Idle Weekend - Monty Python Live (mostly)

We couldn't let an Idle Weekend go by without looking at something Monty Python related. Mike Cadden remembers going to the reunion show Monty Python Live (mostly)...

One down, five to go. Even the strap line was a self-deprecating nod to the suggestions that these five old men were maybe, just possibly, too old to be doing this stuff again. Yet, from the moment they appeared out of blue “ReTardis” – possibly the only heavy handed moment in the evening – they showed they hadn’t really lost any of the magic.

On Friday the 4th July 2014 I had the very good fortune to get to the O2 to see Monty Python Live (mostly). For nearly 3 hours the Pythons, and a few selected guests, put on a mix of live sketches and songs and some old recordings of past favourites. All the “greatest hits” were in there, everything you’d expect with one or two new additions.

The chemistry between Palin and Cleese was still there, several times the two nearly lost control, and a quick football aside to the audience showed a delicately comic human side and, whilst the Terrys looked the most self-conscious at times, in all they wore their genius like the dressing gown worn by Idle on the Penis Song, relaxed, comfortable and nicely over the top. The Penis song itself was wonderfully extended with additional verses.

But then they could afford to relax into their set, the thousands who had paid significant amounts of money to be part of this show knew the lines as well as the Pythons themselves, although thankfully it was no quote-along. The audience waited patiently and in anticipation for the punch lines. When Palin’s career confused accountant finally admits that he never really wanted to be a lion tamer, you could feel the audience willing the punch line, the call to be a lumberjack, into existence. But whilst with many of the sketches familiarity has bred a closeness and a deep warmth, with the Pythons arguably most famous sketch, the deceased parrot, familiarity almost has led to boredom, the final line “it’s an Ex-Parrot” was delivered to a large laugh, but I can’t help feeling it was almost of relief or at least of habit. Skilfully this sketch seamlessly led into the Cheese shop and again the Pythons seemed to find their timing and rhythm and normal service resumed.

The addition of a full dance troupe to handle some of the more physical elements, Cleese can no longer do the silly walks and this was delegated to the dancers, also allowed the guys additional time to handle their costume changes. There were long periods where the show relied either on dancers or reruns of old video, but in doing so they simply reminded you of how funny they were in the day. The philosopher’s world cup is brilliance, similarly the fish slapping sketch. But in reminding you how funny they were, the live sketches in general reminded you that they have lost very little of that ability. The one sketch that they had finally grown into – the four Yorkshiremen – was delivered as well as, if not better, than ever before. The introduction a self-aware nod to their longevity; “who’d have thought 40 years ago we’d still be sat here doing Monty Python”.

Chapman’s image appears posthumously a few times, and one of the biggest cheers is towards the end when his image fills the large screens. He is missed by both the Pythons and fans still.

In all there was little new but what there was was familiar and in the main none the worse for that. This wasn’t just a show for fans, this was a homage by both the cast and the fans to 40 years of brilliance and a recognition that they could still do it. And to be able to say in years to come that I had been there, and seen them in their last hurrah, was in its own worth every pound. That I had one of the best nights out at a comedy show ever was simply the biggest dollop of icing imaginable.

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