John Cleese

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Posted by motoman 03/12/2009 @ 16:16

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John Cleese and the Fawlty restaurant getaway - Daily Mail
By Richard Simpson He didn't write the script for it, but John Cleese's secret dinner with a blonde ended in farcical scenes worthy of Fawlty Towers. The 69-year-old actor went to great lengths not to be seen with his latest companion as they left a...
Cast: Voices of John Cusack, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Sean ... - Indian Express
Hollywood never tires of evil conspiracies to rule the world, and of weapons of mass destruction. With Igor, both enter animation. In Igor, an evil king brings on storm clouds to demonstrate his power and make his country 'Malaria' the capital of the...
Review: Mark Watson in Auckland -
The British comedian has been compared to John Cleese and there is something reminiscent of the Monty Python Alum in Mark Watson's nervous energy on stage and his tendency to squawk out laughing mid-joke. He had the audience in giggles from the very...
John Cleese 'isn't funny' - Chortle
Martin Clunes has blasted John Cleese's criticisms of British comedy – claiming the Fawlty Towers star hasn't been funny for more than 20 years. Last week, Cleese said TV humour had long passed its golden age of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties,...
John Cleese: No Comeback For Basil Fawlty - Sky News
The cast of Fawlty Towers were reunited today for the first time in 30 years but John Cleese disappointed fans who hoped there may be a new series of the legendary comedy. They were in London to promote a new documentary which interviews all the stars...
Laughing all the way to the boardroom - Times Online
Comedians have always been popular at corporate award ceremonies, if only to cut the boss down to size but, as the recession tightens its grip, performers like Ruby Wax and John Cleese are in demand as business motivators. Wax is probably best known...
'Spamalot' US tour set to end - United Press International
Director Mike Nichols, actor Tim Curry and Monty Python members John Cleese and Eric Idle (shows composer/lyrcist) (left to right) take part in the opening night curtain call bows on March 17, 2005 for the Monty Python Broadway musical "Spamalot"...
John Cleese has Fawlty doubts - Monsters and
When asked if certain scenes from his hit 70s TV show 'Fawlty Towers' would be made now, Cleese replied: "I don't think they would no. I was saying recently, we were so lucky, so deeply lucky to be working in television when we did....
John Cleese blames ex-wife's divorce demands on delay to Fish ... - Daily Mail
By Daily Mail Reporter John Cleese's dreams of turning A Fish Called Wanda into a West End hit are being hampered by his struggle to keep up divorce payments to his ex-wife. The 68-year-old is supposed to be working on a script with his daughter...
David Tennant Tapped To Host the 'Masterpiece' Series - Anglophenia
Men Behaving Badly star Martin Clunes hits back at John Cleese's comments about the state of British sitcoms: "John Cleese certainly hasn't made any good comedy since the '80s! Isn't it curious how successful people only think there's only success in...

John Cleese

Cleese at the 1989 Academy Awards

John Marwood Cleese (IPA: /ˈkliːz/; born 27 October 1939) is an Academy Award-nominated English actor, comedian, writer, film producer and singer, who is known as being a member of Monty Python, a group of comedians responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus and for all of the four Monty Python films: And Now for Something Completely Different, Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. Apart from Monty Python, with his then wife Connie Booth he also co-created, co-wrote and starred in the critically-acclaimed sitcom Fawlty Towers and has also co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures, and made significant appearances in many films, including two James Bond films, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day, and two Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets.

Cleese was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, the son of Muriel (née Cross), an acrobat, and Reginald Francis Cleese, who worked in insurance sales. His family's surname was previously "Cheese", but his father changed his surname to "Cleese" in 1915, upon joining the army.

Cleese was educated at St Peter's Preparatory School, Weston-super-Mare where he was a star pupil, receiving a prize for English and doing well at sports including cricket and boxing. At 13 he received an exhibition to Clifton College, an English public school in Bristol. He was a tall child and was well over 6ft when he arrived there. Whilst at the school he is said to have defaced the school grounds for a prank by painting footsteps to suggest that the school's statue of Field Marshal Earl Haig had got down from his plinth and gone to the toilet. Cleese played cricket for the first team and after initial indifference he did well academically, passing 8 O levels and 3 A levels in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry.

After leaving school he went back to his prep school to teach science before taking up a place he had won at Downing College, Cambridge where he read Law and joined the Cambridge Footlights Revue. It was there that he met his future writing partner Graham Chapman. Cleese wrote extra material for the 1961 Footlights Revue I Thought I Saw It Move, and was Registrar for the Footlights Club during 1962, as well as being one of the cast members for the 1962 Footlights Revue Double Take! He graduated from Cambridge in 1963 with a 2:1 classification in his degree.

Cleese had started his acting career as part of the Cambridge Footlights revue cast of 1963 and later on went to the US to perform on and off-Broadway. While working there, he met not only future Python member Terry Gilliam, but also American actress Connie Booth, whom he married on 20 February 1968.

In 1971, Booth gave birth to Cynthia Cleese, their only child. With Booth, Cleese also wrote the scripts for and co-starred in both series of the TV series Fawlty Towers, even though the two were actually divorced before the second series was finished and aired. Cleese and Booth are said to have remained close friends since.

Cleese remarried in 1981, to American actress Barbara Trentham.Their daughter Camilla, Cleese's second child, was born in 1984. The marriage began to collapse after the success of Cleese's 1988 film A Fish Called Wanda, and in 1990, he and Trentham divorced. It was also during this time that Cleese moved from the United Kingdom to California in the US.

On 28 December 1992, he married American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger. In January 2008, the couple announced they had split. The divorce was settled in December 2008. He has been dating American comedienne Barbie Orr.

Cleese expressed support for U.S. Senator Barack Obama's candidacy for President, donating US$2,300 to his campaign and offering his services as a speech writer.

Cleese was one of the script writers, as well as being a member of the cast for the 1963 Footlights Revue A Clump of Plinths, which was so successful during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that its name was changed to Cambridge Circus, was taken to West End in London, and then on a tour of New Zealand and Broadway, with the cast also appearing in some of the revue sketches on The Ed Sullivan Show in September 1964.

After Cambridge Circus, Cleese decided to stay on in America, performing on and off-Broadway. While performing in the musical Half a Sixpence, Cleese met future Python Terry Gilliam, as well as American actress Connie Booth, whom he married on 20 February 1968.

As Cleese's comic reputation grew, he was soon offered a position as a writer with BBC Radio, where he worked on several programmes, most notably as a sketch writer for The Dick Emery Show. The success of the Footlights Revue led to the recording of a short series of half-hour radio programmes, called I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, which was so popular that the BBC commissioned a regular series with the same title, which ran from 1965 to 1974. Cleese returned to England and joined the cast. In many episodes, he is credited as "John Otto Cleese".

In 1965, Cleese and Chapman began writing on The Frost Report. The writing staff chosen for The Frost Report consisted of a number of writers and performers who would go on to make names for themselves in comedy. They included future Goodies Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor, and also Frank Muir, Barry Cryer, Marty Feldman, Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Dick Vosburgh and future Python members Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. It was while working on The Frost Report, in fact, that the future Pythons developed the writing styles that would make their collaboration significant. Cleese and Chapman's sketches often involved authority figures, some of which were performed by Cleese, while Jones and Palin were both infatuated with filmed scenes that open with idyllic countryside panoramas. Idle was one of those charged with writing David Frost's monologue. It was during this period that Cleese met and befriended influential British comedian Peter Cook.

Such was the popularity of the series that in 1966 Cleese and Chapman were invited to work as writers and performers with Brooke-Taylor and Feldman on At Last the 1948 Show, during which time the Four Yorkshiremen sketch was written by all four writers/performers (the Four Yorkshiremen sketch is now better known as a Monty Python sketch). John Cleese and Graham Chapman also wrote episodes of Doctor in the House. These series were successful and, in 1969, Cleese and Chapman were offered their very own series. However, due to Chapman's alcoholism, Cleese found himself bearing an increasing workload in the partnership and was therefore unenthusiastic about doing a series with just the two of them. He had found working with Palin on The Frost Report an enjoyable experience, and invited him to join the series. Palin had previously been working on Do Not Adjust Your Set, with Idle and Jones, and Terry Gilliam doing animations. The four of them had, on the back of the success of Do Not Adjust Your Set, been offered a series for ITV, which they were waiting to begin when Cleese's offer arrived. Palin agreed to work with Cleese and Chapman in the meantime, bringing with him Gilliam, Jones and Idle.

Monty Python's Flying Circus ran for four series from October 1969 to December 1974 on BBC Television. Cleese's two primary characterizations were as a sophisticate and a stressed-out loony. He portrayed the former as a series of announcers, TV show hosts, government officials (qv. "The Ministry of Silly Walks"), et al. The latter is perhaps best represented in the "Cheese Shop", and by Cleese's Mr Praline character, the man with a dead Norwegian Blue parrot and a menagerie of other animals all named "Eric". He was also known for his working-class "Sergeant Major" character, who worked as a Police Sergeant, Roman Centurion, etc. he is also seen as the opening announcer, with the now famous line: "And now for something completely different".

Along with Gilliam's animations, Cleese's work with Chapman provided Python with its darkest and angriest moments, and many of his characters display the seething suppressed rage that later characterised his portrayal of Basil Fawlty. Many critics naturally make a connection with Cleese's own self-confessed neuroses (he has spoken openly about receiving psychoanalysis).

Unlike Palin and Jones, Cleese and Chapman actually wrote together, in the same room; Cleese claims that their writing partnership involved him sitting with pen and paper, doing most of the work, while Chapman sat back, not speaking for long periods, then suddenly coming out with an idea that often elevated the sketch to a different level. A classic example of this is the "Dead Parrot" sketch, envisaged by Cleese as a satire on poor customer service, which was originally to have involved a broken toaster, and later a broken car (this version was actually performed and broadcast, on the pre-Python special How To Irritate People). It was Chapman's suggestion to change the faulty item into a dead parrot, as well as suggesting that the parrot be specifically a Norwegian Blue, giving the sketch a surreal air which made it far more memorable.

Their humour often involved ordinary people in ordinary situations behaving absurdly for no obvious reason. Like Chapman, Cleese's poker face, clipped middle-class accent and imposing height allowed him to appear convincing as a variety of authority figures - which he would then proceed to undermine. Many of his characters have a kind of incipient madness, but remain utterly straight-faced and impassive while behaving in a ludicrous fashion. Most famously, in the "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch (actually written by Palin and Jones), Cleese exploits his extraordinary stature as the crane-legged civil servant performing a grotesquely elaborate walk to his office.

Chapman and Cleese also specialised in sketches where two characters would conduct highly articulate arguments over completely arbitrary subjects, such as in the "cheese shop", the "dead parrot" sketch and, perhaps most notably, "The Argument Sketch", where Cleese plays a stone-faced bureaucrat employed to sit behind a desk and engage people in pointless, infuriatingly trivial bickering. All of these roles were opposite Palin (who Cleese often claims is his favourite Python to work with) – the comic contrast between the towering Cleese's crazed aggression and diminutive Palin's shuffling inoffensiveness is a common feature in the series. Occasionally, the typical Cleese-Palin dynamic is reversed, as in "Fish Licence", wherein Palin plays the bureaucrat with whom Cleese is trying to work (though it is still Cleese who plays the "loony" half of the duo).

Though the programme lasted four series, by the start of series 3, Cleese was growing tired of coping with Chapman's alcoholism. According to Gilliam, Cleese was the "most Cambridge" of the Cambridge-educated members of the group (Cleese, Chapman, and Idle), by which Gilliam meant that Cleese was the tallest (6'4") and most aggressive of the whole group. He felt, too, that the show's scripts had declined in quality. For these reasons, he became restless and decided to move on. Though he stayed for the third series, he officially left the group before the fourth season. Despite this, he remained friendly with the group, and all six began writing Monty Python and the Holy Grail; Cleese received a credit on episodes of the fourth series which used material from these sessions, and even makes a brief appearance in one episode, though he was officially unconnected with the fourth series. Cleese returned to the troupe to co-write and co-star in the Monty Python films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, and would participate in various live performances over the years.

From 1970 to 1973 Cleese served as rector of the University of St Andrews. While his election by the students might have seemed a prank, it proved a milestone for the University, revolutionising and modernising the post. For instance, the Rector was traditionally entitled to appoint an "Assessor", a deputy to sit in his place at important meetings in his absence. Cleese changed this into a position for a student, elected across campus by the student body, resulting in direct access and representation for the student body for the first time in over 500 years. This was one of many changes that Cleese brought in.

Cleese went on to achieve possibly greater success in the United Kingdom as the neurotic hotel manager Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, which he co-wrote with his wife Connie Booth. The series won widespread critical acclaim and is still considered one of the finest examples of British comedy, having won three BAFTA awards when produced and recently topping the British Film Institute list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes. The series also featured Andrew Sachs as the much abused Spanish waiter Manuel ("...he's from Barcelona"), Prunella Scales as Basil's fire-breathing dragon of a wife Sybil, and Booth as waitress Polly. Cleese based Basil Fawlty on a real person, Donald Sinclair, whom he encountered in 1970, when he and the rest of the Monty Python team were staying at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay while filming Monty Python's Flying Circus. Cleese was reportedly inspired by Sinclair's mantra of "I could run this hotel just fine, if it weren't for the guests". He later described Sinclair as "the most wonderfully rude man I have ever met", although Sinclair's widow has since said her husband was totally misrepresented in the comedy.

During the Pythons' stay, Sinclair allegedly threw Idle's briefcase out of the hotel "in case it contained a bomb", complained about Gilliam's "American" table manners, and threw a bus timetable at another guest after they dared to ask the time of the next bus to town.

The first series began on 19 September 1975, and while not an instant hit, soon gained momentum. However, the second series did not air until 1979, by which time Cleese's marriage to Booth had ended. The two nevertheless reprised their writing and performing roles in the second series. Fawlty Towers consisted of only 12 episodes; Cleese and Booth both maintain that this was to avoid compromising the quality of the series.

In December 1977, Cleese appeared as a guest star on The Muppet Show. Cleese was a longtime fan of the show, and co-wrote much of the episode. He appears in a "Pigs in Space" segment as a pirate trying to hijack the spaceship Swinetrek, and also helps Gonzo restore his arms to "normal" size after Gonzo's cannonball catching act goes a bit wrong. During the show's closing number, Cleese refuses to sing the famous show tune from Man of La Mancha, The Impossible Dream. Kermit The Frog apologizes and the curtain re-opens with Cleese now costumed as a Viking trying some Wagnerian opera as part of a duet with Sweetums. Once again, Cleese protests to Kermit, and gives the frog one more chance. This time, as pictured opposite this text, he is costumed as a Mexican maraca soloist. He's finally had enough and protests that he's leaving the show, saying "You were supposed to be my host. How can you do this to me? Kermit - I am your guest!". The cast all joins in with their parody of The Impossible Dream singing "This is your guest, to follow that star...".

During the crowd's applause that follows the song, he pretends to strangle Kermit until he realizes the crowd loves him and accepts the accolades. During the show's finale, as Kermit thanks him, he shows up with a pretend album, his own new vocal record John Cleese: A Man & His Music, and encourages everyone to buy a copy of the album.

