Monday, 2 January 2012

The Pythons' Autobiography by the Pythons

Essential reading for the Python nut, and indeed any fan of comedy, but what were they REALLY like, hmmm?

This book's mostly stitched together from new interviews and diary entries from the time.  That means Palin's diaries get quite a look in.  Especially memorable about filming the Holy Grail in the Highlands.  Remember when he has to eat mud as a politically aware peasant?   They mixed chocolate in to make it more appealing.  Yum.  Comes across as affable, level-headed, possibly a bit dull, but not markedly insanse.

Markedly insane.  Or at least horribly alcoholic, sexually promiscous, unreliable, lazy and with a bit of a cruel streak.  Since he's dead Chapman's contributions come from his family members, long term boyfriend and his own autobiography.  Comes across as pretty selfish and lonely, though he turns it around by sobering up for the movies and becoming an unlikely leading man.  He was even the official doctor on the Life of Brian.  On a Python reunion the 80s the other members kicked over what were supposed to be his ashes, which does sound pretty funny.


Picture, if you will, Terry Jones.  I bet he's wearing a dress, isn't he?  It's his womanly figure and high-pitched voice I suppose, but back in the day he was considered quite dashing as a man.  With his interest in history, he was the driving force behind the Holy Grail and Brian and directed them both.  Tried to get a sequel to Holy Grail going in the 80s, with the ageing knights of the round table going on crusade.  And no Chapman.  Sounds awful.

Very tall and very difficult.  Most of the Python friction over the years seems to have involved Cleese.  He bailed on the last series of Flying Circus and was generally pretty hard to get on with.  Accused by the others of being unsociable and greedy, but I do like how he's so serious about the business of comedy.  Most of his big tiffs were with.....

An interesting character.  Very canny with a head for business and a ruthless streak.  Most of the others started writing in partnership (Palin and Jones; Chapman and Cleese) but Idle always wrote alone.  His early life is telling:  his family were pretty poor and his father died, but he went to a brutal boarding school where he was both the school rebel and the head boy.  Always looking out for number one.  Gets a bit of a hard time for exploiting the Pythons, but I also think they were glad one of them knew what was going on.  Wrote all the songs, too, and was dragged up to sing Always Look on the Bright Side at Chapman's funeral.

It can't be easy for six creative and radical comedians to work together over so many years.  It wasn't all Morcambe and Wise chuminess, but neither was it Steptoe and Son viciousness.  Even between Cleese and Idle there's a deep respect about each others' talents.  And I don't think there's one you can pick out as head and shoulders above the rest, or one who's letting the side down.  Good work everybody!  Anyway, here's Confuse-A-Cat.

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