The five surviving members of the comedy group ‘Monty Python’ bid an emotional farewell in what they say will be their final ever performance together after more than 50 years.
Monty Python Live (Mostly)
Starring John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. 210 minutes. Screens again July 23, 31 at Cineplex theatres. Check listings for details.
As farewell performances go, this one had more men dressed as ladies than you’d expect and rather a lot of talk about dead parrots and odes to bottoms.
But that’s the enduring delight of Britain’s Monty Python comedy troupe, as the five surviving irreverent players, now in their 70s, took a final bow Sunday at the last of 10 packed shows (the first one sold out in a record 43.5 seconds) at London’s O2 Arena.
The live event was sent around the world via satellite to more than 1,500 theatres, including five in Toronto, among 86 movie houses across Canada.
One enterprising woman came dressed in full Holy Grail knight getup at the Scotiabank Theatre on Sunday, while other fans showed their love by enthusiastically singing along with the gang to classics including “The Philosophers Song” and the show’s closing number, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
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Dave J Hogan / GETTY IMAGES
Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle put on their Sunday best for the closing night of "Monty Python Live (Mostly)" at The O2 Arena in London.
John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin dedicated the show in cheeky fashion to late Python Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, by subtitling the performance: “one down, five to go.”
It’s been more than 30 years since the Pythons last performed live, appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1980, and 40 years since Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on TV.
Toronto fans got to see Cleese last September in his “Last Time to See Me Before I Die” show.
He is still alive, so this was technically a lie, as a Python might say if he was looking to buy an argument. Palin and Cleese brilliantly were in that classic sketch, which joined many other comic hits during the O2 show.
From the opening, where the Pythons came onstage to pose below a flashing sign reading “Photo Opportunity,” it was clear that they were willing to make just as much fun of themselves as their familiar targets including politics, religion, sports and social conventions.
There were in-jokes about the cost of Cleese’s divorce(s), memory lapses, Palin’s travel shows (“boring!”) and jabs at some British press that accused them of “flogging a dead parrot” in reviews of the show.
It was a lavish affair, with 10 singers and dancers — clad in sexy lingerie, as bloomer-flashing nuns and priests, or booted-and-suited members of the Ministry of Silly Walks — enthusiastically bounding across a massive, two-level stage decorated in music hall fashion, right down to the footlights.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus regular Carol Cleveland was also on board, even filling in for Chapman’s part as a customer in the Spam sketch. The Vikings played themselves.
Of course, when it comes to portraying females, nothing is funnier than a Python in a dress, whether it’s Cleese’s now-expanded waistline straining a floral number in the exploding penguin sketch, or the 1969 video of “Barley Townswomen’s Guild presents the Battle of Pearl Harbor.”
There was enough mixing of live and vintage, plus Gilliam’s inspired animation, to remind the audience just how good Python was then and to underscore that they’re not as quick off the mark now. Cleese wasn’t physically able to churn out those silly walks and, at points, the Pythons appeared to be reading lines off monitors.
Those who consider aging a moral failing will have more trouble with this than the enraptured fans who almost filled the Scotiabank Sunday, laughing at every bit, gag and song as if they didn’t know it by heart.
The second half of the show felt looser, with the Pythons gleefully mugging to the audience, which got a full comic serving, including Dead Parrot and The Cheese Shop.
Special guests included a video segment starring Stephen Hawking flying off into the universe (who was also in the British audience), Eddie Izzard in lipstick and heels, and a pudgy Mike Myers, wearing a paper bag on his head as the “celebrity or a nobody” quiz subject for the conclusion of Palin’s “Blackmail” sketch.
Musical production numbers were dropped in regularly, featuring tunes with typically salacious lyrics that would make a sailor blush. The audience was invited to sing along with “The Penis Song” — expanded to include verses about vaginas and bottoms — while “Every Sperm is Sacred” wound up with two candy-striped phallus-shaped cannons shooting into the audience.
Once biting and now antiquated bits, such as effeminate judges and camp soldiers on parade calling each other “dearie,” wouldn’t pass the politically correct sniff test today. Not everything was given a green light; the 1980 song “I Like Chinese” did lose some potentially offensive lines.
If there is a sense of indulging in a guilty pleasure with this effort, it also made the material feel worn in spots, occasionally more Benny Hill than cutting-edge comic genius from four decades past.
But age happens to us all, even if we don’t expect it. If we are lucky enough, we get there. And if we are luckier still, we can laugh as it happens. Ideally while lustily singing “The Lumberjack Song” backed up by a chorus of Mounties.
London honors Monty Python with a giant dead parrot. Phil Furey reportsTags: concert, movie, music, singer, tv