Cleese won the TV Times award for Funniest Man On TV - 1978 / 1979.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Cleese focused on film, though he did work with Peter Cook in his one-off TV special Peter Cook and Co. in 1980. In the same year Cleese played Petruchio, in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew in the BBC Television Shakespeare series. He also participated in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982), and starred in The Secret Policeman's Ball for Amnesty International.

Timed with the 1987 UK elections, he appeared in a video promoting proportional representation.

During the 1987 UK general election, he recorded a nine minute party political broadcast for the SDP-Liberal Alliance, which talks about the similarities and failures of the other two parties in a more humorous tone than the standard political broadcast. He has since supported the Alliance's successor, the Liberal Democrats, narrating a radio election broadcast for the party during the 2001 UK general election.

In 1988 he wrote and starred in A Fish Called Wanda, as the lead, Archie Leach, along with Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. Wanda became an incredible success, and Cleese was nominated for an Academy Award for his script. Cynthia Cleese starred as Leach's daughter.

Chapman was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1989; Cleese, Michael Palin, Peter Cook and Chapman's partner David Sherlock, witnessed Chapman's passing. Chapman's death occurred one day before the 20th anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus with Jones commenting, "the worst case of party-pooping in all history." Cleese gave a stirring eulogy at Chapman's memorial service, in which he "became the first person ever at a British memorial service to say 'fuck'".

Cleese also produced and acted in a number of successful business training films, including Meetings, Bloody Meetings and More Bloody Meetings about how to set up and run successful meetings. These were produced by his company Video Arts.

With Robin Skynner, the Group Analyst (Group Analysis) and family therapist, Cleese wrote two books on relationships: Families and how to survive them, and Life and how to survive it. The books are presented as a dialogue between Skynner and Cleese.

In 1999, Cleese appeared in the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough as Q's assistant, referred to by Bond as R. In 2002, when Cleese reprised his role in Die Another Day, the character was promoted, making Cleese the new quartermaster (Q) of MI6. In 2004, Cleese was featured as Q in the video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, featuring his likeness and voice. Cleese did not appear in the subsequent Bond films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and it is unknown whether Cleese will reprise the role in future Bond films.

He is currently Provost's Visiting Professor at Cornell University, after having been Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large from 1999-2006. He makes occasional, well-received appearances on the Cornell campus, but he lives in the town of Montecito, California.

In a 2005 poll of comedians and comedy insiders The Comedian's Comedian, Cleese was voted second only to Peter Cook. Also in 2005, a long-standing piece of Internet humour, "The Revocation of Independence of the United States", was wrongly attributed to Cleese.

In 2006 Cleese hosts an A–Z look at football’s greatest kicks, goals, saves, bloopers, plays and penalties of all time, as well as football’s influence on culture (including the famous Monty Python sketch, “Philosophy Football”). Featuring interviews with pop culture icons Dave Stewart, Dennis Hopper and Henry Kissinger, as well as football greats, including Pelé, Mia Hamm and Thierry Henry. The Art of Soccer with John Cleese is being released in North America on DVD in January 2009 by BFS Entertainment & Multimedia.

Cleese recently lent his voice to the BioWare video game Jade Empire. His role was that of an "outlander" named Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard, stranded in the Imperial City of the Jade Empire. His character is essentially a British colonialist stereotype who refers to the people of the Jade Empire as savages in need of enlightenment. His armour has the design of a fork stuck in a piece of cheese on it.

In 2002, Cleese made a cameo appearance in the movie The Adventures of Pluto Nash, where he played "James", a computerized chauffeur of a hover car stolen by Nash (played by Eddie Murphy). The vehicle is subsequently destroyed in a chase, leaving the chauffeur stranded in a remote place on Mars.

In 2003, Cleese also appeared as Lyle Finster in long-running US sitcom Will & Grace.

In 2004, Cleese was credited as co-writer of a DC Comics graphic novel entitled Superman: True Brit. Part of DC's "Elseworlds" line of imaginary stories, True Brit, mostly written by Kim Howard Johnson, suggests what might have happened had Superman's rocket ship landed in Britain, not America.

From 10 November to 9 December 2005, Cleese toured New Zealand with his stage show John Cleese — His Life, Times and Current Medical Problems. Cleese described it as "a one man show with several people in it, which pushes the envelope of acceptable behaviour in new and disgusting ways." The show was developed in New York with William Goldman and includes Cleese's daughter Camilla as a writer and actor (the shows were directed by Australian Bille Brown.) His assistant of many years, Garry Scott-Irvine, also appeared, and was listed as a co-producer. It then played in universities in California and Arizona from 10 January to 25 March 2006 under the title "Seven Ways to Skin an Ocelot". His voice can be downloaded for directional guidance purposes as a downloadable option on some personal GPS-navigation device models by company TomTom.

In June 2006, while promoting a football (soccer) song in which he was featured, entitled Don't Mention the World Cup, Cleese appears to have claimed that he decided to retire from performing in sitcoms, instead opting to writing a book on the history of comedy and tutoring young comedians. This was an erroneous story, the result of an interview with The Times of London (the piece was not fact checked before printing).

In 2007, Cleese is appearing in ads for Titleist as a golf course designer named "Ian MacCallister", who represents "Golf Designers Against Distance".

In 2007, he started filming the sequel to The Pink Panther, titled The Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai.

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Fawlty Towers

Fawlty Towers title card.jpg

Fawlty Towers is a British sitcom produced by the BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975. Although only twelve episodes were produced (consisting of two series, with six episodes each), the programme has had a lasting and powerful legacy.

The setting is in a fictional hotel called Fawlty Towers, located in the seaside town of Torquay, in Devon, on the "English Riviera" (which was where the hotel that provided John Cleese with the inspiration for the series was situated). The show was written by Cleese and Connie Booth, both of whom played main characters. The first series, in 1975, was produced and directed by John Howard Davies, and the second, in 1979, was produced by Douglas Argent and directed by Bob Spiers.

Fawlty Towers placed first on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000 that was voted for by industry professionals. It was also voted fifth in the BBC's "Britain's Best Sitcom" poll in 2004.

In May 1970, the Monty Python team booked a stay in the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay, while doing some location filming. During their stay, John Cleese became fascinated with the behaviour of the owner, Donald Sinclair, whom Cleese later described as "the most marvellously rude man I've ever met". This included him throwing a timetable at a guest who asked when the next bus to town would arrive, and placing Eric Idle's suitcase behind a wall in the garden on the suspicion that it contained a bomb (it actually contained a ticking alarm clock). He also criticised the American-born Terry Gilliam's table manners for not being 'British' (he had the fork in "the wrong hand" while eating). Cleese and Booth stayed on at the hotel after filming for the Python show had finished, furthering their research of the owner's erratic, outspoken and prejudiced attitude.

At the time, Cleese was also a writer on the 1970s British TV sitcom Doctor in the House for London Weekend Television. An early prototype of the character that would become known as Basil Fawlty was developed in an episode ("No Ill Feeling") of the third Doctor series (titled Doctor at Large). In this edition, the main character checks into a small town hotel, his very presence seemingly winding up the aggressive and incompetent manager (played by Timothy Bateson). The show was broadcast on 30 May 1971. Cleese also parodied the contrast between organisational dogma and sensitive customer service in many personnel training videotapes issued with a serious purpose by his company, Video Arts.

Bill Cotton, the BBC's Head of Light Entertainment in the mid-1970s, said after the first series was produced that the show was a prime example of the BBC's relaxed attitude to trying new entertainment formats and encouraging new ideas. He said that when he read the first scripts he could see nothing funny in them, but trusting that Cleese knew what he was doing (having come into this fresh from helping rip up the TV comedy form book with his fellow Pythons), he gave the go-ahead. He said that the commercial channels, with their emphasis on audience ratings, would never have let the show get to the production stage on the basis of the scripts.

Although the series is set in Torquay in Devon, none of it was shot in south west England. For the exterior filming, instead of a hotel, the Wooburn Grange Country Club in Buckinghamshire was used. It later served as a nightclub named "Basil's" for a short time after the series ended until it was destroyed by fire in March 1991. The remnants of the building were demolished and the site was bought by developers. Other location filming was done mostly around the Harrow area of north London: In the episode "The Germans", the opening shot is of Northwick Park Hospital. In the episode "Gourmet Night", the exterior of Andre's restaurant was filmed on Preston Road in the Harrow area. The launderette next door to the restaurant still exists today and Andre's is now a Chinese restaurant called "Wings". The famous sequence where Basil beats his car with a branch after it stalls was filmed on the corner of Mentmore Close and Lapstone Gardens in Kenton, just east of Harrow.

Cleese and Booth were married to each other at the time of the first series. By the second, they had been divorced for almost a year, after ten years of union (1968–78).

Both Cleese and Booth were so keen on every script being perfect, some episodes took four months and ten drafts to write until they were satisfied.

The series focuses on the exploits and misadventures of short-fused hotelier Basil Fawlty, his wife Sybil, and their employees, porter and waiter Manuel, maid Polly and (in the second series) chef Terry. The episodes typically revolve around Basil's efforts to succeed in 'raising the tone' of his hotel and his increasing frustration at the numerous complications and mistakes, both his own and those of others, which prevent him from doing so. Much of the humour comes from Basil's overly aggressive manner, engaging in angry but witty arguments with guests, staff and in particular his formidable wife, whom he addresses (in a faux-romantic way) with insults such as "that golfing puff adder", "my little piranha fish", and "my little nest of vipers". Despite this, he frequently feels intimidated, with her able to stop him in his tracks at any time, usually with a short, sharp cry of "Basil!". At the end of some episodes, Basil succeeds in annoying (or at least bemusing) the guests and frequently gets his comeuppance.

The plots are occasionally intricate and always farcical, involving coincidences, misunderstandings, cross-purposes and meetings both missed and accidental. The innuendo of the bedroom farce is sometimes present, (often to the disgust of the socially conservative Basil), but it is his eccentricity, not his lust, that drives the plots. The events that take place in each episode happen in such a way that they negatively affect Basil's personality, and test what little patience he has to breaking point, sometimes causing his mental state to deteriorate to the point where he has all but suffered a total breakdown by the end of the episode (some cut to the credits as he is on the brink of doing so).

The guests at the hotel are typically comic foils to Basil's anger and outbursts. Each episode's one-shot guest characters provide a different characteristic that he cannot stand (including promiscuity, being working class, or being foreign). Requests both reasonable and impossible test his temper. Even the disabled seem to annoy him, with the episode "Communication Problems" revolving around the havoc caused by the frequent Abbott and Costello-esque misunderstandings between the staff and the hard-of-hearing Mrs Richards (not to mention the contributions from dotty resident Major, the show's other regular character). By the end, Basil faints just at the mention of her name. This episode is typical of the show's careful weaving of humorous situations through comedy cross-talk. The show also uses mild black humour at times, notably when Basil is forced to hide a dead body, and in some of the comments made by Basil both about Sybil ("Did you ever see that film, How to Murder Your Wife? ... Awfully good; I saw it six times") and the guests ("May I suggest that you consider moving to a hotel closer to the sea? Or preferably in it.").

Basil behaves particularly violently towards Manuel (an emotional, but innocent, Spaniard whose almost total lack of English vocabulary has him make some of the most elementary mistakes) including beating the hapless waiter with a frying pan and smacking him on the forehead with a spoon, despite Manuel's piteous pleading, echoing the antics of the Three Stooges. The violence directed at Manuel has been one of the few reasons for negative criticisms leveled at Fawlty Towers over the years. In this, and in other exaggerated physical mannerisms of Basil, Fawlty Towers employs physical comedy reminiscent of the Marx Brothers' fast-paced slapstick humour.

Basil often displays blatant snobbishness in order to climb the social ladder, frequently expressing disdain for the "riff-raff" and "yobbos" that he believes regularly populate the hotel. His desperation is apparent, as he makes increasingly hopeless manoeuvres and painful faux pas in trying to gain favour with the wealthy, yet finds himself forced to serve and help people he sees as beneath him. As such, Basil's efforts tend to be counter-productive, with guests leaving the hotel in disgust and his marriage (and sanity) stretching further and further towards breaking point.

Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese, is a snobbish and miserly misanthrope who is desperate to belong to a higher social class. He sees the successful running of the hotel as a means of achieving this ("turn it into an establishment of class..."), yet his job forces him to be pleasant to people he despises or aspires to be above socially.

He is terrified of his wife Sybil Fawlty's sharp tongue (in the episode "The Germans", he wishes that it was this that was ingrowing and not her toenail). He yearns to stand up to her, but his plans frequently conflict with her desires. She is often verbally abusive towards him (memorably describing him as "an ageing, brilliantined stick insect") and though he is taller than Sybil, he often finds himself on the receiving end of her temper, expressed verbally or physically. Basil usually turns to Manuel or Polly to help him with whatever scheme he has planned, while trying his best to prevent Sybil from finding out. However, there are occasions where Basil is shown to lament about the time when there was passion in their relationship, now seemingly lost forever. Also, it appears as though he still does care for her in some way. The penultimate episode — "The Anniversary" — revolves around his efforts to put together a nice surprise anniversary get-together present, involving their closest friends. Things go wrong immediately as, due to Basil's pretending the date doesn't remind him of anything so as to enhance the surprise (gamely accepting a slap in the process), Sybil believes he really has forgotten, and leaves the hotel in a huff. In an interview for the documentary on the DVD box set, Cleese claims that this episode deliberately takes a slightly different tone from the others, focusing on fleshing out their otherwise inexplicable status as a couple (as well as saying that, if a third series had been made, there would have been more episodes like this).

In keeping with the general lack of explanation about the marriage, not much is revealed of the characters' back-stories. It is known that Basil served in the Korean War — he was a cook for the British Army, possibly as part of his National Service. He grossly exaggerates this period of his life, suggesting he spent time in active front line service and proclaiming to strangers: "I killed four men." To this Sybil jokes that "He was in the Catering Corps. He used to poison them." Basil is often seen wearing a military tie, (as well as that of the Royal Agricultural College), and his moustache seems to betray an army background. He also claims to have sustained an injury to his leg during the action, caused by shrapnel, although apparently it tends to flare up at surprisingly convenient times for him. The only person toward whom Basil, for the most part, consistently exhibits patience and decent manners is the old and senile Major Gowen, a World War I veteran officer who permanently resides at the hotel.

Cleese himself described Basil as thinking that "he could run a first-rate hotel if he didn't have all the guests getting in the way," and "an absolutely awful human being", but says that in comedy, if an awful person makes people laugh, people unaccountably feel affectionate toward him. Indeed, he is not entirely unsympathetic. The "Hotel Inspectors" and "Waldorf Salad" episodes both feature guests who are shown to be deeply annoying with constant, and unreasonable demands. Much of the time, he is an unfortunate victim of circumstance.

Sybil Fawlty, played by Prunella Scales, is Basil's wife. She is often seen to be a more effective manager of the hotel, making sure Basil either gets certain jobs done or stays out of the way when she is handling difficult customers. Despite this, she rarely participates directly in the running of the hotel; during busy check-in sessions or meal-times, while everyone else is busy working, she is frequently talking on the phone to one of her friends (usually Audrey, who makes her sole on-camera appearance in "The Anniversary") with her phrase "Oohhh, I knoooooooow", or chatting to customers. She has a distinctive conversational tone and braying laugh, which her husband compares to "someone machine-gunning a seal". Being his wife, she is the only one who refers to him by his first name, and when (frequently) she barks this at him, he is generally stopped in his tracks, often flinching.

