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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Monty Python’s First Farewell Tour of Canada (1973)

“Monty Python’s First Farewell Tour of Canada”
From Toronto to Vancouver
4-20 June, 1973

As the Pythons’ U.K. shows were progressing in Spring 1973, it was proposed that the tour be extended to Canada, where the TV series was being broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “Summer in Canada seemed exotic,” Eric Idle said in “Monty Python Live!” (the book about the Python’s live shows to 1980), “and the money was very tempting.”

On With The Show

It was the group’s first trip to North America, and their first taste of the continent’s Python fans. “When we got to [Toronto] airport we went through customs, and there was this huge cheer, hundreds of fans,” Idle said in “The Python Autobiography.” “We all looked behind us because we thought a rock ‘n’ roll group was coming in and it was us, they were waiting for us!”

John Cleese remembers the Canada tour as “a little chaotic”; the others remember the tour as the occasion when Cleese announced he did not want to do a fourth Python series, preferring his industrial films and the odd movie to the grind of a weekly TV show. He also begged off traveling with the group following the tour as they continued on to TV appearances in America.

“I flew up to Toronto, where they greeted me with the news that they were never going to work together again after this tour,” recalled U.S. publicity manager Nancy Lewis in “Monty Python Speaks.” “Here I’ve been knocking myself out trying to get them on the air … oh, wonderful. That’s good news!”

The group performed to boisterous fans in cities across Canada, including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa (where, according to the Ottawa Citizen, a live duck was found to have “expired and gone to meet its maker” following the “Cocktail” sketch), Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg (where the entire front row was dressed as a caterpillar), Regina and Vancouver (where a PR stunt landed all the Pythons in a giant cage).

A slowdown by airline workers on strike caused some of the scenery to miss certain engagements, prompting last-minute changes in the rundown, and leaving the crew having to come up with a dead parrot in Calgary a few hours before the curtain went up.

Once the tour wrapped in Vancouver, the five Pythons who weren’t named Cleese traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles, where they got their first taste of American media’s interest in the group – and disinterest. This was uncomfortably tested in their appearance before a befuddled audience on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” guest-hosted by Joey Bishop. (“There was just a deadness,” said Nancy Lewis. “I was ready to slash my wrists!”) Their performance nonetheless would enter into legend, as all non-Johnny Carson-hosted episodes of the era were later wiped – lost to the ether.

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Monty Python’s Big Red Book

“Monty Python’s Big Red Book”
Editor: Eric Idle
Publisher: Eyre Methuen
Publication Date: 1971 (Hardcover); 1972 (Paperback)
Combined with “The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok” and reissued, under the titles “The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Monty Python: Vol. 1 – Monty Python” (1981) and “The Monty Python Gift Boks” (1986).
 

 

The Pythons’ first book ingeniously captured the spirit of the series, while also playing with the parameters of a printed book. Despite the title, it has little in common with Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book” (or even with the color red).

Contents

ITN Newsreader Forewords; Classified Ads; Ken Shabby & Rosemary – A True Love Story of Our Times; “Why Accountancy Is Not Boring,” by Mr. A. Putey; Naughty Pages; An election guide to the Silly Party’s roster of candidates; A report on the Batley Townswomen’s Guild’s Productions; E.D. Silly’s Page; “Spam Song”; Poetry; The World Encyclopedia of Carnal Knowledge; Australian Page; Children’s Story; “Blackmail!”; “Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong!”; A New Version of “The Importance of Being Earnest”; A Souvenir Photo of Sir Kenneth Clark; Le Pouff Celebre; Madam Palm Writes; The Family Tree of Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern …; Radio Times Report on the Upper Class Twit of the Year Competition; “Lumberjack Song”; Do-It-Yourself Story; Goats’ Page; “Old Boys” Nazis; Whizzo Chocolates; Selections from the Hungarian-English Phrasebook; Johnson’s Novelties; How to Walk Silly; Be a Modern Hermit; The Poems of Ewen McTeagle; The Piranha Brothers; Python Literary Guild.

