In the parallel TV universe, the Mad Men at Sterling Cooper are in 1963 and owned by Brits. Would they be called upon in 1969, when Monty Python's Flying Circus debuted on the BBC? Or in the early 1970s when Python first appeared on American TV? I asked Rich Sommer, who plays the head of Sterling Cooper's TV department, Harry Crane, and had some previous training with the UCB. Sommer was one of a couple of Mad Men (I also met Michael Gladis there) at the red-carpet screening of Monty Python's new six-part documentary, which debuts tonight on IFC (at 9 p.m., an hour earlier than Mad Men on AMC, so everything's good!). So here that is. Enjoy! Roll it:
Set your TVs! IFC is airing Python movies and TV episodes every night this week after installments of Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyers Cut).
So maybe you've heard that the boys from Monty Python have reunited for their 40th anniversary for a new documentary? Yes, yes, Monty Python: Almost The Truth airs over six hours on IFC beginning Oct. 18, and the 90-minute theatrical version that screened last night at the Zeigfeld Theatre was sincerely funny. I laughed out loud several times at scenes I had seen many, many times before. All five surviving members of Monty Python made it to the screening, along with a cardboard cutout of Graham Chapman, female supporting player Carol Cleveland, and many other longtime friends of the group.
It was a chilly, rainy windy night in the city, however, which presented its own challenges on the red carpet. I did get the chance to talk briefly with Python's Terry Jones. Jones will be talking to small groups on Saturday, Oct. 17, in seminars at The PIT. There may still be tickets for the morning session at The PIT? Here's what Jones had to tell me, and in turn, you, about writing good comedy sketches:
Mr. Creosote, you say? I dare say!
Early Monday morning, the fine chaps at BBC Radio telephoned me and asked me to provide an American's analysis of how Monty Python's comedy has stood the test of time, 40 years after their first TV broadcast on the BBC. Alas, alack, I cannot find a digital clip of our live on-air chat, but I know that it happened, and that I said something to the effect of: "When they said, 'And now for something completely different,' they really meant it. They rewrote the rules of sketch comedy, by saying there were no rules." Here is a BBC-TV clip that shows how Ricky Gervais and other Brits feel about their favorite Monty Python sketches.
American fans of Python are in for many treats this month. Eric Idle's An Evening Without Monty Python, a live stage tribute to the troupe's classic sketches, has played to live audiences in Los Angeles and is enjoying a run through this weekend in New York City. I'll let Idle explain the show:
John Cleese, meanwhile, has developed a new one-man show about his life and times -- all to fund his divorce settlement! True story. Cleese talks more about that and the Python reunion in a new interview today with New York magazine.
All of this, though, is leading up to live and televised events that start next week here in New York City. On Oct. 14, all five surviving members of Monty Python will appear as guests on NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The following night, Oct. 15, they'll appear at NYC's Zeigifeld Theatre for a screening of the new documentary about them, followed by a Q-and-A session. Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyers Cut) will air in six parts from Oct. 18-23 on IFC.
There's still a couple of days left to enter IFC's Sketch Comedy Challenge. The deadline is Sept. 20. The winner not only gets to see their sketch aired on IFC, but also gets to be walk the red carpet with Monty Python at the debut of their new documentary, Almost the Truth, on Oct. 15 in NYC.
Here are some other rules and whatnots...
Your submission must be an original sketch, five minutes or less, under 100MB in either Quicktime or Windows Media, have cleared any music copyrights or other legalities. There also will be four runners-up, who will get their sketches seen online at ifc.com and also receive the complete 16-DVD box set of "The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus."
John Cleese was forced to postpone his scheduled all-British comedy "Gala" last night at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival after being diagnosed with an inflamed prostate gland. Bruce Hills, COO for Just For Laughs, took center stage shortly after the scheduled 7 p.m. Eastern start time for the grand theatrical (and televised) production, telling fans: "John Cleese has fallen ill." Hills told the crowd that a late cancellation was so rare, "this has never happened before" in the more than quarter-century history of the citywide comedy fest.
After last night's Gala, which went on with Lewis Black substituting as host, fans who had spent upward of $175 per ticket to see the Monty Python legend were given cards like the one pictured here with instructions on how to exchange their ticket stubs for a pass to a new free Gala that was added to Sunday night's schedule. Hills said that Cleese had prepped his sketches and routines for this Montreal show for more than a week (in fact, Cleese had just hosted a similar gala last weekend in Toronto) and hoped to be fully able to perform them by Sunday.
Black, already in the French-Canadian city to host Thursday's Gala, also apologized, suggesting that perhaps, "What I would do is hire a French comic to speak entirely in French and use the entire time to talk about why the French hate the British." When that didn't get as much of roar as he had hoped, Lewis added: "But I'm a substitute!" Later in the show, he observed: "I'm still a little surprised that they went from John Cleese to a miserable aging Jewish prick!"
A moment later, a voice near the front of the theater called out: "So were we!"
For his part, British comedian Ross Noble, amid 10 or so minutes of nonstop riffing and meandering about the stage -- offered his own improvised tribute to Cleese by imagining he had "died" and become part of his very own version of Python's famous "Dead Parrot" sketch, with someone at the hospital arguing, "He's not dead. He's just resting."
Why sketch comedy in particular? IFC already has renewed The Whitest Kids U' Know, and season two of Z Rock (which includes several roles for comedians) premieres in June. And the network is getting behind several other comedy hybrids this summer, including BBC sketch show Wrong Door, Canadian import The Jon Dore Television Show, a cooking show with puppets and special effects called Food Party, and BBC sitcom Moz. IFC also plans a six-part interview show with the surviving members of Monty Python to air in October.
Kreisler said details about his new IFC blog are, well, sketchy. But you can get to know more about him and the blog here. Go say hello when you get a chance.
After years of seeing their classic TV sketches and film clips distributed without their permission on the YouTube, the men of Monty Python decided to strike back, launching their own YouTube channel (thanks, CC Insider!). Let's let them explain:
So they want you to buy their DVDs, and I wholeheartedly agree! Here are some of their best, which is really most of it.
After the jump, "the ministry of silly walks,""the lumberjack song," "the black knight" and "the French taunter" from Holy Grail, and the finale number "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Life of Brian...