In addition to those mentioned above, Basil also refers to her by a number of epithets, occasionally to her face, including "the dragon", "toxic midget", "the sabre-toothed tart", "my little kommandant", and "a rancorous, coiffured old sow". Despite these less than complimentary nicknames, Basil is terrified of her, and it is only once in the entire series that he loses patience to the point which he snaps at her.

Sybil and Basil Fawlty are said to have married on 17 April 1958 and started their hotel in 1960.

Polly Sherman, played by Connie Booth, is primarily employed as a waitress, although she sometimes seems to be coerced into doing many other jobs in the hotel, perhaps for the extra money. She often stands as the voice of sanity during chaotic moments in the hotel, but is frequently embroiled in ridiculous masquerades as she loyally attempts to aid Basil in trying to cover a mistake he has made, or to keep something from Sybil. Her biggest test of loyalty came in the episode "The Anniversary", when Basil asked her to impersonate a purportedly ill Sybil - albeit in semi-darkness — in front of all the Fawltys' closest friends.

Polly is apparently employed part-time (during meal times), and is an art student whom Basil refers to as spending three years at university. (Polly is not referred to as a student in the second series.) Despite her part-time employment, as the most competent of the hotel staff, she is frequently saddled with many other duties. In one episode, she is seen to draw a sketch (presumably an impressionistic caricature) of Basil, which everyone but Basil immediately recognises. Polly is also a student of languages, displaying ability with both Spanish and German; in "The Germans" episode Basil alludes to Polly's polyglot inclination by saying that she does her work "while learning two oriental languages". Like Manuel, she has a room of her own at the hotel.

Manuel, a waiter played by Andrew Sachs, is a well-meaning but disorganised and constantly confused Spaniard from Barcelona with a poor grasp of the English language and customs. He is verbally and physically abused by his boss. When told by either Basil, Sybil, or Polly what to do, he often answers, "¿Qué?" ("What?"). Manuel's character was used to demonstrate Basil's instinctive lack of sensitivity and tolerance. Every episode would involve Basil becoming enraged at least a couple of times by not only Manuel's confusion at his boss's bizarre and complicated demands, but also with basic requests. Manuel is afraid of Fawlty's quick temper and violent assaults, yet often expresses his appreciation for being given a steady source of income in what seems to him an endlessly perplexing society. His relentlessly enthusiastic demeanour and lavish pride in what little English he has grasped suggest that at least some of his persistent difficulties stem from his employers' persistently poor communication skills.

During the making of the series, Sachs twice suffered a serious injury while playing Manuel. Cleese describes using a real metal pan to knock him unconscious in "The Wedding Party" episode, although he would have preferred to use a rubber one. The original producer/director, John Howard Davies, explains in the director's commentary that he made Basil use a metal one and that he was responsible for most of the violence on the show, which he felt was essential and intrinsic to the type of comical farce that they were trying to create. Later, when his clothes were treated in order to make them give off smoke after he had been let out of the burning kitchen in "The Germans", the corrosive chemicals used went through them and gave Sachs severe burns.

Manuel's exaggerated Spanish accent is an integral part of the humour of the show. Sachs's native language is German, Sachs having emigrated to Britain as a child.

The character's nationality was switched to Italian (and the name to Paolo) for the Spanish dub of the show, while in Catalonia he is a Mexican (still called Manuel).

Terry, played by Brian Hall, is the chef at Fawlty Towers. Terry's cooking style is quite relaxed, and Basil occasionally gets frustrated with his attitude. Terry appears in only the second series of episodes. During the first series, there was no regular chef character seen in the show. The only first series chef was "new" chef Kurt, seen in "Gourmet Night", who quickly proved himself incapable of holding the job due to a fondness for large volumes of wine, and a baffling passion for Manuel. Terry used to work in Dorchester (not at The Dorchester). In "The Anniversary" he and Manuel come to blows as he takes offence at someone else cooking in his kitchen, and proceeds to sabotage Manuel's attempt to make paella for Sybil, leading to fisticuffs between them at the end of the episode.

Major Gowen, played by Ballard Berkeley, is a slightly senile old soldier who holds permanent residence in the hotel, but is one of the few whom Basil likes. This is possibly due to his former status in the military, making him a symbol of the establishment status that Basil craves. He is often introduced as their "oldest resident". He enjoys talking about the world outside (especially the cricket scores and bemoaning workers' strikes) and is always on the lookout for the newspaper. He seems to have trouble forgiving the Germans due to the World Wars (the best he can say about them is that German women supposedly make good card players). He also has outdated attitudes towards race, evidenced in the scene where he makes clear the ethnic difference between "wogs" and "niggers" — but in an innocent manner. Despite his good intentions, the Major can cause Basil's devious plans to go catastrophically awry, notably in "Communication Problems" when Basil tries his best to keep his secret (albeit successful) betting from Sybil.

Miss Tibbs & Miss Gatsby, played by Gilly Flower and Renee Roberts respectively, are the other two (often inseparable) permanent residents, who are slightly scatty spinsters. They seem to take a fancy to Basil, and feel as though they need to take care of him, although he switches from being overly kind to utterly rude during various talks with the two women.

Audrey, a mostly unseen character, had one on-screen appearance in "The Anniversary". Audrey is Sybil's lifelong best friend, and mostly appears in the form of gossiping, trivial telephone calls to Sybil. Audrey is used as a source of refuge for Sybil from the hotel and from Basil's ludicrous situations. When times get tough for Audrey (she has a dysfunctional relationship with her husband George), Sybil will offer solutions and guidance, often resulting in the catchphrase "Ooh, I know..." when Mrs. Fawlty tries to commiserate with her problems. In Audrey's one on-screen appearance she is played by actress Christine Shaw. She is mentioned in "The Hotel Inspectors", "The Wedding Party", "Gourmet Night", "The Psychiatrist" and "The Kipper and the Corpse".

Production of the last two episodes was disrupted by a strike of BBC technical staff, which resulted in the recasting of the role of Reg (the wisecracking friend of Basil and Sybil) in "The Anniversary", and delayed the episode's transmission date by one week. The episode "Basil the Rat" was also delayed, not being screened until the end of a repeat showing six months later.

Not the Nine O'Clock News was originally scheduled to debut after an episode of Fawlty Towers and Cleese was to have introduced Not the Nine O'Clock News in a sketch referring to the technicians' strike, explaining (in character as Basil Fawlty) that there was no show ready that week, so a "tatty revue" would be broadcast instead. However, the 1979 general election intervened, and Not the Nine O'Clock News was postponed as being too political. Later that year, Cleese's sketch was broadcast, but its original significance was lost.

When originally transmitted, the individual episodes had no on-screen titles. The ones in common currency were first used for the VHS release of the series in the 1980s. There were working titles, such as "USA" for "Waldorf Salad", "Death" for "The Kipper and the Corpse", and "Rat" for "Basil the Rat", which have been printed in some programme guides. In addition, some of the early BBC audio releases of episodes on vinyl and cassette included other variations, such as "Mrs. Richards" and "The Rat" for "Communication Problems" and "Basil the Rat" respectively.

It has long been rumoured that a thirteenth episode of the series was written and filmed, but never progressed further than a rough cut . Lars Holger Holm, author of the book Fawlty Towers: A Worshipper's Companion, has made detailed claims about the episode's content, but he provides no evidence of its existence and it is most likely a hoax or fan fiction. Neither BBC officials nor John Cleese have ever commented on the existence of a missing episode.

We had an idea for a plot which I loved. Basil was finally invited to Spain to meet Manuel's family. He gets to Heathrow and then spends about 14 frustrating hours waiting for the flight. Finally, on the plane, a terrorist pulls a gun and tries to hijack the thing. Basil is so angry he overcomes the terrorist and when the pilot says, "We have to fly back to Heathrow", Basil says, "No, fly us to Spain or I'll shoot you". He arrives in Spain, immediately arrested and spends the entire holiday in a Spanish jail. He is released just in time to go back on the plane with Sybil. It was very funny, but I couldn't do it at the time. Making Fawlty Towers work at 90 minutes was a very difficult proposition. You can build up the comedy for 30 minutes, but at that length there has to be a trough and another peak. It doesn't interest me. I don't want to do it.

The decision by Cleese and Booth to quit before a third series has often been lauded, as it ensured an avoidance of the possibility that the show's immediately-high status could be weakened with lower quality work later down the line. (Cleese in particular was most likely motivated in making the choice by the end of his involvement with the Monty Python's Flying Circus TV series, which he departed from claiming to have run out of ideas for sketches.) Subsequently, it has inspired the makers of other shows to do likewise. Most notably, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant refused to make a third series of either The Office or Extras, citing Fawlty Towers' short lifespan as the reason. Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, the writers behind The Young Ones, which also only ran for two series (each with six episodes likewise), used this explanation too. Elton also took the decision to end his next sitcom, Filthy Rich & Catflap, after only one series, despite its popularity.

Another critic of the show was Richard Ingrams, then television reviewer for The Spectator. Cleese got his revenge by naming one of the guests in the second series 'Mr Ingrams', who is caught in his room with a blow up doll.

Three BAFTAs were awarded to people for their involvement with the series. Each of the two series were awarded the BAFTA in the category for "Best Situation Comedy", the first won by John Howard Davies in 1976, and the second by Douglas Argent and Bob Spiers in 1980. John Cleese won the BAFTA for "Best Light Entertainment Performance" in 1976.

More recently, in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers was placed first. It was also voted fifth in the BBC's "Britain's Best Sitcom" poll in 2004 and second only to Frasier in The Ultimate Sitcom poll of comedy writers in January 2006. Basil Fawlty came top of the Britain's Funniest Comedy Character poll, held by Five on 14 May 2006.

Three attempted remakes of Fawlty Towers were started for the American market, with two making it into production. The first, Chateau Snavely, was produced by ABC for a pilot in 1978, but the transfer from coastal hotel to highway motel proved too much and the series was never produced. The second, also by ABC, was Amanda's, notable for switching the sexes of its 'Basil' and 'Sybil' equivalents. It also failed to pick up a major audience and was dropped. A third remake called Payne (produced by and starring John Larroquette) was also produced, but was cancelled shortly after. There also was a German sitcom based on Fawlty Towers, and Guest House on Pakistan's PTV also resembled the series.

The popular sitcoms 3rd Rock From The Sun and Cheers (both of which Cleese appeared in) have cited Fawlty Towers as an inspiration, especially regarding its depiction of a dysfunctional "family" in the workplace. Also Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan have cited Fawlty Towers as a major influence on their sitcom Father Ted.

Several of the characters have made other appearances, as spin-offs or in small cameo roles. In 1984, in character as Manuel, Andrew Sachs recorded his own version of the Joe Dolce cod-Italian song "Shaddap You Face" (with the B-side "Waiter, There's a Spanish Flea in My Soup"). However, the record was not released after Joe Dolce took out an injunction; he was about to issue his version in Britain. Gilly Flower and Renee Roberts, who played Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby in the series, reprised the roles in a 1983 episode of Only Fools and Horses. In 2006, Cleese played Basil Fawlty for the first time in 27 years, for an unofficial England 2006 World Cup song, "Don't Mention the War", named after the phrase Basil famously used in "The Germans". In 2007, Cleese and Sachs reprised their roles for a six-episode corporate video for Norwegian oil company Statoil. In the video, Fawlty is running a restaurant called "Basil's Brasserie", while Manuel owns a Michelin Star restaurant in London.

In November 2007, Prunella Scales returned to the role of Sybil Fawlty in a series of sketches for the BBC's annual Children in Need charity telethon. The character was seen taking over the management of the eponymous hotel from the BBC drama series Hotel Babylon, interacting with characters from that programme as well as other 1970s sitcom characters. The character of Sybil was used by permission of John Cleese.

In just 1977 and 1978 alone, it was sold to 45 stations in 17 countries and was the BBC's best selling overseas program for that year. Although it was initially a flop in Spain, because of the portrayal of the Spanish waiter Manuel, it was successfully resold, with Manuel's nationality changed to Italian.

Fawlty Towers was originally released by BBC Video in 1984, but was edited with the credits from all 3 episodes put at the end of the tape. It was re-released in 1995 unedited and remastered. It was re-released in 1998 with a special interview with John Cleese. Fawlty Towers - The complete series was released on DVD on 16 October 2001, available in regions 1, 2 and 4. A "Collectors Edition" is available in region 2.

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At Last the 1948 Show

At Last the 1948 Show was a satirical TV show made by David Frost's company, Paradine Productions, (although it was not credited on the programmes) in association with Rediffusion London. It was made for Britain's ITV network during 1967 and brought Cambridge Footlights humour to a broader audience. It starred Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Marty Feldman and Aimi MacDonald. The programme editors were John Cleese and Tim Brooke-Taylor.

David Frost approached Cleese, Chapman and Brooke-Taylor to star in a sketch series. They suggested Marty Feldman, until then a comedy writer. The series bridged the radio series I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again and television's Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Goodies. It also led to Feldman's television series Marty (which included Tim Brooke-Taylor). The convention of comedy scenes interspersed by songs was abandoned.

The shows had no relationship to 1948; the title referred to the BBC's habit of letting shows sit for months before broadcasting them. The cast also recorded an LP of sketches from the show.

The show was made shortly before colour on ITV. There were two short series totalling 13 25-minute episodes (six in the first series, seven in the second). Thames Television wiped the material once they had acquired the Rediffusion London archive, and all but two episodes were destroyed. John Cleese rescued two episodes when he became aware of what was happening. Five compilation episodes for Swedish television also survived. Much missing material has been recovered in video or audio recordings from the series, or from the LP version, and surviving video has reportedly been restored by the British Film Institute.

Of the surviving footage, only the five Swedish compilation episodes have been released on DVD. This includes the "Four Yorkshiremen sketch", written and performed by Cleese, Chapman, Brooke-Taylor and Feldman. The DVDs were issued by Pinnacle Vision in the UK (Region 2) and by Tango Entertainment in the US (Region 1). The DVD incorrectly states these as "recently recovered episodes", titles them as "episodes ", and also presents them in the wrong series order. There is no mention on the DVD that the content is a compilation.

Several sketches were revived by Monty Python for two German TV specials (Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus) and for stage shows, including the "Four Yorkshiremen sketch", which was performed on Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. Another, "Bookshop Sketch," was recorded in modified form for Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album.

The series was filmed at what is now Fountain Studios Wembley.

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Monty Python

Poster for Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

Monty Python (sometimes known as The Pythons) is a group of six comedians who created Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British television comedy sketch show that first aired on the BBC on October 5, 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four series. The Python phenomenon developed from the television series into something larger in scope and impact, spawning touring stage shows, films, numerous albums, several books and a stage musical, and launching the members to individual stardom. The group's influence on comedy has been compared to The Beatles' influence on music.

The television series, broadcast by the BBC from 1969 to 1974, was conceived, written and performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Loosely structured as a sketch show but with an innovative stream-of-consciousness approach (aided by Gilliam's animations), it pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in style and content.

A self-contained comedy team responsible for both writing and performing their work, they changed the way performers entertained audiences. The Pythons' creative control allowed them to experiment with form and content, discarding rules of television comedy. Their influence on British comedy has been apparent for years, while in America it has coloured the work of cult performers from the early editions of Saturday Night Live through to more recent absurdist trends in television comedy. "Pythonesque" has entered the English lexicon as a result.

