Frequently Asked Questions

   

   

  

Answer me these questions three, 'ere the other side ye see...
  
Okay so there are more than three questions. These are some of the most frequently asked questions about Monty Python. We've divided them up into 3 sections:
  
Absolute Basics - For those new to Monty Python
Python History X - For those "What are..." and "Who is..." questions
Hey, I've got more questions - Pretty much anything else
  
   
ABSOLUTE BASICS (FOR PYTHON VIRGINS)
     
Q: Who or what was Monty Python?
    
A: Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a ground breaking comedy sketch show that ran on the BBC from 5 October 1969 to 18 January 1973. A mixture of oddly strange and surreal (some would say pythonesque) sketches and anarchic animations, it was largely responsible for breaking the convention of having to have a punch line at the end of sketches (although this was pioneered by Spike Milligan on his Q5 television programme a few years earlier).
  
They also released 4 (well technically 4 and a half films) films:
  
And Now For Something Completely Different (an anthology of their best sketches)
 
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (loosely based of King Arthur and the Knights (or kniggets) of the Round Table.)
 
Monty Python's The Life of Brian (consistently voted one of the greatest comedy movies of all time).
 
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

 
The “half” film is The Crimson Permanent Assurance; a short film made by Terry Gilliam, which ran before The Meaning of Life.
 
As well as appearing in stage shows (e.g. Live at Drury Lane (available as an audio recording ) or Live at Hollywood Bowl (released on video and DVD), they also released loads of audio recordings of both old and new sketches and songs as well as books and compilation videos of their classic moments.
 
Just for reference they also appeared in the Amnesty International benefit concerts collectively known as The Secret Policeman's Ball(s) (alongside other comics such as Peter Cook, Rowan Atkinson and Billy Connolly).
 
Q: Well who were they then?
  
A: The Python team was made up of 6 members (click on any of their names to go to their biography):
 
Graham Chapman
 
John Cleese
 
Terry Gilliam
 
Eric Idle
 
Terry Jones
 
Michael Palin
 
In addition there were a number of "unofficial" Pythons who turned up in the series, the films and/ or the films:
 
Neil Innes -  Responsible for many of the songs in the films. He also appeared in Season 4 of Flying Circus, the films and the stage shows.
 
Carol Cleveland - Appears in almost all of the Flying Circus TV series as well as in the films and stage performances.
  
Connie Booth: Appeared in a few Flying Circus episodes, and in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Formerly married to John Cleese
   
The Fred Tomlinson Singers: Did the group singing stuff in Flying Circus, including Summarising Proust, being Mounties for The Lumberjack Song, Vikings for the Spam Song and Sgt. Duckie's backing singers/ policemen in the Europolice song contest.
   
Q: When did it all start?
    
A: Although 5 out of the 6 Pythons (Jones, Idle, Palin, Cleese and Chapman) worked as writers on The Frost Report, it wasn't until 1969 that all 6 worked  together. At that time Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam were working on the television show Do Not Adjust Your Set. Cleese and Chapman were working on At Last The 1948 Show (with Marty Feldman and future Goodie Tim Brooke-Taylor).

  

In 1969, BBC producer Barry Took offered John Cleese and Graham Chapman a series, having been impressed with their work on The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set. As neither fancied doing a two-man show, and as Cleese had enjoyed working with Palin, Cleese invited him to join them. Palin in turn brought in his writing partner Terry Jones, and DNAYS colleague Eric Idle. It was Idle who suggested that Terry Gilliam also joined them. 

 

The BBC gave the go-ahead for the six to make a show on 23 May 1969. 
   
Q: Monty Python's Flying Circus – a bit of a strange name isn’t it?
    
A: It started off being called “The Circus” or “Baron Von Took’s Circus” around the BBC, just because people needed to call it something (and because it was Barry Took’s pet project). When the Python team started to decide on names, titles such as "Whither Canada?", "Arthur Megapode's Cheap Show", "Owl-Stretching Time", "Bunn, Wackett, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot", "It's", "The Venus Di Milo Panic Show," "The Toad Elevating Moment," "You Can't Call A Show 'Cornflakes'" and "A Horse, a Bucket and a Spoon" were bounced around (many of these early suggestions would later turn up as episode titles).  They were then told that it had have the name “Circus” in it, as this is what all the suits in the BBC knew it as. “Flying” was added to remove the image of clowns and elephants. Then they came to deciding who’s Flying Circus it was. Michael Palin came up with the name "Gwen Dibley's Flying Circus" (Gwen Dibley being a name he saw in a newspaper article), but although everyone originally approved, it was binned within days. "Arthur Megapode" was also scrapped. "Python" was suggested to represent someone who seemed a bit slimy. "Norm Python" and "Bob Python" came and went. The "Monty" is mysterious, but it is suggested that it was a reference to the World War 2 hero Field Marshall Bernard "Monty" Montgomery. Combined with "Python" it conjured up the exact image of a seedy, sixth-rate theatrical agent that the group wanted.
  
