The Life of Monty Python

I’m looking forward to seeing Holy Flying Circus which is broadcast on BBC4 later this evening. There’s been quite a bit of publicity about it, the fact the Pythons have made some po-faced comments about the accuracy of it, and the Pythonesque pepperpot doubling (Rufus Jones plays Mrs Palin as well as Terry J).

I realised I’d never seen the whole of the Friday Night, Saturday Morning programme that this drama is about (the chat show on which Palin and Cleese confronted Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood the then Bishop of Southwark about the perceived offence cause by Life of Brian). I’ve seen the clips that are always shown in Python docos or included as DVD extras, what about the rest of it? A search surfaced an incomplete recording: there’s an interesting preamble from a very relaxed Palin and Cleese, a warm up rant from Stockwood, and then the same familiar old clips. Here it is.

Is there a more complete version available anywhere?

In the meantime, at least the complete version of The Life of Christ sketch from Not the Nine O’Clock News is available.

I’m not sure what to make of Holy Flying Circus from the clips I’ve seen. Like any of these biopics the portrayals can at moments absolutely capture their subject (like right at the end of the following) – my Mum didn’t notice that this clip wasn’t Palin and Cleese and didn’t understand why anyone had filmed it – but the comic signature of their targets, the timing and intonation, are unique and unrepeatable.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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