There are differing accounts of the origins of the Python name although the members agree that its only "significance" was that they thought it sounded funny. In the 1998 documentary Live At Aspen the group implied that "Monty" was selected as a gently-mocking tribute to Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, a legendary British general of World War II; requiring a "slippery-sounding" surname, they settled on "Python". On other occasions Idle has claimed that the name "Monty" was that of a popular and rotund fellow who drank in his local pub; people would often walk in and ask the barman, "Has Monty been in yet?", forcing the name to become stuck in his mind. The name Monty Python was envisaged as being the perfect name for a sleazy entertainment agent.

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, three of the six members were voted by fellow comedians and comedy insiders to be among the top 50 greatest comedians ever - Palin was at number 30, Idle at 21 and Cleese at 2.

In mid-November 2008, the Pythons created a YouTube channel to stop their content from being released illegally on the Internet. On this channel, they host a selection of their favorite clips as well as other clips about The Pythons and the channel.

Palin and Jones met at Oxford University, where they performed together with the Oxford Revue. Cleese and Chapman met at Cambridge. Idle was also at Cambridge, but started a year after Cleese and Chapman. Cleese met Gilliam in New York while on tour with the Cambridge University Footlights revue Cambridge Circus (originally entitled A Clump of Plinths).

Chapman, Cleese and Idle were members of the Footlights, which at that time also included the future Goodies (Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden), and Jonathan Lynn (co-writer of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister). During Idle's presidency of the Club, feminist writer Germaine Greer and broadcaster Clive James were members. Recordings of Footlights revues (called "Smokers") at Pembroke College include sketches and performances by Idle and Cleese. They are kept in the archives of the Pembroke Players, along with tapes of Idle's performances in some of the college drama society's theatrical productions.

Several featured other important British comedy writers or performers of the future, including Marty Feldman, Jonathan Lynn, David Jason and David Frost, as well as members of upcoming comedy teams, Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker (the Two Ronnies), and Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie (the Goodies).

Following the success of Do Not Adjust Your Set, originally intended to be a children's programme, with adults, ITV offered Palin, Jones, Idle and Gilliam their own series together. At the same time Cleese and Chapman were offered a show by the BBC, having been impressed by their work on The Frost Report and At Last The 1948 Show. Cleese was reluctant to do a two-man show for various reasons, including Chapman's supposedly difficult personality. Cleese had fond memories of working with Palin and invited him to join the team. With the ITV series still in pre-production Palin agreed and suggested the involvement of his writing partner Jones and colleague Idle—who in turn suggested that Gilliam could provide animations for the projected series. Much has been made of the fact that the Monty Python troupe is the result of Cleese's desire to work with Palin and the chance circumstances that brought the other four members into the fold.

The Pythons had a definite idea about what they wanted to do with the series. They were admirers of the work of Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore on Beyond the Fringe, and had worked on Frost, which was similar in style. They enjoyed Cook and Moore's sketch show Not Only... But Also. One problem the Pythons perceived with these programmes was that though the body of the sketch would be strong, the writers would often struggle to then find a punchline funny enough to end on, and this would detract from the overall sketch quality. They decided that they would simply not bother to "cap" their sketches in the traditional manner, and early episodes of the Flying Circus series make great play of this abandonment of the punchline (one scene has Cleese turn to Idle, as the sketch descends into chaos, and remark that "This is the silliest sketch I've ever been in" - they all resolve not to carry on and simply walk off the set). However, as they began assembling material for the show, the Pythons watched one of their collective heroes, Spike Milligan, recording his new series Q5 (1969). Not only was the programme more irreverent and anarchic than any previous television comedy, Milligan would often "give up" on sketches halfway through and wander off set (often muttering "Did I write this?"). It was clear that their new series would now seem less original, and Jones in particular became determined the Pythons should innovate.

After much debate, Jones remembered an animation Gilliam had created for Do Not Adjust Your Set called Beware of the Elephants, which had intrigued him with its stream-of-consciousness style. Jones felt it would be a good concept to apply to the series: allowing sketches to blend into one another. Palin had been equally fascinated by another of Gilliam's efforts, entitled Christmas Cards, and agreed that it represented "a way of doing things differently." Since Cleese, Chapman and Idle were less concerned with the overall flow of the programme, it was Jones, Palin and Gilliam who became largely responsible for the presentation style of the Flying Circus series, in which disparate sketches are linked to give each episode the appearance of a single stream-of-consciousness (often using a Gilliam animation to move from the closing image of one sketch to the opening scene of another).

Writing started at 9am and finished at 5pm. Typically, Cleese and Chapman worked as one pair isolated from the others, as did Jones and Palin, while Idle wrote alone. After a few days, they would join together with Gilliam, critique their scripts, and exchange ideas. Their approach to writing was democratic. If the majority found an idea humorous, it was included in the show. The casting of roles for the sketches was a similarly unselfish process, since each member viewed himself primarily as a 'writer', rather than an actor desperate for screen time. When the themes for sketches were chosen, Gilliam had carte blanche to decide how to bridge them with animations, using a camera, scissors, and airbrush.

While the show was a collaborative process, different factions within Python were responsible for elements of the team's humour. In general, the work of the Oxford-educated members was more visual, and more fanciful conceptually (e.g. the arrival of the Spanish Inquisition in a suburban front room), while the Cambridge graduates' sketches tended to be more verbal and more aggressive (for example, Cleese and Chapman's many "confrontation" sketches, where one character intimidates or hurling abuse, or Idle's characters with bizarre verbal quirks, such as The Man Who Speaks In Anagrams). Cleese confirmed that "most of the sketches with heavy abuse were Graham's and mine, anything that started with a slow pan across countryside and impressive music was Mike and Terry's, and anything that got utterly involved with words and disappeared up any personal orifice was Eric's." Gilliam's animations, meanwhile, ranged from the whimsical to the savage (the cartoon format allowing him to create some astonishingly violent scenes without fear of censorship).

Several names for the show were considered before Monty Python's Flying Circus was settled upon. Some were Owl Stretching Time, The Toad Elevating Moment, Vaseline Review and Bun, Wackett, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot. Flying Circus stuck when the BBC explained it had printed that name in its schedules and was not prepared to amend it. Many variations on the name in front of this title then came and went. "Gwen Dibley's Flying Circus" was named after a woman Palin had read about in the newspaper, thinking it would be amusing if she were to discover she had her own TV show. "Baron Von Took's Flying Circus" was considered as an affectionate tribute to the man who had brought them together. Arthur Megapode's Flying Circus was suggested, then discarded. Cleese added "Python", liking the image of a slippery, sly individual that it conjured up. The specific origin of "Monty" is somewhat confused (see above).

Flying Circus popularized innovative formal techniques, such as the cold open, in which an episode began without the traditional opening titles or announcements. An example of this is the "It's" man: Palin in Robinson Crusoe garb, making a tortuous journey across various terrains, before finally approaching the camera to state, "It's...", only to be then cut off by the title sequence and the Liberty Bell theme song. On several occasions the cold open lasted until mid show, after which the regular opening titles ran. Occasionally the Pythons tricked viewers by rolling the closing credits halfway through the show, usually continuing the joke by fading to the familiar globe logo used for BBC continuity, over which Cleese would parody the clipped tones of a BBC announcer. On one occasion the credits ran directly after the opening titles. They also experimented with ending segments by cutting abruptly to another scene or animation, walking offstage, addressing the camera (breaking the fourth wall), or introducing a totally unrelated event or character. A classic example of this approach was the use of Chapman's "Colonel" character, who walked into several sketches and ordered them to be stopped because things were becoming "far too silly." Another favourite way of ending sketches was to drop a cartoonish "16-ton weight" prop on one of the characters when the sketch seemed to be losing momentum, or a knight in full armour (played by Terry Gilliam) would wander on-set and hit characters over the head with a rubber chicken, before cutting to the next scene. Another innovative way of changing scenes was when John Cleese would come in as a radio commentator and say "And now for something completely different". This is one of the troupe's catchphrases.

The Python theme music is The Liberty Bell, a march by John Philip Sousa, which was chosen among other reasons because the recording was in the public domain.

The use of Gilliam's surreal, collage stop motion animations was another innovative intertextual element of the Python style. Many of the images Gilliam used were lifted from famous works of art, and from Victorian illustrations and engravings. The giant foot which crushes the show's title at the end of the opening credits is in fact the foot of Cupid, cut from a reproduction of the Renaissance masterpiece Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time by Bronzino. This foot, and Gilliam's style in general, are visual trademarks of the series.

The Pythons built on and extended the great British tradition of cross-dressing comedy. Rather than dressing a man as a woman purely for comic effect, the (entirely male) Python team would write humorous parts for women, then don frocks and makeup and play the roles themselves. Thus a scene requiring a housewife would feature one of the male Pythons wearing a housecoat and apron, speaking in falsetto. These women were referred to as pepperpots. Generally speaking, female roles were played by a woman (usually Carol Cleveland) when the scene specifically required that the character be sexually attractive (although sometimes they used Idle for this). In some episodes and later Monty Python's Life of Brian they took the idea one step further by playing women who impersonated men (in the stoning scene).

Many sketches are well-known and widely quoted. "Dead Parrot", "The Lumberjack Song", "Spam", "Nudge Nudge", "The Spanish Inquisition", "Upper Class Twit of the Year", "Cheese Shop" and "The Ministry of Silly Walks" are just a few examples.

The rest of the group carried on for one more "half" series before calling a halt to the programme in 1974. The name Monty Python's Flying Circus appears in the opening animation for series 4, but in the end credits the show is listed as simply "Monty Python". Despite his official departure from the group, Cleese supposedly made a (non-speaking) cameo appearance in the fourth series, but never appeared in the credits as a performer. Several episodes credit him as a co-writer since some sketches were recycled from scenes cut from the Holy Grail script. While the first three series contained 13 episodes each, the fourth ended after six.

In 1975 the series was first broadcast in the United States. Ron Deveiller, an executive from PBS television station KERA-TV in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, television market found episodes on a shelf when searching for programming for his station. He watched some, then acquired the entire series to put on the air. The series was eventually aired on PBS stations across the country. A couple of sketches ("Bicycle Repairman" and "The Dull Life of a Stockbroker") aired in 1974 on the NBC series ComedyWorld, a summer replacement series for The Dean Martin Show. With the popularity of Python throughout the rest of the 1970s and through most of the 1980s, PBS stations looked at other British comedies, leading to UK shows such as Are You Being Served? gaining a US audience, and leading, over time, for many PBS stations to have a "British Comedy Night" which airs many popular UK comedies.

The Pythons' first feature film (directed by Ian MacNaughton, reprising his role from the television series). It was comprised of sketches from the first two series of the Flying Circus, reshot on a low budget (and often slightly edited) for cinema release. Material selected for the film includes: "Dead Parrot", "The Lumberjack Song", "Upper Class Twit of the Year", "Hell's Grannies", "Self-Defence Class", "How Not To Be Seen" and "Nudge Nudge". Financed by Playboy's UK executive Victor Lowndes, it was intended as a way of breaking Monty Python into America, and although it was ultimately unsuccessful in this, the film did good business in the UK (this still being in the era before home video would make it much more accessible to view the material again). The group did not consider the film a success.

In 1974, between production on the third and fourth series, the group decided to embark on their first 'proper' feature film, containing entirely new material. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was based on Arthurian Legend and was directed by Jones and Gilliam. Again, the latter also contributed linking animations (and put together the opening credits). Along with the rest of the Pythons, Jones and Gilliam performed several roles in the film, but it was Chapman, considered by far the best straight actor of the bunch, who took the lead as King Arthur. Holy Grail was filmed on location, in picturesque rural areas of Scotland, with a budget of only £229,000; the money was raised in part with investments from rock groups such as Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin - and UK music industry entrepreneur Tony Stratton-Smith (founder/owner of the Charisma Records label, for which the Pythons recorded their song albums).

Following the success of Holy Grail, reporters asked for the title of the next Python film, despite the fact that the team had not even begun to consider a second one. Eventually, Idle once flippantly replied "Jesus Christ - Lust for Glory", which became the group's stock answer once they realised that it shut reporters up. However, they soon began to seriously consider a film lampooning the New Testament era in the same way Holy Grail had lampooned Arthurian legend. Despite being non-believers, they agreed that Jesus was "definitely a good guy" and found nothing to mock in his actual teachings; on the other hand, they shared a distrust of organised religion, and decided to write a satire on credulity and hypocrisy among the followers of someone mistaken for the "Messiah", but who had no desire to be followed as such. Chapman was cast in the lead role of Brian.

The focus therefore shifted to a separate individual born at the same time, in a neighbouring stable. When Jesus does appear in the film (first, as a baby in the stable, and then later on the Mount, speaking the Beatitudes), he is played straight (by actor Kenneth Colley) and portrayed with respect. The comedy begins when members of the crowd mishear his statements of peace, love and tolerance ("I think he said, 'blessed are the cheesemakers'").

Directing duties were handled solely by Jones, having amicably agreed with Gilliam that Jones' approach to film-making was better suited for Python's general performing style. Holy Grail's production had often been stilted by their differences behind the camera. Gilliam again contributed two animated sequences (one being the opening credits) and took charge of set design. The film was shot on location in Tunisia, the finances being provided this time by former Beatle George Harrison, who formed the production company Handmade Films for the movie. He had a cameo role as the 'owner of the Mount'.

Despite its subject matter attracting controversy, particularly upon its initial release, it has (together with its predecessor) been ranked amongst the greatest comedy films. A Channel 4 poll in 2005 ranked Holy Grail in sixth place, with Life of Brian at the top.

Filmed at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles during preparations for The Meaning of Life, this was a concert film (directed by Terry Hughes) in which the Pythons performed sketches from the television series in front of an audience. The released film also incorporated footage from the German television specials (the inclusion of which gives Ian MacNaughton his first on-screen credit for Python since the end of Flying Circus) and live performances of several songs from the troupe's then-current Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album.

Python's final film returned to something structurally closer to the style of Flying Circus. A series of sketches loosely follows the ages of man from birth to death. Directed again by Jones solo, The Meaning of Life is embellished with some of Python's most bizarre and disturbing moments, as well as various elaborate musical numbers. The film is by far their darkest work, containing a great deal of black humour, garnished by some spectacular violence (including an operation to remove a liver without anaesthetic and the morbidly obese Mr. Creosote exploding over several restaurant patrons). At the time of its release, the Pythons confessed their aim was to offend "absolutely everyone".

Besides the opening credits and the fish sequence, Gilliam, by now an established live action director, no longer wanted to produce any linking cartoons, offering instead to direct one sketch - The Crimson Permanent Assurance. Under his helm though, the segment grew so ambitious and tangential that it was cut from the movie and used as a supporting feature in its own right (television screenings also use it as a prologue). Crucially, this was the last project that all six Pythons would collaborate on, except for the 1989 compilation Parrot Sketch Not Included where they are all seen sitting in a closet for four seconds. This would be the last time Chapman was filmed on screen with the Pythons.

Members of Python contributed their services to charitable endeavours and causes - sometimes as an ensemble, at other times as individuals. The cause that has been the most frequent and consistent beneficiary has been the human rights work of Amnesty International. Between 1976 and 1981, the troupe or its members appeared in four major fund-raisers for Amnesty - known collectively as the Secret Policeman's Ball shows - which were turned into multiple films, TV shows, videos, record albums and books. These benefit shows and their many spin-offs raised considerable sums of money for Amnesty, raised public and media awareness of the human rights cause and influenced many other members of the entertainment community (especially rock musicians) to become involved in political and social issues. Among the many musicians who have publicly attributed their activism - and the organisation of their own benefit events - to the inspiration of the work in this field of Monty Python are U2, Bob Geldof, Pete Townshend and Sting. The shows are credited by Amnesty with helping the organisation develop public awareness in the USA where one of the spin-off films was a major success.

