As we reported earlier this week, the surviving members of Monty Python are reuniting for a stage show sometime next year, working together for the first time since 1988. As if that weren’t exciting enough, all five Pythons — Eric Idle, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam — took to Reddit for an extensive AMA session this morning. As one might expect, many of the answers were, well, silly — but there was still some fascinating stuff to be extracted, and we’ve done it for you.
1. The reunion shows will feature new material. Palin suggests that “There’ll be 10% that will be new stuff. There are a lot of good old sketches that will stand up. There are things you don’t have to alter too much, but we’ve got to keep the glue of it fresh… It will all be our material. It’s just easier that way. Along with Carol [Cleveland], we’ll be the main performers.” That’s not to say that others won’t be helping out, though: “Various people have offered to come and help out. Eric had a tweet from Noel Fielding offering to come and make tea. There’s been a huge amount of interest from people I respect, like Bill Bailey and Eddie Izzard.”
2. With that said, they’re not especially big on modern comedy. Michael Palin cites Ricky Gervais as his favorite modern comedian, Idle nominates Dylan Moran, Jones likes Eddie Izzard, and Cleese doesn’t like anyone (“BUT, that’s because I prefer reading to watching TV”) . As for comedians who might have been worthy of Python membership, Idle cites two: “Gilda Radner. [And] Sarah Silverman is quite a dish.”
3. Michael Palin has been pretty much everywhere… except Madagascar (where John Cleese has been, apparently).
4. Terry Gilliam’s rather pithy and perceptive view on the difference between American and English humor? “Americans are good at laughing at other people. English are good at laughing at themselves.”
5. Unsurprisingly, Palin is the Nice Python, and doesn’t mind if people quote sketches at him in the street: “I think it’s great if people quote the show back. Sometimes it’s awkward but generally speaking, they do it because they enjoy the show, so I’m not really against it. As to the legacy, I never think of legacy. I think we’re just lucky to get to do what we’re doing. In a sense my legacy is the freedom to entertain.” Cleese is somewhat more cantankerous: “I like it when people say that I’ve made them laugh but I don’t need them to list more than 30-40 sketches that they have enjoyed.”
6. Did Trey Parker and Matt Stone catalyze the reunion? Um, not according to Idle: “They are arrogant little twerps trying to get cheap publicity off our backs.” Take this seriously, or in fun, as you feel appropriate.
7. It’s true that the coconut scene in The Holy Grail came about because the film’s budget didn’t extend to horses. According to Palin, “We had these knights clicking coconuts. Then we decided the whole medieval Holy Grail thing would need horses all over the place. Someone said why don’t we just have coconuts all the time.”
8. Very little of the original series and films were ad-libbed or improvised. Cleese: “The proportion of ad libs was about 0.0001%. I admire improv but don’t want to do it myself. I prefer writing.” Palin: “Most of the improvisation is done in rehearsal or when we’re writing. When we actually have to film the movies, because there’s a camera crew there, they need to know where we’ll be. It’s very nice sometimes to have a handheld camera and invent little things on a tape. The basic script, we adheer to, but it’s nice to have looser moments and put things in that we’ve never done before. I remember playing the ex leaper in the Life Of Brian and it’s a really long take. We get to the very end and I nearly trod in some donkey shit. I saw it and did a little ballet.”
9. Terry Gilliam doesn’t like directing, “but it’s the only thing I can do.” He claims not to have enjoyed directing any of his films so far, but if he chose one, it would be “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas — we had to work fast, Johnny [Depp] was on fire. It was fun.”
10. Gilliam’s inspiration for the original series’ idiosyncratic animations? “Lots of drugs. I have within me, all the drugs anyone could ever hope to have — I’ve not had to spend my fortune on buying drugs, or days recovering — it’s what’s inside my system. I don’t know where it comes from — adrenaline gets moving, ideas keep pouring out.”
11. And the $64,000 question: their favorite Python skits and/or lines? Cleese has nothing to say on the subject, and Gilliam says he doesn’t have favorites in regard to his own work, but “my favorite is the undertaker sketch where Graham [it’s actually Cleese – Pedantry Ed.] comes into an undertakers with a bag dragging a dead mother’s body in it trying to figure out what to do with it. We pushed the limits of good taste, weren’t afraid to offend — there were no rules which is very different to world we live in now.” Idle cites the “say no more” line from the nudge-nudge skit as his favorite.
Jones, meanwhile, enjoyed filming “The Batley women’s guild reenactment of the battle of Pearl Harbour… It was in a terribly muddy pig’s field”, nominates this as the favorite skit that he’s written, and cites “exploding blue danube” as his favorite line (even though it isn’t really a line.) And Palin cites this: “It’s about hermits who live together and are very sociable. We filmed it up in Yorkshire. We were all dressed as hermits. I really enjoyed doing that because I felt at the time, it was really wonderful and silly. Occasionally, rather like with The Holy Grail, you get the scenery and landscape to match the humour. It wouldn’t have worked in the studio.”
Bonus: Also, sigh, some Monty Python fans are dicks.