Monty Python at Work: A Behind-the-Scenes Account of the Making of the TV and Stage Shows, Films, Books and Albums
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Drawn from his published diaries, this is Michael Palin's account of the making of the Monty Python TV and stage shows, films, books and albums.
Monty Python at Work opens on 8th July 1969 with Michael Palin's diary entry for the first day of filming on the very first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. The diary entries that follow – up until the opening of their final feature film, The Meaning of Life, in 1983 – chart the tumultuous story of how the now famous shows and films were conceived and brought to life.
Palin records the evolution of Monty Python's comic style, the moments of creative inspiration as well as discord, the persistent self-doubt, and the happy accidents that shaped what are now classic comedy moments.
He captures too the group's many anarchic exploits (John Cleese in a bikini; driving a Budget Rent-a-Van up Glencoe in full chainmail; filming 'Scott of the Sahara' on the beach at Torquay...), as well as their battles with BBC suits, budget-conscious film producers and self-appointed censors.
Thanks to Palin's as-it-happened accounts, we are taken behind the scenes to watch with unrivalled intimacy the creative processes that led to the finished work, seeing how it was actually put together. By distilling everything about the Pythons at work, this edition of Palin's diaries serves as an intimate guide to the legendary shows, films, books and albums. It will delight Python fans everywhere, and be a source of instruction and inspiration to those who seek to follow in their footsteps.
'No writer-performer has combined professional hilarity and personal sanity more successfully than Michael Palin. Anyone interested in how comedy happens should hang on his every word.' David Mitchell
'Michael Palin's rollercoaster account of Python's glory years' The Stage
'Palin is a natural diarist and this amusing and barmy collection of day-by-day extracts gives a peek into the creative process of the comedy troupe' Daily Mail
artist, had done animated cartoons for London Weekend Television. Over the course of the next fourteen years, collaborating as Monty Python, they created three more television series, four cinema films, and various live stage shows in the UK, Canada and the USA, as well as five books and nine record albums. Throughout these years Michael Palin kept a diary, recording many aspects of his working, private and family life. The first two volumes of his diaries, edited by himself for publication,
there. The whole preparatory assembly runs two hours and eight minutes. General consensus is that it’s a most encouraging viewing. Some scenes provoked gales of laughter – including the latter half of Ben and Pilate’s audience chamber, the Hermit’s hole, Brian’s bedroom when the crowd arrive, and the Centurion and Matthias at the door of Matthias’s house (the searching). There was a consistent level of interest and no embarrassments, though I confess to finding Otto dangerously like a cameo
shows that there are as many of open mind as there are of closed – we are the 21st top-grossing movie, despite playing at only three sites. Wednesday, September 5th George Harrison calls. He went to see Brian – found a one-third black audience and a row of Orthodox Jews – all enjoying it. But he does tell me of an exquisite piece of justice. Whom should George find himself in the first-class lounge at Kennedy with, but Bernard Delfont – the man who turned down Life of Brian. George was not
visibly change the mood of the discussion. Universal want some previews in the US as soon as possible to test reaction. They want to attempt a first ad campaign too. All of which puts considerable pressure on my Indian travelling companion Mr Gilliam, who must cut his ‘Pirate’ piece, complete his animation and discuss ads, all before he meets me in Delhi on the 23rd of January. [Michael was planning to combine holiday visits to Kenya and India, where he was due to meet Terry Gilliam, with a
precedent for a groundbreaking TV comedy team morphing into a groundbreaking movie-making business. But two things brought us back together. One was the continuing appetite for Python. If we weren’t going to produce any new work then loyal fans, and there were many, would run and rerun the work we had already produced. They did this so successfully that by the 1990s a whole generation of fans were teaching their kids about it and the kids were as amused by it all as their parents. As a result,