Each member has pursued various film, television and stage projects since the break-up of the group, but often continued to work with one another. Many of these collaborations were very successful, most notably A Fish Called Wanda (1988) (written by Cleese, in which he starred along with Palin). The pair also appeared in Time Bandits (1981), a film directed by Gilliam, who wrote it together with Palin. Gilliam also directed and co-wrote Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), which featured Palin and Idle respectively. The success of these films, all of which contain many unusual visual elements, earmarked Gilliam as one of cinema's most popular independent film-makers.

Elsewhere, Palin and Jones wrote the comedic film series Ripping Yarns, starring Palin with an assortment of British actors. Jones also appeared in the pilot episode and Cleese appeared in a non-speaking part in the episode 'Golden Gordon'. Palin subsequently joined the establishment of British documentarians with his popular travel series for the BBC. Jones embarked on a similar career path with historical documentaries, also putting his love of the subject to use when writing, directing and acting in Erik the Viking, which also has Cleese playing a small part.

In terms of numbers of productions, Cleese has the most prolific solo career, having appeared in 59 theatrical films, 22 TV shows or series (including Cheers, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Will & Grace), 23 direct-to-video productions, six video games, and a number of commercials. Most notably, his BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers (written by and starring Cleese together with his then-wife Connie Booth), is considered the greatest solo work by a Python since the sketch show finished. It is the only comedy series to rank higher than the Flying Circus on the BFI's list of the greatest British TV shows, topping the whole poll. The first series of it was made while the rest of the troupe were concerning themselves with the last series of Flying Circus.

Idle enjoyed critical success with Rutland Weekend Television in the mid-70s, out of which came the Beatles parody The Rutles (responsible for the cult mockumentary All You Need Is Cash), and as an actor in Nuns on the Run (1990) with Robbie Coltrane. Idle has had success with Python songs: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, to no. 3 in the UK singles chart in 1991. The song had been revived by Simon Mayo on BBC Radio 1, and was consequently released as a single that year. The theatrical phenomenon of the Python musical Spamalot has made Idle the most financially successful of the troupe post-Python. Spamalot "lovingly ripped off" from the Holy Grail film. Written by Idle, it has proved an enormous hit on Broadway, London's West End and also Las Vegas. This was followed by Not the Messiah, which repurposes The Life of Brian as an oratorio. For the work's 2007 premiere at the Luminato festival in Toronto (which commissioned the work), Idle himself sang the "baritone-ish" part.

Since The Meaning of Life, their last project as a team, the Pythons have often been the subject of reunion rumours. The final reunion of all six members occurred during the Parrot Sketch Not Included - 20 Years of Monty Python special. The death of Chapman in 1989 (on the eve of their 20th anniversary) seemed to put an end to the speculation of any further reunions. However there have been several occasions since 1989 when the surviving five members have gathered together for appearances - albeit not formal reunions.

In 1998 the five remaining members, along with what was purported to be Chapman's ashes, were reunited on stage for the first time in 18 years. The occasion was in the form of an interview (hosted by Robert Klein, with an appearance by Eddie Izzard) in which the team looked back at some of their work and performed a few new sketches. One of the show's more memorable moments occurred when the ashes were "accidentally" spilled. The person responsible for upsetting the urn was Gilliam – who then hurriedly cleaned up with a mini-vacuum cleaner and a broom and dustpan (with Cleese even dipping his finger into the substance and tasting it). A significant amount of the ashes were brushed under the rug.

On 9 October 1999, to commemorate 30 years since the first Flying Circus television broadcast, BBC2 devoted an evening to Python programmes, including a documentary charting the history of the team, interspersed with new sketches by the Monty Python team filmed especially for the event. The program appears, though omitting a few things, on the DVD The Life of Python. Though Idle's involvement in the special is limited, the final sketch marks the only time since 1989 that all surviving members of the troupe appear in one sketch, albeit not actually in the same room.

In 2002, four of the surviving members, bar Cleese, performed The Lumberjack Song and Sit On My Face for George Harrison's memorial concert. The reunion also included regular supporting contributors Neil Innes and Carol Cleveland, with a special appearance from Tom Hanks.

In an interview to publicise the DVD release of The Meaning of Life, Cleese said a further reunion was unlikely. "It is absolutely impossible to get even a majority of us together in a room, and I'm not joking," Cleese said. He said that the problem was one of business rather than one of bad feelings.. A sketch appears on the same DVD spoofing the impossibility of a full reunion, bringing the members “together” in a deliberately unconvincing fashion with modern bluescreen/greenscreen techniques.

2003's The Pythons Autobiography By The Pythons, compiled from interviews with the surviving members, reveals that a series of disputes in 1990, over a possible sequel to Holy Grail that had been conceived by Idle, may have resulted in the group's permanent fission. Cleese's feeling was that The Meaning of Life had been personally difficult and ultimately mediocre, and did not wish to be involved in another Python project for a variety of reasons. (Not least amongst them was the absence of Chapman, whose straight man-like central roles in the original Grail and Brian films had been considered to be essential performance anchorage.) Apparently Idle was angry with Cleese for refusing to do the film, which most of the remaining Pythons thought reasonably promising (the basic plot would have taken on a self-referential tone, featuring them in their main 'knight' guises from Holy Grail, mulling over the possibilities of reforming their posse). The book also reveals that a secondary option around this point was the possibility of revitalising the Python brand with a new stage tour, perhaps with the promise of new material. This idea had also hit the buffers at Cleese's refusal, this time with the backing of other members.

The members have continued to appear in each other's films. Gilliam has directed all four other surviving members in various non-Python pictures, Chapman worked with Cleese and Idle in Yellowbeard and Palin and Cleese worked together in the acclaimed A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. Jones' 1996 adaptation of The Wind in the Willows featured all the surviving Python members except for Gilliam, who was going to play The River but could not find space in his schedule. More recently, DreamWorks' popular animated film Shrek the Third features both Cleese and Idle in voice-over roles, although they do not share any scenes: Cleese reprises his starring role as Princess Fiona's father from the previous film, and Idle had a guest star part as Merlin the magician.

March 2005 saw a full, if non-performing, reunion of the surviving cast members at the premiere of Idle's musical Spamalot, based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It opened in Chicago and has since played in New York on Broadway, and is currently entertaining audiences in Toronto. In 2004, it was nominated for 14 Tony Awards and won three: Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical for Mike Nichols and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Sara Ramirez, who played the Lady of the Lake, a character specially added for the musical. Cleese played the voice of God, played in the film by Chapman.

Owing in part to the success of Spamalot, PBS announced on 13 July 2005, that it would begin to re-air the entire run of Monty Python's Flying Circus and new one-hour specials focusing on each member of the group, called Monty Python's Personal Best. Each episode was written and produced by the individual being honoured, with the five remaining Pythons collaborating on Chapman's programme, the only one of the editions to take on a serious tone with its new material.

Graham Chapman was born in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England on 8 January 1941. He was originally a medical student, but changed to theatre when he joined Footlights at Cambridge. He completed his medical training and was legally entitled to practise as a doctor. Chapman is best remembered for the lead roles in The Holy Grail, as King Arthur, and Life of Brian, as Brian Cohen. Chapman appeared in films such as The Odd Job (which he also produced) and Yellowbeard (which he co-wrote), also making an appearances on Saturday Night Live in 1982. He died of spinal and throat cancer on 4 October 1989. He is now lovingly referred to by the surviving Pythons as "the dead one." At Chapman's memorial service, Cleese delivered the irreverent speech he felt his co-writer would have wanted: after declaring "Good riddance to the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries!", he announced that, having been the first person to say “shit” on British television, Chapman would never have forgiven him had he missed the opportunity to become “the first person ever at a British memorial service to say 'fuck'.” In an XM radio interview, Cleese later explained that he was originally planning on doing a serious speech but he could imagine his friend being disgusted at what he was writing. He also claimed that the final decision was made after the fellow Pythons, and Graham's family, got into the spirit in which it was intended. Cleese recited all the synonyms for being deceased from the legendary Dead Parrot sketch, which they had written. Cleese remarked in an interview with Michael Parkinson that, in a heartfelt reference to Chapman's tendency towards lateness, Palin had remarked at the funeral, "Graham Chapman is with us today...or at least he will be in 25 minutes". Chapman was survived by his partner of 24 years, David Sherlock, and adopted son, John Tomiczek, who died in 1992 of heart trouble.

John Cleese was born on 27 October 1939 in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, England, making him the oldest Python. Cleese’s surname was originally Cheese, but his father changed it to Cleese when he joined the army during World War I. Cleese attended Clifton College, Bristol where he developed a taste for performing by appearing in house plays, then moved on to Cambridge, where he met his future Python writing partner, Graham Chapman. In addition to Python, he co-created and starred in, with then-wife Connie Booth, one of the most acclaimed sitcoms in British TV history, Fawlty Towers. Cleese recently played Q's assistant ("R") and then the new Q himself in the James Bond films. He has also done work for the Shrek and Harry Potter film franchises, Time Bandits, A Fish Called Wanda, Clockwise, and an appearance on a Saturday Night Live episode.

Terry Gilliam was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, on 22 November 1940. He is the only member of the troupe of non-British origin, though he married a British citizen, makeup and costume designer Maggie Weston, and held dual American-British citizenship for 38 years before renouncing the former. He started off as an animator and strip cartoonist for Harvey Kurtzman's Help! magazine, one issue of which featured Cleese. Moving from the USA to England, he animated features for Do Not Adjust Your Set and was then asked by its makers to join them on their next project - Monty Python's Flying Circus. He co-directed Monty Python and The Holy Grail and directed short segments of other Python films (for instance "The Crimson Permanent Assurance", the short film that appears before The Meaning of Life). Gilliam has gone on to become a celebrated and imaginative film director of such notable titles as Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Eric Idle was born on 29 March 1943 in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England. When Monty Python was first formed, two writing partnerships were already in place: Cleese and Chapman, Jones and Palin. That left two in their own corners: Gilliam, operating solo due to the nature of his work, and Idle. Regular themes in his contributions were elaborate wordplay and musical numbers. After Flying Circus, he hosted Saturday Night Live four times in the first five seasons. Idle's initially successful solo career faltered in the 1990s with the failures of his 1993 film Splitting Heirs (written, produced by and starring him) and 1998's Burn Hollywood Burn (in which he starred), which was awarded five Razzies, including 'Worst Picture of the Year'. He revived his career by returning to the source of his worldwide fame, adapting Monty Python material for other media. He is the writer of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical Spamalot, based on the Holy Grail movie. He collaborated with John Du Prez on the music for the show. He also wrote Not the Messiah, an oratorio derived from the Life of Brian. He had earlier strengthened his credentials as a comedic composer with the theme tune to the acclaimed BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave.

Terry Jones was born on 1 February 1942 in Colwyn Bay, Conwy, Wales. He has rarely received the same attention as his colleagues, but has been described by other members of the team as the “heart” of the operation. Recent Python literature has highlighted his lead role in maintaining the group's unity and creative independence. Python biographer George Perry has commented that should you "speak to him on subjects as diverse as fossil fuels, or Rupert Bear, or mercenaries in the Middle Ages or Modern China... in a moment you will find yourself hopelessly out of your depth, floored by his knowledge." Many others agree that Jones is characterised by his irrepressible, good-natured enthusiasm, which is perhaps the reason for his unflagging loyalty to the preservation of the group. However, Jones' passion often led to prolonged arguments with other group members — in particular Cleese — with Jones often unwilling to back down. Since his major contributions were largely behind the scenes (direction, writing), and he often deferred to the other members of the group as an actor, Jones' importance to Python was often underrated. However, he does have the legacy of delivering possibly the most famous line in all of Python, as Brian's mother Mandy in Life of Brian, "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!", a line voted the funniest in film history on two occasions. Since Python, he has continued as a film director and as a TV documentarian (normally on historical subjects). He was diagnosed with bowel cancer in October 2006, undergoing a successful operation to remove it weeks later.

Michael Palin was born on 5 May 1943 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. The youngest Python by a matter of weeks, Palin is often referred to as "the nice one". He attended Oxford, where he met his Python writing partner Jones. The two also wrote the series Ripping Yarns together. Palin and Jones originally wrote face-to-face, but soon found it was more productive to write apart and then come together to review what the other had written. Therefore, Jones and Palin's sketches tended to be more focused than that of the others, taking one bizarre, hilarious situation, sticking to it, and building on it. After Flying Circus, he hosted Saturday Night Live four times in the first ten seasons. His comedy output began to decrease in amount following the increasing success of his travel documentaries for the BBC, beginning with one edition in the first series of Great Railway Journeys of the World. He eventually announced his retirement from his first profession in the late 1990s. His most recent travel doc was 2007's Michael Palin's New Europe.

Several people have been accorded unofficial "Associate Python" status over the years. Occasionally such people have been referred to as the 7th Python, in a style reminiscent of associates of the Beatles being dubbed "The 5th Beatle." The two collaborators with the most meaningful and plentiful contributions have been Neil Innes and Carol Cleveland. Both were present and presented as Associate Pythons at the official Monty Python 25th anniversary celebrations held in Los Angeles in July 1994.

Neil Innes, born on 9 December 1944, in Danbury, Essex, England, is the only non-Python besides Douglas Adams to be credited with writing material for the Flying Circus. He appeared in sketches and the Python films, as well as performing some of his songs in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. He was also a regular stand-in for absent team members on the rare occasions when they re-created sketches outside of Python. For example, he took the place of Cleese when he was unable to appear at the memorial concert for George Harrison. Gilliam once noted that if anyone qualified for the title of the "Seventh Python," it would certainly be Innes. He was one of the creative talents in the off-beat Bonzo Dog Band, appreciated for such nutty compositions as "The Intro and the Outro" and "I'm The Urban Spaceman." He would later portray Ron Nasty of the Rutles and write all of the Rutles' compositions for All You Need is Cash. By 2005, an unfortunate falling out had occurred between Eric Idle and Innes over additional Rutles projects, the results being Innes' critically acclaimed Rutles "reunion" album The Rutles: Archaeology and Idle's undistinguished, straight-to-DVD Rutles sequel The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch, each undertaken without participation from the other. According to an interview with Idle carried by the Chicago Tribune in May 2005, his attitude as a result of the dispute is that he and Innes go back "too far. And no further." Innes has maintained a diplomatic silence on the dispute.

Carol Cleveland, born 13 January 1942, in London, England, was the most important female performer in the Monty Python ensemble, commonly referred to as the "Python Girl." Originally hired by producer/director John Howard Davies for just the first five episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus, she went on to appear in approximately two-thirds of the episodes as well as in all of the Python films, and in most of their stage shows as well. Her common portrayal as the stereotypical "blonde bimbo" eventually earned her the sobriquet "Carol Cleavage" from the other Pythons, but she felt that the variety of her roles should not be described in such a pejorative way.

