Brushes with Greatness - Monty Python

Monty Python Signs My Spam

python_creditsMonty Python’s Flying Circus was a troupe of British Comedians who did to comedy what the Beatles did to music. They made comedy records, an internationally popular TV series and several movies. The hit Broadway show called “Spamalot” has insured their immortality.

Unfortunately they don’t like each other very much and after they disbanded the group they didn’t sit in a room together for 15 years! Then in 1998, HBO offered the surviving members a free trip to Aspen Colorado for a week of skiing, an award from AFI, and a big payday for a TV special of the event. What a coup! Monty Python together again!

I was hired to produce the clip segments for the show. Robert Klein was hired to interview them. Somehow a show would emerge from that. My job was to remind their fans of their greatest hits and introduce them to a new audience who weren’t born when they performed. I also picked some clips that might inspire lively discussion or interesting anecdotes. Things like showing their notorious censored sketches and the shows they did phonetically in German.

At the only rehearsal it was clear they hadn’t seen each other in so long, they had a lot of business and a lot of baggage to deal with. They considered our little show “a chat and an award” with no intention of doing anything new for the show. Figuring I had nothing to lose I asked John Cleese if he’d care to recreate the eulogy he did for the late Graham Chapman where he parodied his “Dead Parrot” sketch, replacing the word “parrot” with the word “Graham”. He declined, saying it was tasteless, then Terry Jones chimed in that the most tasteless part of the funeral was when Graham’s lover threw ashes on the people seated in the first few rows. Eric Idle chimed in. “Yes, we must bring Graham in an urn and give him a chair on the stage, he can answer questions from the great beyond”. Terry Jones qiggled, “He can relay to us the meaning of life.” (the title of one of their best films) Then Terry Gilliam, who mostly sat there and drew cartoons during the meeting finally spoke up, “OK, but only if I can knock over the urn”. After a good laugh, John Cleese spoke up, “And then I shall come in with a dustbuster”. monty_ashes

It was beyond my wildest dreams, I had inspired a Monty Python sketch and watched it evolve! I also suggested a “follow-the-bouncing-foot” sing-along of Eric Idle’s song “Always look at the bright side of Life” as a big finish. Everyone loved the ideas. I was made co-producer of the show!

Just before the taping, I thought I should get them to sign something for me since this moment would clearly never happen again. I raced out to the local market and bought a can of SPAM. Why spam? Those who know, sing after me - “Spam, spam, spam, spam”….etc.  

spam All Rights Reserved 2012