The Making of

The challenge of adopting television sketches to print form was especially attractive to Eric Idle, who was contacted by Methuen about the possibility of a Python book. He took on the job of editor.

Derek Birdsall and Katy Hepburn were responsible for the graphic design and layout, incorporating many of Gilliam’s illustrations.

Because the design of the fake newspaper pages and advertisements is so close to the real thing, the humor is as successful as when the TV series accurately mimics the “real” TV programmes it is parodying.

Reception

The book sold out its first two printings within two weeks, and vaulted onto the bestseller lists. To date it has sold more than a half-million copies.

At least one reader of “Big Red Book” was not laughing. While libel laws might protect the humorist from the victims of his parody, copyright laws are another matter. Shortly after the book’s release, the Pythons received a letter of complaint from a music publisher whose trade names had been borrowed to give the Python’s sheet music for “Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong” an extra degree of verisimilitude. To avoid an injunction against sales, the sheet music pages underwent a revision in all subsequent copies.
Read more at https://web.archive.org/web/20161106204104/http://www.montypython.com/book_Monty%20Python’s%20Big%20Red%20Book/22#oAfr5GFDjLHW8fuA.99

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Monty Python and The Holy Grail (Book)

“Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Book): Mønti Pythøn Ik Den Hølie Gräilen (Bøk)”
Designer: Derek Birdsall
Publisher: Eyre Methuen
Publication Date: 1977 (Paperback)

The “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” screenplay is reproduced along with numerous production stills and storyboards.

Contents

Monty Python’s Second Film (First Draft); Lobby Cards; Final Draft of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” Including Unfilmed Scenes; Production Stills, Contact Sheets, Storyboards and Terry Gilliam Doodles; Statement of Financial Position and Cost of Production Statement (from chartered accountants Bryce Hammer & Co.)

The Making of

“It’s amazing,” John Cleese says in “The Python’s Autobiography,” “if you look at the first draft of ‘Grail’ how little of that appears in the movie, it’s about 10 percent of the first draft. But I remember Mike and Terry reading out the coconuts thing which gave us a key to a certain approach of how to do it.”

The desire among the group to do a movie was strong, and the disappointments of “And Now for Something Completely Different” meant they wanted to avoid another sketch film. In the TV series, with “The Cycling Tour,” they had already played with a single sketch running the length of an entire show, so a single narrative had already been explored. But it was in fits and starts that the film’s over-arching narrative (which allowed for a bunch of sketches tied together) became a medieval parody featuring King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The initial draft of “Holy Grail” actually spanned centuries, with scenes set in a modern-day Harrods, where the Grail is found.

“I was more keen on keeping the narrative in the Arthurian world than making jokes about Harrods,” said history degree-bearer Michael Palin. “I was interested in creating his world and making the convention, the background setting, so convincing that you don’t have to defuse it, you don’t have to apologize for it, you don’t want to leave it.”

When it was decided (though the passionate campaigning of Terry Jones) to keep the film in the Middle Ages, that opened the gates to material that was both modern in temperament (Constitutional Peasants, Castle Anthrax) and true to the heroic tradition of Arthur and his knights.

The finished script is fresh, inventive, unashamedly violent (the menacing Black Knight has all his limbs severed but refuses to give up the fight) and pointedly anarchic (even God put in an appearance, as an eye-rolling cartoon figure).

The published shooting script includes cuts and unfilmed scenes, such as Sir Alf (Arthur: “I didn’t know we had a Sir Alf.”) and King Brian the Wild, who seeks close harmony groups that he can have executed.

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The Life of Brian: Monty Python’s Scrapbook

“The Life of Brian: Monty Python’s Scrapbook”
Editor: Eric Idle
Contributing Editor: Michael Palin
Designers: Basil Pao, Mike Diehl
Publisher: Eyre Methuen
Publication Date: 1979 (Paperback)

This oversized book is actually two books printed back-to-front – a reproduction of the screenplay, and a scrapbook of deleted scenes and original material. The book you read depends on which side you start it on.