Cleese's ex-wife Connie Booth, who alongside him, co-wrote and co-starred in Fawlty Towers, was probably the only other significant female performer. She appeared in, amongst others "The Lumberjack Song" and as the "witch" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Douglas Adams was "discovered" by Chapman when a version of the Footlights Revue (a 1974 BBC2 television show featuring some of Adams' early work) was performed live in London's West End. In Cleese's absence from the final TV series, the two formed a brief writing partnership, with Adams earning a writing credit in one episode for a sketch called "Patient Abuse". In the sketch, a man who had been stabbed by a nurse arrives at his doctor's office bleeding profusely from the stomach, when the doctor makes him fill out numerous senseless forms before he can administer treatment (a joke Adams later incorporated into the Vogon race's obsession with paperwork in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). He also had two cameo appearances in this season. Firstly, in the episode The Light Entertainment War, Adams shows up in a surgeon's mask (as Dr. Emile Koning, according to the on-screen captions), pulling on gloves, while Palin narrates a sketch that introduces one person after another, and never actually gets started. Secondly, at the beginning of Mr. Neutron, Adams is dressed in a "pepperpot" outfit and loads a missile onto a cart being driven by Terry Jones, who is calling out for scrap metal ("Any old iron..."). Adams and Chapman also subsequently attempted a few non-Python projects, including Out of the Trees. He also contributed to a sketch on the soundtrack album for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard, a devoted fan of the group, has occasionally stood in for absent members. When the BBC held a "Python Night" in 1999 to celebrate 30 years of the first broadcast of Flying Circus, the Pythons recorded some new material with Izzard standing in for Idle, who had declined to partake in person (he taped a solo contribution from the US). Izzard hosted a history of the group entitled The Life of Python (1999) that was part of the Python Night and appeared with them at a festival/tribute in Aspen, Colorado, in 1998 (released on DVD as Live at Aspen).

As such, the term 'pythonesque' has become a byword in surreal humour. This is perhaps somewhat misleading, since the humour of Monty Python, whilst certainly nonsensical and surreal, is still strongly characterised by a preoccupation with sociological concepts such as the British social class system. These themes cannot be said to be essential to surrealist comedy as a whole.

The term has been applied to animations similar to those constructed by Gilliam (e.g. the cut-out style of South Park, whose creators have often acknowledged a debt to Python, including contributing material to the aforementioned 30th anniversary theme night ).

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Peter Cook

Peter Cook in 'Bedazzled'.jpg

Peter Edward Cook (17 November 1937 – 9 January 1995) was an English satirist, writer and comedian. He is widely regarded as the leading figure in the British satire boom of the 1960s. He has been described by Stephen Fry as 'the funniest man who ever drew breath'.

Cook is closely associated with the anti-establishment style of comedy that first emerged in the late 1950s.

Cook was born at Shearbridge, Middle Warberry Road, Torquay, Devon, the only son and eldest of the three children of Alexander Edward (Alec) Cook (d. 1984), a colonial civil servant, and his wife (Ethel Catherine) Margaret, née Mayo (d. 1994). He was educated at Radley College and later Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read French and German. Cook meant to become a career diplomat, but unfortunately Britain "had run out of colonies", as he put it. It was at Pembroke that he performed and wrote comedy sketches as a member of the prestigious Cambridge Footlights Club, of which he became President in 1960.

While still at university, Cook wrote professionally for Kenneth Williams, for whom he created a successful West End revue show called One Over the Eight, before finding prominence in his own right as a star of the satirical stage show, Beyond the Fringe, together with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore.

The show included Cook impersonating the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan: this was one of the first occasions that political mimicry had been done in live theatre, and caused some shock amongst audiences. During one performance, Macmillan himself was in the theatre, and having spotted him Cook departed from his script and directly attacked him verbally.

With his star in the ascendant, he opened the The Establishment Club at 18 Greek Street in Soho which gave him the opportunity to present fellow comedians in a nightclub setting, including the highly controversial American Lenny Bruce. Cook befriended and supported Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, who began his British solo career at the club. Humphries would comment in his autobiography My Life As Me that he found Cook's lack of interest in art and literature rather off-putting. Cook's chiselled looks and languid manner led Humphries to observe that whereas most people take after their father or mother, Cook reminded one of one's auntie. Dudley Moore's jazz trio (which included Australian-born drummer Chris Karan) played at the club regularly for many years during the early 1960s.

In 1962, the BBC commissioned a pilot for a television series of satirical sketches based on The Establishment Club, but it was not picked up straightaway and Cook and the other regulars went to New York for a year. When he returned, Cook discovered that the pilot had been refashioned in his absence as That Was The Week That Was and had made a star out of David Frost, something that Cook later admitted resenting. The 1960s satire boom was coming to a close and Cook quipped that Britain would "sink into the sea under the weight of its own giggling". He later complained that David Frost's success was largely based on copying Cook's stage persona and remarked that his only regret in life had been once saving Frost from drowning (an actual event). He married the socially well-connected Wendy Snowden in 1963, with whom he had two daughters, Lucy and Daisy (now working as an abstract painter) The marriage ended in divorce in 1970, due in part to Cook having various affairs.

Cook expanded the scope of television comedy with associates such as Eleanor Bron, John Bird, and John Fortune, and pushed the previously restricted boundaries of the BBC. Cook's first regular television spot was on Granada Television's Braden Beat with Bernard Braden, where he featured his most enduring comic character: the static, dour, and monotonal E.L. Wisty, whom Cook had originally conceived for Radley College's Marionette Society.

His comedy partnership with Dudley Moore led to the popular and critically feted television show Not Only... But Also. This was initially intended by the BBC as a vehicle for Dudley Moore's musical talents, but when Moore invited Cook to write sketches and appear with him, the show suddenly became hugely popular. Using few props, they created a unique style of dry and absurd television which was immediately successful and found a place in the mainstream, ultimately lasting for three seasons. Here Cook showcased his characters, such as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling and the pair's Pete and Dud. Other memorable sketches include "Superthunderstingcar", a send-up of the Gerry Anderson marionette TV shows and Cook's pastiche of 1960s trendy arts documentaries — satirised in a parodic TV segment on Greta Garbo.

Despite the show's cult status, by the early 1970s the BBC had decided to erase most of the master videotapes of the series, with a view to reusing the tapes due to the expense of the format. This was common UK television practice at the time, when agreements with actors' and musicians' unions limited the number of repeats. (The policy of wiping recordings ceased in 1978.) When Cook learned the series was to be destroyed, he offered to buy the tapes from the BBC but was refused due to copyright issues. He then suggested that he purchase new tapes, so that the BBC would have no need to erase the originals, but inexplicably this was also turned down.

Of the original programmes, only eight of the twenty-two complete episodes survive complete. These comprise the entire first series with the exception of the fifth and seventh episodes, the first and last episodes of the second series, and the Christmas special. Of the 1970 third series, only the various film inserts (usually of outdoor scenes) still survive. The BBC later recovered some of the shows by approaching overseas television networks and buying back copies that had not yet been destroyed. A compilation of six half-hour programmes, The Best of What's Left of Not Only...But Also was shown on television in 1990, and was released on VHS and DVD.

In 1968, Cook and Moore briefly switched to the commercial channel ATV to produce a series of four one-hour programmes entitled Goodbye Again, based on the "Pete and Dud" characters. The duo knew they were the rationale for the series and as a result, ignored suggestions from the director and other cast. Sketches were therefore often drawn out to fill the running time. With no real interest in the show and a developing problem with alcohol, Cook would also rely on cue cards and ended up garbling parts of the script, forcing Moore to ad-lib. Nonetheless, the series does contain some notable items, including a reprise of the Pete and Dud 'Greta Garbo' routine and a sketch in which the pair mostly play themselves, discussing the breakdowns of their respective marriages. The show was not a popular success due in part to the publication of the ITV listings magazine, TV Times, being suspended due to a strike. John Cleese was a supporting cast member and elements of the series can be seen in the early Monty Python programmes of the following year.

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore acted in films together, beginning with The Wrong Box in 1966. Their best work in the medium was the cult comedy Bedazzled (1967), now widely regarded as a classic. Directed by Stanley Donen, the film's story is credited to Cook and Moore jointly, and its screenplay to Cook alone. A comic parody of the Faust story, it starred Cook as George Spigott (The Devil) who tempts a frustrated, short-order chef called Stanley Moon (Moore) with the promise of gaining his heart's desire — the love of the unattainable beauty Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron) — in exchange for his soul, but repeatedly tricks him in a variety of ways. The film features cameo appearances by Barry Humphries ('Envy') and Raquel Welch ('Lust'). Moore's jazz trio backed Cook on the theme, a parodic anti-love song, which Cook delivers in a monotonous, deadpan voice, and which includes his now classic put-down, "You fill me with inertia". Moore's Hollywood stardom in the 1970s and 1980s prompted occasional barbed comments from his former comedy partner.

In 1970, Cook took over a project initiated by David Frost for a satirical film about an opinion pollster who rises to become President of Great Britain. Under Cook's guidance, the character became modelled on Frost himself. The resulting film, The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, was not a great commercial success, although the cast contained many notable names of the period.

Though he was eventually to become a favourite on the British chat show circuit, his own effort at hosting one in 1971, entitled Where Do I Sit? was generally agreed by the critics to have been a disappointment. The BBC seem to have agreed: he was replaced after two episodes by Michael Parkinson (for the next series the show bore Parkinson's name, and was the beginning of his career as a chat show host). Cook would take sweet revenge when Parkinson asked him what his ambitions were (schoolboyishly inquiring whether he had any "large ones") by replying " in fact, my ambition is to shut you up altogether".

Cook provided financial backing for the satirical magazine Private Eye, supporting the publication through a number of difficult periods, particularly when the magazine was punished financially in the wake of a number of high-profile libel trials. Cook both invested his own money and solicited for investment from his showbusiness friends and colleagues. For a time, the magazine was produced from the premises of The Establishment Club. Towards the end of the 1960s, Cook's developing alcoholism placed a strain on his personal and professional relationships. He and Moore fashioned sketches from Not Only....But Also and Goodbye Again with new material into the stage revue Behind the Fridge. This toured Australia in 1972 before transferring to New York in 1973 as Good Evening. In front of audiences during the extended stage runs, Cook frequently appeared drunk and incapable, to the consternation of Dudley Moore. However, Good Evening won the pair Tony and Grammy Awards. When its run finished, Moore announced he was staying in the U.S. to pursue a solo career. In 1973, Cook married the actress Judy Huxtable.

Later, the more risqué humour of the Pete and Dud characters was taken to its furthest extent on long-playing records under the names "Derek and Clive". The first such recording was initiated by Cook to alleviate the boredom of a long Broadway run of Good Evening, and used material that was conceived years before for the two characters but was then considered far too outrageous. One of these audio recordings was also filmed, and the long-running tensions between the duo are seen to rise to the surface. Originally intended for their own amusement, Chris Blackwell circulated bootleg copies to friends, and they soon gained a cult following. The popularity of the bootleg recording convinced Cook that it would be profitable to release it commercially, although Moore was initially reluctant to agree to this, fearing that his recently achieved fame as a Hollywood movie star would be undermined by the tape's outrageous content. Two further Derek and Clive albums were released, the last accompanied by a film.

In 1979, Cook recorded comedy-segments which were released as b-sides to the Sparks 12" singles "Number One In Heaven" and "Tryouts For The Human Race". The combination was not so surprising, for the latter's main songwriter Ron Mael would often start off with a banal situation in his lyrics, and then go off at surreal tangents a la Cook and the even zanier S.J. Perelman.

Cook made noteworthy appearances at the first three of the fund-raising galas staged by humourists John Cleese and Martin Lewis on behalf of Amnesty International. The series of benefits were retrospectively dubbed The Secret Policeman's Balls though it wasn't until the third show in 1979 that the Secret Policeman's Ball title was used. He performed on all three nights of the first show in April 1976, A Poke in the Eye (with a Sharp Stick), both as an individual performer and as a member of the cast of Beyond The Fringe, which reunited for the first time since the 1960s. He also appeared in a Monty Python sketch taking the place of Eric Idle who did not partake in the performances. Cook was prominently featured on the cast album of the show (which carried the same title) and in the film of the event, which was titled Pleasure At Her Majesty's. He was similarly prominent in the second Amnesty gala held in May 1977, An Evening Without Sir Bernard Miles. (It was retitled The Mermaid Frolics for the cast album and TV special.) Cook performed monologues and skits with Terry Jones.

In June 1979, Cook performed on all four nights of The Secret Policeman's Ball - memorably teaming for a skit with John Cleese. Cleese was quoted as saying that he was thrilled to be working with someone he admired so much, and can be seen nearly "corpsing" at Cook during much of the "Interesting Facts" sketch, which opened both the stage show and the resulting film. Cook performed a couple of solo pieces and a skit with old friend Eleanor Bron. He also led the ensemble in the grand finale - the "End Of The World" sketch from Beyond The Fringe.

In response to a critical barb in The Daily Telegraph's review of the show's first night - complaining that the show consisted mostly of recycled material, Cook wrote a savage satire of the summing-up by the Judge (Mr Justice Cantley) in the just-concluded trial of former Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe — a summary that had attracted almost universal condemnation for its blatant bias in favour of Thorpe. Cook performed it for the first time that same night (Friday 29th June - the third of the four nights) and reprised it the following night. The nine-minute opus — "Entirely a Matter for You" — is considered by many fans and critics to be one of the finest works of Cook's career. Cook and show producer Martin Lewis rushed out a 12" mini-album on Virgin Records titled Here Comes the Judge: Live of the live performance together with three specially-recorded studio tracks that further lampooned the Thorpe trial.

Although unable to take part in the 1981 gala, Cook supplied the narration used over the animated opening title sequence of the 1982 film of the show. With Martin Lewis, he co-wrote and voiced a series of radio commercials used to advertise the film in the UK. He also hosted a spoof film awards ceremony that was part of the World Première of the film in London in March 1982.

Following Cook's successful 1987 stage reunion with Dudley Moore for the annual U.S. benefit for the homeless, Comic Relief (not related to the UK Comic Relief benefits), Cook repeated the reunion for a British audience by performing with Moore at the 1989 Amnesty benefit The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball. The crowd's positive reaction to seeing Cook and Moore reunited was evident in each of their appearances together during the show.

There is a cult following among some Cook fans for a little-remembered project that he was involved with in the 1970s. This was his participation – playing multiple roles – on the 1977 concept album Consequences, written and produced by former 10cc members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. A mixture of spoken-word comedy and progressive rock music with an environmental subtext, Consequences started out as a single that Godley and Creme planned to make to demonstrate their new invention, an electric guitar effect called The Gizmo. The project gradually grew into a triple LP boxed set. The comedy sections of the album were originally intended to be performed by an all-star cast including Spike Milligan and Peter Ustinov, but after meeting Peter Cook, Godley and Creme realised that he could perform most of the parts himself. The storyline centres on the impending divorce of ineffectual Englishman Walter Stapleton (Cook) and his French wife Lulu (Judy Huxtable). While meeting with their respective lawyers — the bibulous Mr Haig and overbearing Mr Pepperman (also both played by Cook) — the proceedings are interrupted by a series of bizarre and mysterious happenings that are somehow connected with Mr Blint (Cook), a musician and composer living in the apartment below Haig's office, both of which are connected by a large hole in the floor.

