You are currently holding in your hand . . .
. . . well, actually, God knows what you are holding in your hand, you are after all adults, and what you hold in your own right hand is entirely up to you . . .
. . . you may, after all, have this in your left hand and something else in your right hand and you will probably have held far worse things in both your hands than this . . . and hey! . . . No! . . .
Stop that! Miss Johansson, I said, “Please hold my calls . . .” Honestly. Hollywood!
Anyway, what you are about to read–or have read to you–is a new book that is the first active collaboration of the Monty Python chaps for many, many years. In fact, the first book written and produced by the Pythons, themselves, since 1979. No, they are not all dead. Okay, some of them have been a bit quiet recently, and one or two have DNR notes by their bedsides, but the point is five of them are still technically alive and that, if not exactly cause for rejoicing, may well be cause for a new book. And this is it!
So hold whatever you like in your right hand while you read this book. Because laughter is jolly good for you. Even if it can make you blind.
Monty Python Live!, by Monty Python 7.5
‘Monty Python Live!’ is a Monty Python book that was published in 2009. Edited by Eric Idle, it’s a collection of reminisces that The Pythons (and a few collaborators) have of their various tours, from their first concert in 1971 at the Coventry Arts Theatre to the Hollywood Bowl Shows. The many extracts are taken from various sources, including personal journals and previously published material.
It is complemented by newly-written individual essays by each Python recalling their most vivid memories, a tour programme for the Hollywood Bowl shows, a satirical bit on how to become a great actor, and an article written by Palin for Esquire magazine on July 8, 1976, about their Broadway shows. The latter is utterly absurd, naturally, with Palin spending most it talking about trying to find the venue.
Fans who don’t already have everything are in luck: beside the other bits, which are comparably brief, most of the book is padded with a full script of the sketches, including the minor adjustments they made to some for the live act. Most Pythonites won’t care much for these as they’re available elsewhere, but at least each page is enhanced with pictures of the troupe performing the skits at the Hollywood Bowl.
The presentation is probably the best aspect of the book, all things considered. On top of collecting everything in one place, and throwing in a bevy of Terry Gilliam art (as well as other pictures), each page is made to look worn, with fake stains, folds and other grit on it. There was clearly a lot of care involved in the making of this book, which may compensate for the redundancy of most of it.
In fact, reading this book made me wonder just how much repackaging anyone can do, the Python having managed to milk their catalogue in countless ways over the years. Granted, a collection of anything live sort of makes sense because Monty Python did have a live act, but I wondered what the next possible money-grabbing item might be: A guide to places Python has been? The Monty Python recipe book?
Leave it to Idle, the group’s shameless promoter, to come up something.
Still, the book does hold some nice anecdotes along the way. I’m particularly fond of Cleese’s assertion that the strangest audience he ever played to was in Ottawa, Ontario, where the troupe would do a joke and no one would laugh. When they continued, only then did the audience laugh. Apparently, being politicians (Ottawa is Canada’s capital), they were all waiting to see who would laugh first. Ha!
Then there’s the one about Chapman and Jones trying to outdo each other’s make-up on stage when they did the Pepperpots in 1973, inevitably making each other corpse. I would have loved to see that. Interestingly, some of the better recollections come courtesy of Neil Innes and Carol Cleveland, who took this rare time in the spotlight to tell it like it is instead of writing something goofy like most of the others.
Although ‘Monty Python Live!’ isn’t quite “The never-before-told story of six and a half men and a girl, on the road!”, it is nonetheless a pretty good collection of related material. It may not be essential reading, nor is it a key addition to one’s collection (one might wish to wait for the inevitable update, including the troupe’s 2014 dates), but Python devotees would no doubt be pleased to peruse its pages.