Monty Python: 15 Behind-The-Scenes Facts

Silly walk, don't run, to these facts about the kings of sketch comedy.
Monty Python: 15 Behind-The-Scenes Facts

All sketch comedians bow down to the masters of the craft, Monty Python. Monty Python was your dad's favorite for a reason, the sketches approached absurdity in comedy in a way rarely seen before. Here are 15 facts about your favorite comedian's favorite group of comedians.

The Show’s Absurdity Was Out Of Necessity

Python (Monty) Pictures

The Troupe’s specific style of absurdism was not just a tool for comedy, it was a tool for survival. The Python’s would often write sketches ending with no real conclusion. Fourth Wall breaking and strange non-sequiturs were often used when the members did not know how to end a sketch and absurdity was better than a flat punchline. 

True Fan Service

Kim “Howard” Johnson was a Monty Python “superfan” who authored several books about the troupe. In 1982, his dedication was repaid when he was given the opportunity to appear as an extra in the group’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl show.

They Were Academic Geniuses

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If you talk to someone about Monty Python chances are they will bring up “Hey, did you know they all met at prestigious English universities?” 

That doesn’t make it any less impressive. Jones and Palin met at Oxford, Cleese and Chapman met at Cambridge, a few years prior to Idle attending the school. This goes to show that comedians are just smart people who don’t take anything seriously. 

Free Music Is The Best Music

The famous intro theme to Flying Circus, entitled “The Liberty Bell” by John Philip Sousa, was chosen solely because the recording was free.

How did these guys have no money? Was this back when Oxford tuition was 9 dollars?

Rutlemania Was Real

A famous Eric Idle sketch about Beatles parody band “The Rutles” actually became so popular that two of The Rutles songs made the UK music charts. Many musicians were friends of the Python’s, including George Harrison, who also appeared in the mockumentary about The Rutles.

Spamalot Success

Eric Idle’s Spamalot ran for more than 1,500 shows and grossed over 175 million dollars when it was initially released on Broadway in 2005. Idle’s Broadway adaptation went on to win him three Tonys. 

The LumberJack Song Was Written In How Long?

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Perhaps the most famous Python song, The Lumberjack Song was written in just 15 minutes start to finish. The group wrote the song in an attempt to push off finishing the barbershop sketch that preceded it.

Holy Grail Had A Microscopic Budget

It’s no secret that Monty Python and the Holy Grail had a shoestring budget. The group reused the same castle constantly, the coconuts came from not being able to afford horses, tourists were brought in as background extras, and wooden cutouts of castles were used in long shots. The abrupt ending of the film is actually due to the group running out of money. 

Spam Mail is Named After A Sketch

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This is the definition of a fun fact.

Spam emails are actually named after the Spam waitress sketch from Flying Circus. Basically, the sketch revolves around a wife not liking Spam but there’s Spam in all the food from the diner. What better word to represent daily emails from Guitar Center because I bought a pick 3 years ago.

ABC VS Monty Python

In 1975 Flying Circus started showing on American channel ABC. The Python’s were upset to find that large chunks of the show were being cut out for advertising, or because they were deemed too inappropriate. The end result was a show that was drastically less funny, so the troupe sued ABC, showing clips from both the American and British versions. The Python’s, and comedians everywhere, won that case.

Dead Parrot Is A Recycled Sketch

One of the more popular sketches from Flying Circus, the bit was actually nearly recycled from a TV special created by Cleese and Chapman called How to Imitate People. Replace the bird with a car, and the bird salesmen with a car salesman and they're essentially the same.

Universal Fame

Two Czech astronomers discovered an asteroid in 1997 and named it “13681 Monty Python” to honor the group

I’m not giving up on comedy until I get an asteroid.

I Get By With A Little Help From My (Famous) Friends

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Musicians and Monty Python go together like peanut butter and dog treats (never let them know your next move). Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin footed the bill for much of The Holy Grail and Beatles member George Harrison gave the troupe money to make Life of Brian

The Artist Behind The Animations

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The Python’s iconography would be nothing without their resident animator Terry Gilliam. Because the animations are in a collage style, some of the most famous Python images are from other works of art. For instance, the giant foot is actually Cupid’s foot from the painting Venus Cupid Folly and Time.

World Record Holders

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Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam reunited in 2007 with the cast of Spamalot and 5,567 Python fans to set a new world record for the largest coconut ensemble. Everyone coconutted along to “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”

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