Released just as punk was sweeping the UK, the hugely ambitious concept album was a total commercial failure and was savaged by critics, but it gathered (and retains) a small but dedicated cult following. Interestingly, the script and storyline contain many elements that appear to be drawn from Cook's own life – his second wife, actress Judy Huxtable, plays Walter's wife, Lulu. Cook's own problems with alcohol are comically mirrored in Haig's constant drinking, and there is a clear parallel between the fictional divorce of Walter and Lulu and Cook's own messy divorce from his first wife, Wendy. The voice and accent Cook used for the character of Stapleton are remarkably similar to that of Cook's former Beyond the Fringe colleague, Alan Bennett and a recent book on Cook's comedy, How Very Interesting, speculates that the characters Cook plays in Consequences are broad caricatures of the four Beyond The Fringe cast members – the alcoholic Haig represents Cook, the tremulous Stapleton is Alan Bennett, the parodically Jewish Pepperman is Miller, and the pianist Blint represents Moore.

In 1980, spurred by his former partner Dudley Moore's growing film star status, Cook moved briefly to Hollywood and appeared as an uptight English butler in a short-lived U.S. television sitcom The Two of Us, also making cameo appearances in a couple of undistinguished films. In 1980, Cook starred alongside a host of celebrities in the LWT special Peter Cook & Co.. The show included several comedy sketches, including a Tales of the Unexpected spoof "Tales Of The Much As We Expected". This involved Cook as Roald Dahl, explaining that his name had actually been Ronald before he dropped the "n". The cast included John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Beryl Reid, Michael Palin and Terry Jones. The show has never been repeated since its first airing.

Cook made an appearance as King Richard III in 1983, both before and after death, in "The Foretelling", the first episode of Blackadder. In 1986 he appeared as a sidekick to Joan Rivers on her UK talk show — a role that disappointed many of his fans who felt that such a role was beneath him. He appeared as Mr Jolly in 1987 in The Comic Strip Presents' Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, playing a dishevelled and aggressive assassin who covered the sound of his murders by playing Tom Jones records at full volume. Cook also appeared in The Princess Bride that year, as the "Impressive Clergyman". Also that year he spent time working with Martin Lewis on a political satire about the upcoming 1988 U.S. presidential elections for HBO, but the script went unproduced. It was during this production that Lewis suggested that Cook team up with Dudley Moore for the U.S. "Comic Relief" telethon for the homeless. The duo successfully reunited and performed their classic "One Leg Too Few" sketch. Contrary to popular misconception and media speculation, close friends recall that Cook and Moore maintained contact through the years and though there was always sparring between them, the bond was unbroken. Moore attended Cook's memorial service in London in May 1995 and he and Lewis teamed up to present a two-night memorial for Cook in Los Angeles the following November, scheduled to mark the anniversary of Cook's birth.

In 1988, Cook appeared as a contestant on the popular improvisation comedy show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Cook was declared the winner of the episode, his prize being to read the end credits in the style of the host's choosing, which was that of a New York cab driver. He was an avid media follower, reading nearly all the British daily newspapers and following TV and radio programmes with vigour. He was an occasional caller to Clive Bull's night-time phone-in show on LBC in London, where, using the pseudonym "Sven from Swiss Cottage" he would entertain listeners with his complaints and musings on love, loneliness and herrings, all delivered in a mock Norwegian accent.

In late 1989 Cook married the Malaysian-born property developer Chiew Lin Chong in Torbay, Devon. This marriage brought a beneficial change in the direction of his life, as he reduced his drinking and for a time was a teetotaler. He lived alone in an 18th-century house in Hampstead, once owned by H.G. Wells. His third wife lived in another house 100 yards (91 m) away. Cook speculated that their kind of domestic arrangement would be much more popular if more people could afford it. The comedian recounted his favourite pleasures in life – casual chit-chat, reading, sport, radio, television and the newspapers, food, drink and cigarettes, and pedantry. Writing and performing went unmentioned.

On 17 December 1993, Cook appeared on Clive Anderson Talks Back showcasing four completely new characters, and the following day appeared on BBC2 performing links for Arena's "Radio Night". He also appeared, on 26 December, in the 1993 Christmas special of One Foot in the Grave ("One Foot in the Algarve"), playing a muckraking tabloid journalist. Many hoped these high-profile appearances marked the beginning of a revival for Cook, but before the end of the next year his mother died, and Cook returned to a life of heavy drinking. His own death, 13 months later at the age of 57 was officially reported as resulting from internal haemorrhaging. The papers lamented the passing of a 'comic genius who had failed to live up to his promise'. A lone voice countered that he gave every impression of a man who had enjoyed life entirely on his own terms with no compromise to the opinions of others. Eric Idle and Stephen Fry commented that Cook had not wasted his talent but rather that the newspapers had tried to waste him.

Cook's significance to modern British comedy is immense, and persists today: he is acknowledged as the main influence on a long stream of comedians who have followed him from the amateur dramatic clubs of British universities to the Edinburgh festival, and thence to the radio and television studios of the BBC. Notable fans include all the members of Monty Python and The Goodies, and, more recently, the aforementioned Chris Morris. Some have seen Cook's life as tragic, insofar as the brilliance he exhibited in his youth did not fully lead to the recognition many thought he deserved. In his lifetime, Cook himself was constantly aware that some thought that he had not achieved or continued his early potential. He was disdainful of this view, and had no particular desire to achieve sustained career success as traditionally measured. Instead, Cook assessed his own happiness by the quality of his personal friendships and his overall enjoyment of life.

Ten years after his death, in January 2005, Peter Cook was ranked number one in a list entitled The Comedian's Comedian, a poll of more than 300 comics, comedy writers, producers, and directors throughout the English speaking world and shown on Channel 4 in the UK. He finished ahead of other important, legendary comics such Groucho Marx, John Cleese, Eric Morecambe, Laurel and Hardy, Bill Hicks and Woody Allen. Coincidentally, the same week that programme was shown, Channel 4 broadcast Not Only But Always, a well-received television movie dramatising the relationship between Cook and Moore, with Welsh actor Rhys Ifans portraying Cook. In August 2005 a stage play, written by Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde and examining the relationship from Moore's point of view, Pete and Dud: Come Again, was a sellout hit at the Assembly Rooms as part of the Edinburgh Fringe, before transferring to The Venue in London's West End in March 2006. English actor Tom Goodman-Hill played Cook.

A green plaque was unveiled jointly by Westminster City Council and The Heritage Foundation at the site of Cook's "The Establishment Club" on February 15 2009.

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Monty Python's Life of Brian


Monty Python's Life of Brian, also known as Life of Brian, is a 1979 comedy film written, directed and largely performed by the Monty Python comedy team. It tells the story of Brian Cohen (played by Graham Chapman), a young Jewish man who is born in the same era and location as Jesus Christ and subsequently mistaken for the Messiah.

The film's combination of comedy and religious themes were controversial, particularly on its initial release. However, it has regularly been cited as possibly the greatest comedy film of all time: in 2000, readers of the British Total Film magazine so voted; in 2004, the same magazine named it the fifth greatest British film of all time; in 2006 it was again voted the best comedy movie of all time on a poll conducted by the UK's Channel 4 network.

Brian Cohen is born in a stable a few doors from the one in which Jesus is born, a fact which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews. They manage to put up with Brian's boorish mother Mandy until they realise their mistake. Brian grows up an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea, even after learning his father was a Roman Centurion - Naughtius Maximus - who raped Brian's mother ("You mean; you were raped?", "Well, at first, yes"). While attending Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, he becomes infatuated with an attractive young female rebel, Judith. His desire for her and hatred for the Romans lead him to join the People's Front of Judea (PFJ), one of many factious and bickering separatist movements who spend more time fighting each other than the Romans (see Political satire below). The group's cynical leader Reg gives Brian his first assignment: He must scrawl some graffiti on the wall of the governor's palace. Just as he finishes doing this, he is confronted by a passing centurion who, in disgust at Brian's faulty Latin grammar ("Romanes eunt domus", or "the people called 'Romanes' they go the house"), forces him to write the grammatically correct message ("Romani ite domum" or "Romans, go home") 100 times. By dawn, the walls of the fortress are covered in text. When the Roman guards change shift at daybreak, the new guards try to arrest Brian, but he manages to slip away with the help of Judith.

Brian then agrees to participate in a kidnapping plot by the resistance, which fails miserably (due to a clash with an "enemy" separatist faction intent on the same mission) and forces him to go on the run again. This time, he doesn't evade capture and is summoned before Pontius Pilate. He tries to get away with it by claiming his Roman heritage, as the son of Naughtius Maximus. The captain of the guards refuses to believe the authenticity of the name. Pilate does not understand his doubt, to which the captain remarks that it would be someone being named "Sillius Soddus or Biggus Dickus." Fortunately for Brian, the guards collapse into a giggling fit after an irate Pilate reveals that one of his best friends is a high-ranking centurion genuinely named Biggus Dickus (with a wife, Incontinentia Buttocks) and he makes his escape.

Following a series of misadventures (including a brief trip to outer space in an alien spaceship), the fugitive winds up in a lineup of wannabe mystics and prophets who harangue the passing crowd in a plaza. Forced to come up with something plausible in order to blend in and keep the guards off his back, he babbles pseudo-religious nonsense which quickly attracts a small but intrigued audience. Once the guards have left, Brian tries to put the episode behind him, but has unintentionally inspired a movement; and finds that some people have started to follow him around, with even the slightest unusual occurrence being hailed as a "miracle." After slipping away from the mob (who are busy persecuting a "heretic" - actually a hermit that Brian unwittingly disturbed) and spending the night with Judith, he opens the curtains the following morning to discover that an enormous mass of people, proclaiming him the Messiah, has formed outside his mother's house. Appalled, Brian is helpless to change the people's minds, as his every word and action are immediately seized as a point of doctrine.

The hapless Brian cannot even find solace back at the PFJ's headquarters, where people fling their afflicted bodies at him demanding miracle cures. Reg even claims that he has booked a session at the Mount for him. After sneaking out the back, he is finally captured and scheduled to be crucified. Meanwhile, a huge crowd of natives has assembled outside the palace, spurred on by the general feeling in the community that Brian's fellow "prophets" have been exacerbating. Pilate (together with the visiting Biggus Dickus) tries to quell the feeling of revolution, by granting them the decision on who should be pardoned.

Instead, Pilate is just fed various names intended to highlight his speech impediment, e.g. pronouncing "Roger" as "Woger". Biggus Dickus then attempts to take control of the situation by reading out the prisoner list, but the combination of his severe lisp and every prisoner having a name starting with S (e.g. Samson the Sadducee Strangler) causes the assembled hordes collapse to the floor in laughter at the spectacle. Pilate eventually orders Brian's release, but (in a moment parodying the climax of the film Spartacus), various crucified people all claim to be "Brian of Nazareth" - one man stating "I'm Brian and so's my wife" - and the wrong man is released. Various other opportunities for a reprieve for Brian are denied as one by one his "allies" (including Judith) step forward to explain why they are leaving the "noble freedom fighter" hanging in the hot sun. Condemned to a long and painful death, Brian's spirits are lifted by his fellow sufferers, who break out into song with "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

The following is a list of all the characters given actual names in the script, or with a spoken role. All names and character descriptions are taken from the published script. Each Python (especially Terry Gilliam) also played various bystanders and hangers-on. The Pythons themselves are listed first (in alphabetical order) followed by the rest of the cast in order of appearance.

Several characters are never named during the film but do have names which are used in the tracklisting for the soundtrack album and elsewhere. There is no mention in the film of the fact that Eric Idle's ever-cheerful joker is called 'Mr. Cheeky', or that the terribly well-meaning Roman guard played by Michael Palin is named 'Nisus Wettus'.

Spike Milligan had an unplanned cameo as a prophet ignored because his acolytes are chasing after Brian. By coincidence he was visiting his old World War II battlefields in Tunisia where the film was being made. The Pythons were alerted to this one morning and he was promptly included in the scene that just happened to be being filmed. He disappeared again in the afternoon before he could be included in any of the close-up or publicity shots for the film.

There are various stories about the origins of Life of Brian. Shortly after the release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Eric Idle flippantly suggested that the title of the Pythons' forthcoming feature would be Jesus Christ – Lust for Glory (a play on the UK title for the 1970 American film Patton). This was after he had become frustrated at repeatedly being asked what it would be called, despite the troupe not having given the matter of a second film any consideration. However, they shared a distrust of organised religion, and, after witnessing the critically acclaimed Holy Grail's massive financial turnover, confirming an appetite amongst the fans for more cinematic endeavours, they soon began to seriously consider a film lampooning the New Testament era in the same way Holy Grail had lampooned Arthurian legend. All they needed was an idea for a plot. Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam, while promoting Holy Grail in Amsterdam, had come up with a sketch in which Jesus' cross was falling apart because of the idiotic carpenters who built it and he angrily tells them how to do it correctly. However, after an early brain-storming stage, and despite being non-believers, they agreed that Jesus was "definitely a good guy" and found nothing to mock in his actual teachings: "He's not particularly funny, what he's saying isn't mockable, it's very decent stuff..." said Idle later . After settling on the name Brian for their new protagonist, one idea considered was that of "the 13th disciple". The focus eventually shifted to a separate individual born at a similar time and location, who would be mistaken for the Messiah, but had no desire to be followed as such.

Writing began in December 1976, with a first draft completed by mid-1977. The final pre-production draft was ready in January 1978, following "a concentrated two week writing and water-skiing period in Barbados". The film would not have been made without former Beatle and Python fan George Harrison, who set up Handmade Films to help fund it at a cost of £3 million (a move later described by Eric Idle as the "world's most expensive cinema ticket"). The original backers, EMI Films, had been scared off at the last minute by the subject matter, particularly Bernard, Lord Delfont. As a result, the very last words in the film are: "I said to him, 'Bernie, we'll never make our money back on this one'", teasing Delfont for his lack of faith in the project. Terry Gilliam later said, "They pulled out on the Thursday. The crew was supposed to be leaving on the Saturday. Disastrous. It was because they read the script... finally." As a reward for his help, Harrison appears in a cameo role as Mr. Papadopoulos, "owner of the Mount", who briefly shakes hands with Brian in a crowd scene. His one word of dialogue (a cheery Scouse, but out-of-place-in-Judea, "Hello") had to be dubbed in later.

Directing duties were handled solely by Terry Jones on this project, having amicably agreed with Gilliam (who co-directed Holy Grail with his namesake) that Jones' approach to film-making was better suited for Python's general performing style. Holy Grail's production had often been stilted by their differences behind the camera. Gilliam again contributed two animated sequences (one being the opening credits) and took charge of set design. However, this didn't put an absolute end to their feuding. On the DVD commentary, Gilliam expresses great pride in one set in particular, the main hall of Pilate's fortress, which had been designed so that it accurately looked like an old Judean temple that the Romans had converted by dumping their structural artifacts (such as marble floors and columns) on top. He later reveals his consternation at Jones not paying enough attention to it in the cinematography. Gilliam also worked on the matte paintings, useful in particular for the very first shot of the three wise men against a starscape and in giving the illusion of the whole of the outside of the fortress being covered in graffiti.

The film was shot on location in Monastir, Tunisia, which allowed the production to reuse sets from Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth (1977). Many locals were employed as extras on Life of Brian. Director Terry Jones noted, "They were all very knowing because they'd all worked for Franco Zeffirelli on Jesus of Nazareth, so I had these elderly Tunisians telling me, 'Well, Mr Zeffirelli wouldn't have done it like that, you know.'" Graham Chapman, still suffering from alcoholism, was so determined to play the lead role - at one point coveted by Cleese - that he dried out in time for filming. Following shooting between 16 September and 12 November 1978, a two-hour-long rough cut of the film was put together for its first private showing in January 1979. Over the next few months Life of Brian was re-edited and re-screened a number of times for different preview audiences before the final cut was complete, losing a number of entire filmed sequences (see Lost scenes below).