Contents

The screenplay of “The Life of Brian (of Nazareth)” is reproduced with a generous helping of production stills.

The “Monty Python Scrapbook” features dialogue from deleted or unfilmed scenes, such as Brian preaching about forced sex, his encounter with the psychopathic beggar, and the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.

There is also an introduction by Squadron Leader Bigglesworth; name-dropping diary entries by Terry Jones and Michael Palin from the Pythons’ Caribbean sojourn where the screenplay was polished; “Monty Python’s First Ten Years,” a tribute by Queen Elizabeth; a list of what film stars should take with them on location (No.1: A bottle-opener); cinema quizzes; Palin’s letter from Tunisia; how much Brian actually had to feed the multitudes; “What to Do If You Win a Granny”; excerpts from “Sharing” magazine, such as Palin’s memoir, “Sharing a Caravan With John Cleese”; iIlustrations from Terry Gilliam’s animated opening titles; the script of a trailer featuring the aliens; the sports page of the Jerusalem Advocate; lyrics of the “Otto Song,” “All Things Dull and Ugly,” and for some reason, the Bruces’ “Philosophers’ Song”; a list of medications brought to Tunisia by crew doctor Graham Chapman; an appreciation by Graham Greene; and a helpful guide on what to do after the movie’s over.

The Making of

The strength of the “Life of Brian” script comes from the story grounded in very real characters and their situations (despite a passing spaceship – but hey, it could happen!).

When asked how he approached the creation of characters, such as Ben, the prisoner who taunts Brian, Palin said, “I think they are very instinctive. Certainly it’s the way I write. I just write something which comes into my head, or a situation, and it comes out like that, and then probably at the end you can make a connection: ‘Ah yes, I can see where this comes from.’ But at the time it feels very intuitive.

“Unlike Ben, who was created from nowhere, Pontius Pilate was a legitimate historical character, part of the Bible story, [therefore] he had to be dealt with. How do you deal with this man? I must have felt: ruling class, British ruling class, very often distinguished through some aristocratic inbreeding by vowel difficulties of some kind, or vocal distinctions I think it might have come form there.

“Pilate never acknowledges that he has a problem at all. This is the wonderful thing, again I think this just have come in my mind from listening to Violet Bonham Carter or people like that, the English aristocracy. They have vewy stwange ways of tawking, and they doughn’t think eet’s vewy extwawdinawy at awl!”

But just as the film faced possible prosecution for blasphemy in the British courts, so, too, did the book. Publisher Eyre Methuen was concerned after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation banned a radio documentary about the making of “Life of Brian” (which included clips from the film). When asked his opinion on whether the book of the screenplay and deleted scenes might risk a similar fate, a Canadian lawyer said yes: “I am most concerned with the traditional book-banning groups so long accused of narrow-mindedness in prosecuting and persecuting books about sex, who will jump on this book as a move to clear their reputation.”

He also warned that a judge or jury might find elements of the film (and script) to contain “scurrilous, offensive, contumelious abuse to sacred subjects.”

Awaiting word whether the film would pass the U.K. censors, Methuen feared being liable in criminal proceedings, as blasphemy was a criminal offense. Among the areas of concern was the “Scrapbook”‘s scene between Solly and Sarah, a young pregnant woman who relates how she was ravished by a “Holy Ghost.”
The Pythons stood firm unwilling to make changes to the book (which had been published in the United States with no censorship), and after the film was given an “AA” stamp of approval by the British censors, Methuen moved forward.

… Except when it came to the printers, who had consulted their own lawyer, none other than the man who had successfully prosecuted Gay News and worked as an adviser to the Festival of Light, a group that advocated against sexually-explicit material in the media. Consequently, the first printing of the book had the unique distinction of being printed by TWO printers – one for the screenplay, and one for the “Scrapbook.”