Q: How many episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus are there?
 
A: 45 plus 2 specials in Germany
 
Q: When were these episodes originally shown in the U.K.?
 

A: Monty Python's Flying Circus was shown on:
 
Series 1: 5 October 1969 - 11 January 1970
Series 2: 15 September 1970 - 22 December 1970
Series 3: 19 October 1972 - 18 January 1973
Series 4: 31 October 1974 - 5 December 1974
 
After the third series, John Cleese left the group and the fourth series became just plain simple "Monty Python."
 
Q: Will the Monty Python team ever get back together again?
 

A: Probably not.
 
Q: Why?
 
A: I think with Graham Chapman being dead, it would be a little difficult. Saying that, all of the Python team (including the deceased Mr. Chapman) did appear on stage together in Aspen in 1998. The five not-dead Pythons will be appearing on stage together in London in July 2014. In addition members of the group often appear in each others projects. 
 
Q: Don't I recognise the music at the start of Monty Python's Flying Circus?
 

A: Possibly. It's the "Liberty Bell March" by John Philip Sousa.
   
 
PYTHON HISTORY X

  
The section where we try to answer those questions that start "who is…" or "what is…", for all those references in Monty Python that you might not get.

Q: Who was Whicker? (as in the sketch Whicker Island)?
     

A: Alan Whicker is a globe-trotting television commentator. He started off as a reporter for the Tonight programme (and at one point was reported dead) before getting his own show called Whicker's World. When interviewing people, he often allowed his subjects to condemn or to recommend themselves and their way of life almost entirely through their own words and appearances, with often little more than the odd encouraging question or aside from Whicker himself. He has interviewed such people as John Paul Getty, Paraguay's General Stroessner and Haiti's greatly feared dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier.
 
As an interesting piece of trivia, Round the World in 80 Days was rumoured to be an Alan Whicker vehicle before being given to Michael Palin.
 
And yes, he does speak like that!
 
Q: Who was Mary Whitehouse?

A: Mary Whitehouse was the first president of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, a campaign group fighting against "blasphemy, bad language, violence and indecency" in the media. She successfully sued the magazine Gay Times (part founded by Graham Chapman) for blasphemy. Mary Whitehouse died in Nov 2001.
 
Q: What on earth is Tizer (as mentioned in the episode "The Cycling Tour")?
 

A: Tizer is a fruity carbonated soft drink manufactured by Barrs
 
Q: What is shandy?

A: Shandy is a drink of beer mixed with ginger beer or lemonade (for those in the US, substitute "lemonade" with "7-UP").

 

Q: Who was Reginald Bosanquet?

 

A: Reginald Bosanquet (9 August 1932 – 27 May 1984) was a journalist best known for presenting the ITV News At Ten in the 1960s and 1970s. As his delivery of the news could sometimes seem a little slurred  (said to be the result of epilepsy), there were rumours that he was a heavy drinker (it was also alleged that he wore a toupee). These rumours provided raw material for a lot of comedy writers - the Pythons included.
  
Q: I keep hearing the acronym "C of E". What does this mean?
 

A: C of E stands for Church of England, the national church of the UK, of which HM The Queen is the head.
 
Q: Who was Eddie Waring?
 
A: A television sports commentator, who provided the commentary for the BBC for Rugby League for many years. His broad Yorkshire accent, trademark trilby and camel coat, and phrases such as "He's gone for the early bath" and "You're looking at one ton of rugby - meat, brawn, muscle, brain - the lot of it" gave him cult status, and made him one of the most recognisable character on television at the time. It also made him one of the most imitated. In the 1970s he moved to presenting, hosting the television shows It's a Knockout and Songs Of Praise, as well as making cameo appearances in light entertainment shows such as The Goodies and The Morecambe and Wise Show. Eddie Waring died in 1986.
 
Q: What is a blancmange?
 
A: A blancmange (orig. blancmanger) is a type of custardy pudding that has been eaten in Europe since the Middle Ages (and was once considered a delicacy – a surprise to everyone who was fed it for school dinners). The recipe itself varied from place to place although now you can get it in packets at the supermarket. Contrary to popular belief it doesn't really come from the planet Skyron.
 