The film also satirises both the tendency to interpret banal incidents as "signs from God" and the factions and infighting that can emerge from this. For example, when Brian loses his shoe, some of his over-zealous followers declare it to be a sign but they can't agree on what it means, while one other instructs them to "Cast off the shoe. Follow the gourd!" (which is viewed by some as being significant owing to Brian's seemingly charitable refusal to accept a price for it - and not even haggle over what it is worth - the truth actually being that it was a cheap, unwanted gift).

The (alleged) representation of Christ proved controversial. Protests against the film were organised based on its perceived blasphemy. On its initial release in the UK, the film was banned by several town councils – some of which had no cinemas within their boundaries, or had not even seen the film for themselves. A member of Harrogate council, one of those that banned the film, revealed during a television interview that the council had not seen the film, and had based their opinion on what they had been told by the Nationwide Festival of Light, of which they knew nothing. Some bans continued into the 21st century. In 2008, Torbay Council finally permitted the film to be shown after it won an online vote for the English Riviera International Comedy Film Festival, while the mayor of the Welsh town of Aberystwyth (Sue Jones-Davies, who played Judith Iscariot in the film) was still trying to remove the local council's long ban of the film. In 2009 the ban in Aberystwyth was finally lifted and the first showing will be attended by Terry Jones and Michael Palin alongside mayor Sue Jones-Davies.

In New York, screenings were picketed by both rabbis and nuns ("Nuns with banners!" observed Michael Palin) while the film was banned outright in some American states. It was also banned for eight years in the Republic of Ireland and for a year in Norway (it was marketed in Sweden as '"The film so funny that it was banned in Norway").

In the UK, Mary Whitehouse and other campaigners launched waves of leaflets and picketed at and around cinemas that showed the film, a move that was only felt to have ironically boosted the publicity. Leaflets arguing against the film's representation of the New Testament (for example, suggesting that the Wise Men would not have approached the wrong stable as they do in the opening of the film) were documented in Robert Hewison's book Monty Python: The Case Against.

One of the most controversial scenes was the film's ending: Brian's crucifixion. Many Christian protesters said that it was mocking Jesus's suffering by turning it into a "Jolly Boys Outing" (such as when Mr Cheeky turns to Brian and says: "See, It's not so bad when you get up here"), capped by Brian's fellow sufferers suddenly bursting into song; director Terry Jones issued the following riposte to this criticism: "Any religion that makes a form of torture into an icon that they worship seems to me a pretty sick sort of religion quite honestly".

Another argument was that crucifixion was a standard form of execution in ancient times and not just one especially reserved for Jesus (a point proven by the Bible itself, with the mentioned presence of the two thieves crucified next to him). The Pythons often prided themselves on the depths of the historical research they had taken before writing the script. They all believe that, as a consequence, the film portrays 1st century Judea more accurately than actual Biblical epics, with its focus centred more on the average person of the era.

Shortly after the film was released, Cleese and Palin engaged in a what would become an infamous debate on the BBC2 discussion programme Friday Night, Saturday Morning, in which Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark, put the case against the film. Muggeridge and the Bishop had arrived 15 minutes late to see a screening of the picture prior to the debate, missing the establishing scenes which demonstrated that Brian and Jesus were two different characters, and hence contended that it was a send-up of Christ himself. Both Pythons later felt that there had been a strange role reversal in the manner of the debate, with two young upstart comedians attempting to make serious, well-researched points, while the establishment figures engaged in cheap jibes and point scoring. They also expressed disappointment in Muggeridge, whom all in Python had previously respected as a satirist. Cleese expressed that his reputation had "plummeted" in his eyes, while Palin commented that, "He was just being Muggeridge, preferring to have a very strong contrary opinion as opposed to none at all". Muggeridge's verdict on the film (or at least, what he'd seen of it) was that it was "Such a tenth-rate film that it couldn't possibly destroy anyone's genuine faith".

The Pythons unanimously deny that they were ever out to destroy people's faiths. On the DVD audio commentary, they contend that the film is heretical because it lampoons the practices of modern organised religion, but that it does not blasphemously lampoon the God that Christians and Jews worship. When Jesus does appear in the film (first, as a baby in the stable, and then later on the Mount, speaking the Beatitudes), he is played straight (by actor Kenneth Colley) and portrayed with respect. The music and lighting make it clear that there is a genuine aura around him on both occasions. The comedy begins when members of the crowd mishear his statements of peace, love and tolerance ("I think he said, 'blessed are the cheese makers'"). Importantly, he is distinct from the character of Brian, which is also evident in the scene where an annoying and ungrateful ex-leper pesters Brian for money, while moaning that since Jesus cured him, he has lost his source of income in the begging trade (referring to Jesus as a "bloody do-gooder").

Not all the Pythons agree on the definition of the movie's tone. There was a brief exchange that occurred when the surviving members reunited in Aspen, Colorado, in 1998 for a show that was broadcast on HBO and has since become available on video. The appearance was billed as the "U.S. Comedy Arts Festival Tribute to Monty Python", although video releases have gone by varying titles, including "Monty Python Live at Aspen (1998)". The program mostly consists of an interview, on stage, by U.S. comedian Robert Klein. In the section where Life of Brian is being discussed, Terry Jones says, "I think the film is heretical, but it’s not blasphemous". Eric Idle can be heard to concur, adding, "It’s a heresy". However, John Cleese, disagreeing, counters, "I don’t think it’s a heresy. It's making fun of the way that people misunderstand the teaching". Jones responds, "Of course it's a heresy, John! It's attacking the Church! And that has to be heretical". Cleese replies, "No, it's not attacking the Church, necessarily. It's about people who cannot agree with each other".

The film continues to cause controversy; in February 2007 the Church of St Thomas the Martyr in Newcastle upon Tyne held a public screening in the church itself, with song-sheets, organ accompaniment, stewards in costume and false beards for female members of the audience (alluding to an early scene where a group of women disguise themselves as men so that they are able to take part in a stoning). Although the screening was a sell-out, some Christian groups, notably the ultra-conservative Christian Voice, were highly critical of the decision to allow the screening to go ahead. The Revd. Jonathan Adams, one of the church's clergy, defended his taste in comedy, saying that it did not mock Jesus, and that it raised important issues about the hypocrisy and stupidity that can affect religion. However Stephen Green, the head of Christian Voice, insisted that "You don't promote Christ to the community by taking the mick out of him". Again on the film's DVD commentary, Cleese also spoke up for religious people who have come forward and congratulated him and his colleagues on the film's highlighting of double standards among purported followers of their own faith.

The "What have the Romans ever done for us?" scene is "the reverse" of a similar conversation recorded in the Babylonian Talmud. The rabbis, like the Python characters, list all the wonders the Romans have brought to Judea; Shimon bar Yochai then dismissed each development as having been done for the Romans' benefit and the Jews' loss.

This element (which is not dissimilar to the film's comments on religious sectarianism) furthers Cleese's claim from the Aspen stage interview that there is a more general social message in the film regarding belief systems and group thinking, beyond only heretical satire of religious faiths. According to the DVD commentary, this part of the story was inspired mainly by the multiplication of ineffectual left-wing parties in Britain during the 1970s. These revolutionary groups would splinter every few weeks, and be angrier at each other than they were at the government.

A number of scenes were cut from the movie after filming. Most of these were lost in 1998 when they were destroyed by the company that bought Handmade Films. However, a number of them (of varying quality) were shown the following year on the Paramount Comedy Channel in the UK; it has not been disclosed how these scenes were saved or where they came from, presenter Jonathan Ross merely claiming they had been found "in a black bin bag".

The scenes shown included the shepherds gathering for Jesus's birth, which would have been at the very start of the movie; a segment showing the kidnap of Pilate's wife (a huge mountain of a woman played by John Cleese); a scene introducing hardline Zionist Otto, leader of the Judean People's Front (played by Eric Idle); and a scene in which Pilate's wife alerts Otto to Brian's capture. The shepherds' scene has badly distorted sound, and the kidnap scene has poor colour quality. All of these scenes can now be found on the Criterion Collection DVD.

The most controversial cuts were the scenes involving Otto, initially a recurring character, who had a thin Adolf Hitler-esque moustache and spoke with a German accent, shouting accusations of "racial impurity" at people whose conceptions were similar to Brian's (Roman centurion rape of native Judean women), and other Nazi-based phrases. The logo of the Judean People's Front, designed by Terry Gilliam, was a Star of David with a small line added to each point so it resembled a swastika, most familiar in the West as the symbol of the anti-Semitic Nazi movement. The rest of this faction also all had the same thin moustaches, and wore a point on their helmets, similar to those on WW1 era German helmets. The official reason for the cutting was that Otto's dialogue slowed down the narrative. However, Gilliam, writing in The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons, said he thought it should have stayed, saying "Listen, we've alienated the Christians, let's get the Jews now". Idle himself was said to have been uncomfortable with the character; "It's essentially a pretty savage attack on rabid Zionism, suggesting it's rather akin to Nazism, which is a bit strong to take, but certainly a point of view". Michael Palin's personal journal entries from the period when various edits of Brian were being test-screened consistently reference the Pythons' and filmmakers' concerns that the Otto scenes were slowing the story down and thus were top of the list to be chopped from the final cut of the film.

The only scene with Otto that remains in the film is during the crucifixion sequence. Otto arrives with his "crack suicide squad", sending the Roman soldiers fleeing in terror. Instead of doing anything useful, they "attack" by committing mass suicide in front of the cross, ("Zat showed 'em, huh?" says the dying Otto, to which Brian despondently replies "You silly sods!") ending Brian's last hope of rescue. (They do however show some signs of life during the famous rendition of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" when they are seen waving their toes in unison in time to the music.) Terry Jones once mentioned that the only reason this excerpt wasn't cut too was due to continuity reasons, as their dead bodies were very prominently placed throughout the rest of the scene. He acknowledged that some of the humour of this sole remaining contribution was lost through the earlier edits, but felt they were necessary to the overall pacing.

Otto's scenes, and those with Pilate's wife, were cut from the film after the script had gone to the publishers, and so they can be found in the published version of the script. Also present is a scene where, after Brian has led the Fifth Legion to the headquarters of the People's Front of Judea, Reg (John Cleese) says "You cunt!! You stupid, bird brained, flat headed..." The profanity was overdubbed to "you klutz" before the film was released. Cleese approved of this editing as he felt the reaction to the four-letter word would "get in the way of the comedy".

Life of Brian opened on 17 August 1979 in five North American theatres, and grossed an impressive $140,034 USD ($28,007 per screen) in its opening weekend. Its total gross was a strong $19,398,164 USD. It was the highest-grossing British film in North America that year. In addition, the film was the fourth highest-grossing film in Britain in 1979.

On 30 April 2004, Life of Brian was re-released on five North American screens to "cash in" (as Terry Jones put it) on the phenomenal box office success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. It grossed $26,376 USD ($5,275 per screen) in its opening weekend. It ran until October 2004, playing at 28 screens at its widest point, eventually grossing $646,124 USD during its re-release. By comparison, a re-release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail had earned $1.8 million USD three years earlier. A DVD of the film was also released that year.

For the original British release, a spoof travelogue narrated by John Cleese Away From It All, was shown before the film itself. It consisted mostly of stock travelogue footage and featured arch comments from Cleese. For instance, a shot of Bulgarian girls in ceremonial dresses was accompanied by the comment "You'd never believe that these girls were plotting the downfall of Western Civilisation as we know it!", Communist Bulgaria being a member of the Warsaw Pact at the time. Not only was this a spoof of travelogues per se, it was a protest against the then-common practice in Britain of showing cheaply made banal short features before a main feature.

The Life of Brian has regularly been cited as a serious contender for this title, and has been named as such in polls conducted by Total Film magazine in 2000, the British TV network Channel 4 in 2006 and The Guardian newspaper in 2007. Rotten Tomatoes lists it as one of the best reviewed comedies, with a 98% approval rating from 44 published reviews.

As well as this, the BFI declared it to be the 28th best British film of all time, in their equivalent of the AFI's original 100 Years...100 Movies list. It was the seventh highest ranking comedy on this list (four of the better placed efforts were classic Ealing Films). Another Channel 4 poll in 2001 named it the 23rd greatest film of all time (the only comedy which came higher on this occasion was Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, which was ranked 5th).

In addition to this, the line, "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!", spoken by Brian's mother Mandy to the crowd assembled outside her house, has been voted by readers of the funniest line in film history. This poll also featured two of the film's other famous lines ("What have the Romans ever done for us?" and "I'm Brian and so's my wife") in the top 10.

Spin-offs include a script-book The Life of Brian of Nazareth, which is backed by MONTYPYTHONSCRAPBOOK... (The printing of this book also caused problems, since there are rarely used technical laws in the UK against "blasphemy" dictating what can and cannot be written about religion - the publisher refused to print both halves of the book, and original prints were by two companies).

Indeed, many people have come to see the song as a life-affirming ode to optimism. One of its more famous renditions was by the dignitaries of Manchester's bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games, just after they were awarded to Sydney. "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is also featured in Eric Idle's Spamalot, a Broadway musical loosely based upon Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and was sung by the rest of the Monty Python gang at Graham Chapman's memorial service and at the Monty Python Live At Aspen special.

An album of the songs sung in Monty Python's Life of Brian has been released on the Disky label.

In October, 2008, a memoir by Kim "Howard" Johnson entitled Monty Python's Tunisian Holiday: My Life with Brian will be released. Johnson became friendly with the Pythons during the filming of Life of Brian and his notes and memories of the behind-the-scenes filming of the classic film make up this new book.

With the success of Eric Idle's musical retelling of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, called Spamalot, Idle announced that he would be giving Life of Brian a similar treatment. The oratorio, called Not the Messiah, was commissioned to be part of the festival called Luminato in Toronto, Ontario, in June 2007, and was written/scored by Idle and John Du Prez, who also worked with Idle on Spamalot. Not the Messiah is a spoof of Handel's oratorio Messiah. It runs approximately 50 minutes, and was conducted at its World Premiere by Toronto Symphony Orchestra music director Peter Oundjian, who is Idle's cousin.

Not the Messiah received its U.S. premiere at the Caramoor International Music Festival in Katonah, New York. Cousins Peter Oundjian (Caramoor's Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor) and Eric Idle joined forces once again for a double performance of the oratorio in July 2007.

A BBC history series What the Romans Did for Us, written and presented by Adam Hart-Davis and first broadcast in 2000, takes its title from John Cleese's rhetorical question "What have the Romans ever done for us?" in one of the film's scenes.

On New Year's Day 2007, and again on New Year's Eve, UK television station Channel 4 dedicated an entire evening to the Monty Python phenomenon during which an hour-long documentary was broadcast called The Secret Life of Brian about the making of The Life of Brian and the controversy that was caused by its release. The Pythons featured in the documentary and reflected upon the events that surrounded the film. This was followed by a screening of the film itself. The documentary (in a slightly extended form) was one of the special features on the 2007 DVD re-release - the "Immaculate Edition", also the first Python release on Blu-Ray.

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Source : Wikipedia