Reception

While the film itself was banned in Ireland, Norway, parts of America’s Bible Belt, and several communities in the United Kingdom, the printed screenplay was also banned in South Africa, where it joined “Monty Python’s Big Red Book” and “The Brand New Monty Python Bok” on its list of “objectionable literature” deemed to be prejudicial to the South African government.

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The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok

“The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok”
Editor: Eric Idle
Illustrators: Terry Gilliam, Peter Brookes
Design and Graphics: Kate Hepburn, Lucinda Cowell
Publisher: Eyre Methuen
Publication Date: 1973 (Hardcover), as “The Brand New Monty Python Bok”; Reissued in 1974 in paperback.  Combined with “Monty Python’s Big Red Book” and reissued, under the titles “The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Monty Python: Vol. 1 – Monty Python” (1981) and “The Monty Python Gift Boks” (1986). 

The Pythons’ second book was even denser than their first, with even more creative use of graphics, fonts and inserts. There was also a higher percentage of new material – including a parody of teen magazines – not inspired or adapted from the TV series.

Contents

Safety Instructions; The Wobbles; Biggles; Film Rights; The Llap-Goch Master; Edward Woodward’s Fish Page; The Python Book of Etiquette; Famous First Drafts; Poetry; Puzzle Page; The Bloody Bigots Club; The London Casebook of Detective Rene Descartes; St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wallpaper; 16 Magazine; Masturbation Advertisement; Python Panel; The Adventures of Walter the Wallabee; Calendar: Mr. April; Nixon Photo Contest; Word Record Attempt; The Oxfod Simplified Dictionary; Film Reviews; Rat Recipes; Overland to the World; Colour Page; “African Notebook” by Col. B.B. Wakenham-Plsh MC, OBE; How to …; Norman Henderson’s Diary; Sex-Craft; How to Take Your Appendix Out on the Piccadilly Line; Join the Dots; The Stage Directory; The British Apathy League; Let’s Talk About Bottoms; Page 71; Books From Slater-Methuen; Happy Valley; Ferndean School Report; The Stratton Indicator; The Cheeseshop Word Game; The Official Medallic Commemoration of the History of Mankind; The Anagrams Gape (4); Your Stars; Hamsters: A Warning; Teach Yourself Surgery

The Making of

Kate Hepburn took over art direction duties for the Bok, which was a marvel of design. Terry Gilliam also created original illustrations. 

The hardcover version featured a fingerprint-smeared dust jacket, which caused confusion and consternation among both bookbuyers and booksellers, convinced that the fingerprints were real smudges. The jacket nonetheless discreetly hid the front cover of Tits ‘n Bums (A Weekly Look at Church Architecture). Alas, for the paperback version released the following year (called the “Papperbok”), the loss of the dust jacket meant the loss of the very naughty photo beneath. 

Naughtiness was of concern to the lawyers for Methuen, as there were real questions whether the publication of Brand New Bok would run afoul of England’s obscenity laws. In the opinion of one lawyer contacted by Methuen, it was doubtful that the Bok would be deemed obscene by a jury (though he held the view that a magistrate acting on his own might declare it so). 

However, when the book’s printers (who could also be held liable in an obscenity trial) requested another solicitor’s opinion, the letter they received was troubling. It read in part, “[T]he book was unlikely to be held to be obscene but that, in relation to the possibility of its being read by persons in their early teens the wording in the top right-hand corner of page 65 might provide cause for complaint.” [The offending word: “penis.”] He also warned that certain passages might be declared defamatory [“And remember, ANYONE can be a film producer, all you need is money and a certain vicious ruthlessness”], or that Mr. Norris McWhirter, “the well-known litigant,” might believe a racist letterwriter by the name of Col. Sir Harry McWhirter, M.C.C., referred to him. 

