Monty Python - the Stage Shows
Created | Updated Jan 8, 2012
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
Although it was for their television and film work that the Monty Python team became famous, most of the group started their careers in theatre, firstly at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and then in London.
When the fame of Monty Python began to grow, the fans demanded to see the Pythons in person. The obvious answer was to put together a stage show.
The team began with a series of one-night performances - Monty Python's First Farewell Tour - at a range of venues around the UK. They followed this with a long tour of Canada, during which John Cleese informed the team that he didn't want to make any more TV shows with the group. Of course, this didn't mean that he was leaving the group entirely.
The Python's first recorded live performances took place at London's 'Drury Lane Theatre' in 1974. Naturally, the team included their 'greatest hits', including the 'Dead Parrot Sketch', the 'Lumberjack Song', 'Nudge Nudge' and 'Bruces'. They also took the opportunity to revive some pre-Python sketches, such as Four Yorkshiremen and 'Slapstick', the latter being a sketch originally written at Oxford by Terry Jones and borrowed by the Cambridge Footlights when their show Cambridge Circus moved to London.
The Drury Lane show also included songs by Neil Innes, an old friend of the team who had hooked up with the Pythons when novelty group The Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band split up.
Even in these early days, the dedication of Python fans was obvious. Favourite sketches were greeted with enormous cheers and audience participation, as can be heard on the album recorded at the show and released in the UK.
The Pythons' next stage appearance was at New York's 'City Center', where the team performed a 3-week run in 1976. A soundtrack album was released in the US, although the sound quality is very poor as the recordings were made before the technical aspects of the show were finally sorted out.
Whilst at the City Center, a couple of famous Python fans took the opportunity to appear live on stage with the group. During the 'Lumberjack Song', both George Harrison and Harry Nilsson joined the Mountie chorus.
The content of the City Center shows was similar to that performed at Drury Lane, although the team were gradually becoming bored of performing the same material over and over again. It was to be 4 years before the Pythons returned to the stage.
The group's final, and most famous, stage appearance was at the Hollywood Bowl, where they performed for four nights (and an open dress rehearsal) in 1980. The show was similar to their previous shows, although they did take the opportunity to include some material from their recently-released Contractual Obligation Album in the form of the songs 'Sit on My Face' and 'Never be Rude to an Arab'.
The Hollywood Bowl shows were filmed and later released as a film, although many sketches were removed and the running order changed in the final cut.
In 1998, the Pythons - without Graham Chapman, who died in 1989 - made an appearance on stage in Aspen, Colorado, USA. During the show, British comedian Eddie Izzard claimed to be one of the team, and Terry Gilliam 'accidentally' kicked over an urn supposedly containing Graham's ashes. There was talk at the time of another stage tour, but the plans were abandoned soon afterwards. It now seems unlikely that 'Monty Python' will ever be seen on stage again.