the show’s director, promised a mix of “comedy, music, and a tiny bit of ancient sex.”
When asked about their age, Michael Palin noted, “It’s easier to be silly after 70.”
After the single show sold out in a record 43.5 seconds, (lots of lovely lira!), more shows were quickly added; a total of 10 dates were booked into the 16,000-seat venue. The final performance, on 20 July, was broadcast live in the U.K. on UKTV Gold and beamed via satellite into cinemas and homes around the world.
On With The Show
The sketches included: Llamas; Four Yorkshiremen; The Last Supper; Vocational Guidance Counselor; Bruces; Crunchy Frog; The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots/Penguin on the Television; Gumby Flower Arrangement; Camp Judges; Albatross; Nudge Nudge; “Blackmail”; The Spanish Inquisition; Argument Clinic; and Pet Shop/Cheese Shop. There were also a few sketches performed on stage for the first time: Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror; Protestant Couple; and (Miss) Anne Elk.
There were also song-and-dance numbers (choreographed by Arlene Phillips), including an expanded “Penis Song,” “Every Sperm Is Sacred,” “The Lumberjack Song,” The Bruces’ Philosophers Song,” “I Like Chinese,” “Sit on My Face,” “Spam Lake,” “Nudge Rap,” a Silly Walks dance routine, “The Galaxy Song,” “I’ve Got Two Legs,” “Spam/Finland,” “Christmas In Heaven,” and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Among the sketches projected on screen were: The Batley Townswomen’s Guild’s Reenactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbor; Silly Olympics; Greek-German Philosophers Football Match; and several Gilliam animations.
Also, professors Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking (in a speeding wheelchair) made cameo appearances in a filmed sketch about the physics of “The Galaxy Song.”
“Python fans are extraordinarily decent people,” John Cleese told Rolling Stone after the reunion engagement, “and they’ve got a wonderful sense of humor. When the place was filled with 16,000 of them, the atmosphere is so warm. That relaxes the performers. It’s like playing a sport: The more relaxed you are, the better your timing is. You get funnier, and then the audience likes it even more. It’s an upward spiral.”
Of the reunion, which he characterized “a sweet goodbye,” Cleese said, “We could say, ‘Well, that really was satisfactory.’ These things often don’t work and this, for some reason, did work. … There was no regret or sadness.”
Terry Gilliam told Esquire that the reunion show upset his plans to finally film the oft-delayed “Don Quixote,” so the prospect of performing had left him “really pissed off. I went into it with a really bad attitude. But once we got onstage, it was fantastic. It was really good fun. In fact, once we got going in rehearsals I decided I didn’t care anymore. I decided, ‘Just fuck it. Let’s go.’ The utter ecstasy of 16,000 people on their feet screaming for everything you’re doing. You get so wrapped up in it. …
“Then two weeks later, it’s like it never happened.”