Monty Python Team Outlines Reunion Plans

Monty Python Spamalot Poster - P 2013

Monty Python Spamalot Poster - P 2013

UPDATED: John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones told a London press conference what they have in store for fans.

LONDON – The five remaining members of U.K. comedy troupe Monty Python on Thursday outlined their plans for a long-awaited reunion.
They said they would come together for a stage show at London's O2 Arena in July, 2014.

The press conference took place at London's Playhouse Theatre, where Monty Python musical Spamalot has been performed.

The show, set for July 1, will contain some of the troupe's famous sketches with "a modern, topical, Pythonesque twist,” according to a statement. Pythons John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones said they also plan to incorporate some new material.

At one point, one of the Pythons quipped that people should expect “a little comedy, a lot of pathos, music and a tiny [bit] of ancient sex."

Cleese promised "a mix-up" of material, saying: "We won't do the same thing" in the way it was performed before. He said he once heard Neil Diamond singing new numbers, and the audience didn't like it, arguing that this means new material tends to be tricky for known performers.

Cleese predicted that the troupe would perform its famous dead parrot sketch and a frog skit, among others. "The main [risk] is that the audience knows the script better than we do," he acknowledged. So, the Pythons plan to entertain fans with known sketches, but "we don’t want to do them in a predictable way," Cleese said.

He and a colleague said they may be too old to perform a famous sketch called The Ministry of Silly Walks though.

Asked about possible TV plans, Palin said the BBC retains rights to Monty Python shows. "We will be filming it," Jones said about the London show, adding he had hopes for the material to be aired on TV later. 

Asked about possible film projects, the comedy troupe said they had considered that idea. But with everyone doing various individual projects, it would be too hard to gather everyone together for weeks or months to hammer out a film, Cleese explained.

Asked if the show could lead to additional stage performances in Britain or other countries, the Pythons said the plan for now was to do the one London show, but they signaled there could be more if demand was strong.

The sixth Python, Graham Chapman, died of cancer in 1989, but the surviving members said they would incorporate him into the show. A press release described their planned show as “Monty Python Live (mostly)." It also made reference to Chapman in a picture of a foot on a grave and the line: “one down, five to go.”

Said Jones: "If there is a God, [Graham] will be there."

Tickets will go on sale on Monday morning at prices of $44 (27.50 pounds)-$153 (95 pounds). Palin quipped that was "only 300 pounds cheaper than the [Rolling] Stones."

In one of various jokes about their age, one Python member said Thursday there would be twerking at the O2 show – or maybe tweeting, because he gets those two mixed up.

The group became famous with TV sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus, which aired in Britain between 1969 and 1974.

Their popular films include Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975) and Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979).

The press conference drew reporters from around the world, including Spain and Austria. Before its start, the Pythons' "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" played.

Why a reunion now? "If we left it too long, it would be too late," quipped Jones.

Warwick Davis (An Idiot Abroad, Harry Potter series) MCed the press conference, which featured some Pythons slapstick and humor.

For example, Davis said the group had asked cities worldwide to bid for the show, with the highest bid having come in from Qatar where a future soccer world cup will also take place. "Oh no!!!" several of the Pythons responded. "Pick another one," one said. "Who is the second biggest bribe," said another.

Davis then opened an envelope, saying: "And the winner is...Meryl Streep." The Pythons reacted with nods and applause.

After announcing that the show would take place at the O2 Arena, Davis said London mayor Boris Johnson was here to celebrate the news. It turned out to be just a man with Johnson's trademark big blond hair who rode across the stage on a bike with a British flag over his shoulder before a crashing sound could be heard backstage.

Asked why their humor seemingly worked across cultures, Cleese said some characters the troupe created seemed to be archetypes. "We are not sure why," he said. Gilliam said that he has seen young kids laughing at pompous people and authority figures in Monty Python sketches, because those seem easily identifiable characters.

Twitter: @georgszalai