Q: Who was Reginald Maudlin?
 
A: The Right Honourable Reginald Maudling MP (1917 - 1979) was a British politician known for his intellectual brilliance, political pragmatism, an easy going nature and a reputation for laziness. After its 1945 election defeat he helped rebuild the Conservative Party. In 1950 he became Member of Parliament for Barnet and was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1962. In 1965 he was defeated in the Conservative Party leadership contest by Edward Heath who appointed him Home Secretary. His later political career was overshadowed by financial scandals and he was subjected to a great deal of lampooning (including by Monty Python). He died in 1979 at the age of 61 from cirrhosis of the liver, caused by his alcoholism.
 
 
HEY, I'VE GOT MORE QUESTIONS...

  
Well okay then...
 
Q: What do the Monks in Monty Python and the Holy Grail sing?
(
For reference they sing "Pie Iesu Domine.  Dona eis Requiem.”)
 
A: It is Latin for "Merciful Lord Jesus.  Grant them rest."  It's a phrase from the Catholic funeral mass.
 
Q: I heard you say "Pythonesque" earlier – you made that word up!
 

A: Actually, no we didn’t. It appears in the Oxford English Dictionary. The entry reads:
 
Pythonesque \ 'pi, thä'nesk \ adj.: [Monty Python's Flying Circus + -esque] after the style of, or resembling the humour of, Monty Python's Flying Circus, a popular British television comedy series that first ran from 1969-1974 and is noted for its absurdist or surrealist humour.
 
So there.
 
Q: When did Graham Chapman die?
 
A: He died on October 4, 1989, just one day before Monty Python's 20th anniversary (as Terry Jones put it, making it one of the worst cases of party pooping ever)
 
Q: What did he die of?
 
A: Graham Chapman died of cancer.
 
The rumours of him contracting AIDS are totally untrue (probably arising from the utterly stupid notion that dead + homosexual must somehow equal AIDS). During a long and tedious debate on the alt.fan.monty-python newsgroup many, many years ago, a Python fan in London obtained a copy of Chapman’s death certificate from the Public Records Office (where such official documents are held) and posted it.
  
Death certificates in the UK are required by law to state both the primary and secondary causes of death. In the case of Graham Chapman, the primary causes of death was pneumonia resulting from cancer of the larynx, with a secondary cause listed as the cancer spreading to other sites.
 
Q: What is the capital of Assyria?
  
A: The Assyrian empire had 4 capitals at various stages during its history. They were: Ashur (or Qalat Sherqat), Calah (or Nimrud), the short-lived Dur Sharrukin (or Khorsabad), and Nineveh. The ruins of all four cities can be found in the modern state of Iraq.
 
Q: Where can I write the Python's for signatures/ copyright issues?
 

A: The address of Python Office for official correspondence is:
 
The Python Office, 34 Thistlewaite Road, London  E5 0QQ, United Kingdom.
 
Please be aware that the office is unable to respond individually to each piece of mail, including questions or requests for signed pictures.  Do not send personal items to this address for they no longer accepts personal items for signing and they will not return them.
 
Q: What do the knights who say "Ni!" now call themselves?
 
A: They are now the knights who say "Ekki ekki ekki ekki pitang zoom-boing zoowlishivm…"  (it is thought this line was ad-libbed by Michael Palin, since the original script just reads “Neeow ... Wum ... PING!").
 
Q: Which episode is "Origins of the word F*ck" in?
  
A: It's not. This was written by comedy legend George Carlin, and has somehow been wrongly attributed to Monty Python
 
Q: Which Monty Python movie is "I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" in?
 
A: The song has never appeared in any Monty Python movie and is not a Python song. Again it has somehow been wrongly attributed. The song was actually written by Fred Heatherton and first recorded by comedian Danny Kaye.
 
Q: Where does the Python foot come from?
  
A: That big foot comes from a painting by Agnolo di Cosimo, better known as Il Bronzino (1503-1572), called "Allegory of Luxury," or "Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time”. The foot can be found in the bottom left hand corner, and belongs to a cupid. The original painting hangs in the National Gallery in London, UK.
 
Q: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
 
A: The average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 mph. (Source: Estimating the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow. Corum, J. http://www.style.org/unladenswallow/)
 
Q: What is the translation of the world's funniest joke?
(
For reference the funniest joke in the world is "Wenn ist das Nunstuck git und Slotermeyer?  Ja!  Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!")
 
A: There is no translation – it's just gibberish.
  
Q: Why is it the world never remembers the name of Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nuernburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shoenendanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm?
 
A: That's a very silly question and we're not going to answer you.
   

 

 

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