Monty Python - the Books
Created | Updated Dec 12, 2006
Monty Python - a Brief History | Graham Chapman - Comedy Writer and Actor | John Cleese - Comedy Writer and Actor | Terry Gilliam - Writer, Animator and Director | Eric Idle - Comedian, Writer and Actor | Terry Jones - Writer, Director and Actor | Michael Palin - Writer, Actor and Traveller | 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' - the Television Series | Monty Python's 'Dead Parrot Sketch' | 'And Now For Something Completely Different' - the Film | 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' - the Film | 'Monty Python's Life of Brian' - the Film | 'Monty Python's The Meaning of Life' - the Film | Monty Python - The Books | Monty Python - The Records | Monty Python - The Stage Shows | Monty Python - The Best Bits | Almost Pythons - Important 'Monty Python' Contributors
As befits the educated and eclectic nature of the Monty Python team, each member has published at least one book in their own name. In the 1970s, however, the group published several books as 'Monty Python'. Often as bizarre and innovative as the group's television and film work, the books are an important part of the overall Python canon.
What's Big and Red and Blue All Over?
The group were first approached about producing a book after the first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus. The project was taken on by Eric Idle, who started with material inspired by sketches from the first series, together with material from the upcoming second series. With the help of the rest of the group, including illustrations by Terry Gilliam, he put together the Big Red Book1.
Are You Still A Verger?
The group's next book was The Brand New Monty Python Bok, again edited by Eric Idle. The Bok contained a greater proportion of new material than the Big Red Book, and also contained various inserts and novelty items, including a school library slip, instructions on how to remove someone's appendix on London Underground's Piccadilly line, and a rather rude dot-to-dot puzzle.
The white dust jacket of the Bok was printed with some realistic dirty fingerprints on the front and back, which brought the group complaints from booksellers, as customers were forever asking for a 'clean' copy. Underneath the dust jacket, the Bok has an alternative cover. Labelled Tits and Bums, it claims to be a 'weekly study of church architecture', and has a picture of several naked women. Readers of the Papperbok edition missed out on this added extra.
The Bok was later repackaged with the Big Red Book as The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Monty Python: Volume One - Monty Python.
Den Hølie Gräilen
The Python's next book was the tie-in for the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The book contains the script of the film, set out in proper script format, complete with hand-scribbled notes, deleted scenes and Terry Gilliam's production drawings. The book also contains a number of other film-related items, including a letter written during the negotiations between the Pythons and the film censors over the use of swearing in the film. 'Swearing' at that time appeared to include such lines as 'I fart in your general direction' and 'we make castanets out of your testicles already'. Tucked in at the back of the book is a statement of the production costs for the film, which amounted to a mere £229,575.
The book also contains a copy of the original draft of Holy Grail, which is significantly different to the film that was eventually produced. Much of the unused material from that script was recycled for the final Monty Python television series.
Very Rarely Stable
The release of Life of Brian saw another book - or rather two books. The script of Brian was published in a very large book, back-to-back and upside down with Montypythonscrapbook, a random collection of photographs, deleted pieces of script, diary entries and other nonsense relating to Brian. And, for some reason, the lyrics to the 'Bruce's Philosophers Song'.
The Montypythonscrapbook also includes an exchange of letters between John Cleese and the editor of London newspaper The Evening Standard. John asked the newspaper to print an apology for a story it printed about him behaving in a silly manner during a squash competition. After repeatedly insisting that the story was true, the editor was eventually forced to write a rather grovelling apology.
The script part of the book contains the almost-final version of the script, with a few extra scenes that were cut at the last minute, such as King Otto's suicide squad and the kidnap of Pilate's wife.
The book is dedicated to Keith Moon, drummer with rock band 'The Who', who was a good friend of Graham Chapman and who had died while the book was being written.
This Conversation Isn't Very Good
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life was released in 1983 and, like the films before it, was accompanied by a script book. In this case, the book is a straightforward transcription of the film with many photographs, including some from scenes that did not make the final print of the film.
The book ends with copies of letters from another John Cleese battle with the press, this time with The Sun newspaper, who claimed that he made remarks that could be interpreted as racist during the shooting of the 'Zulu' sequence in the film.
To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the first episode of Flying Circus, the Pythons released the scripts of the television shows in two volumes called Monty Python: Just the Words. The books were dedicated to director Ian MacNaughton and 'everyone who joined the circus'.
You Blow There And Move Your Fingers Up And Down Here
The longest title of any Python book goes to their collection of song lyrics and music, titled The Fairly Incomplete and Rather Badly Illustrated Monty Python Song Book, which is exactly what the title says it is.
It Could Express A Vital Theme of Our Age
Recently, the five remaining members of the team have each chosen a selection of their favourite moments. Published as a series called A Pocket of Python, the Pythons take the chance to reminisce about the old days and to be silly one more time.