The irony of defending Pythonic humor from charges that it was defamatory was laid clear in a letter from another lawyer who wrote, “The article entitled ‘How to become a Segas Employee’ worrys us a little, mostly because we do not know what it is supposed to mean.” 

With the printers seeking assurance from the publisher, and with the rest of the Pythons still in North America on tour, John Cleese agreed to excise “penis” (ow!). The book was released in time for the Christmas sales rush. 

Rush, indeed: The Bok sold more than 160,000 copies in a few weeks’ time. 

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The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Just the Words (Vol. 1 & 2)

“The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Just the Words (Vol. 1 & 2)”
U.S. Title: “The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus: All the Words (Vol. 1 & 2)”

Editor: Roger Wilmut
Publisher: Eyre Methuen
Publication Date
: 1989 (Paperback/Slip Case)

Roger Wilmut (author of “The Goon Show Companion”) oversaw the creation of this two-volume transcription of the Pythons’ TV series covering every episode, plus recording and original transmission dates. 

Contents
Volume I contains the scripts of episodes 1-23.

Volume II contains the scripts of episodes 24-45.

Each volume also contains a selection of black-and-white photographs, taken from the videotapes.

The Making of

Because the shooting scripts were often changed during filming and editing of the shows, the book was built on transcripts of the dialogue taken for subtitling purposes, cross-checked against the syndicated tapes of the shows.

Character names, if not spoken, were taken from the original camera scripts, with the performer cited (if identifiable).

In explaining the difficulties of proofreading the 22.5 hours of material, Wilmut noted that the stenographers sometimes did not have the ear for Python humor: “Example, in Chapman’s courtroom monologue, ‘and their youngest, their youngest, as thin as a filing cabinet’ came out as ‘he’s still in a filing cabinet’ – there was a lot of this sort of thing, the transcriber going for what you might call a linear understanding of what they heard rather than a Pythonesque one.”

Wilmut also wrote up stage directions when none existed. Most of Gilliam’s indescribable animations are left undescribed.

Since the book only covers the Python shows produced by the BBC, the two “Fliegender Zirkus” episodes are not included.

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The Fairly Incomplete and Rather Badly Illustrated Monty Python Song Book

“The Fairly Incomplete and Rather Badly Illustrated Monty Python Song Book”
Foreword: Elvis Presley
Middleword: God
Afterword: Brigadier N.Q. T.F. Sixpence
Music editor: John Du Prez
Designer: Gary Marsh
Illustrator: Terry Gilliam
Publisher: Methuen
Publication Date: 1994

In addition to helpful (!) instructions on how to read music and play a piano, the “Song Book” contains melodies and lyrics for many of the best- and least-known Python tunes, interspersed with numerous photos and the wonderful art of Terry Gilliam.

Contents

Songs include: “Do What John?”; “Spam”; “O Lord Please Don’t Burn Us”; “The Lumberjack Song” (in English and German); “Dennis Moore”; “The Ferret Song”; “The Money Song”; “The Bruces’ Philosophers Song”; “Muddy Knees”; “Proust Summarizing”; “Ballad of Sir Robin”; “Eric the Half a Bee”; “Yum Yum Di Bucketty”; Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong”; “Yantse Song”; “Oliver Cromwell”; “I Like Chinese”; “Knights of the Round Table”; “Here Comes Another One”; “Henry Kissinger”; “The Background to History”; “I’ve Got Two Legs”; “I’m So Worried”; “Never Be Rude to an Arab”; “Finland”; “Decomposing Composers”; “Anything Goes”; “A Medical Love Song”; “I Like Traffic Lights”; “Brian”; “Penis Song”; “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”; “I Bet You They Won’t Play This Song on the Radio”; “Christmas in Heaven”; “Sit On My Face”; “Accountant Sea Shanty”; “Every Sperm Is Sacred”; “The Meaning of Life”; and “The Galaxy Song.”

 

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