Our 2019 season is just around the corner, and we’re already hard at work on our season opener -- Spamalot. To help promote the show, we decided to try something “completely different,” -- blogging! Every week, or so, we plan to bring you fun and interesting content related to Spamalot, so stay-tuned! And, while you’re enthusiastically waiting for all our great Spamalot blog posts, be sure to meet us at the Empress for Little Women (Dec 7-22). Don’t let the 2018 season end without seeing this inspiring and heartwarming show!
In this first blog post of our Spamalot series, we introduce the comedy troupe that originated the source material for our show -- Monty Python. Spamalot is the musical re-tooling of the comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But, who or what is Monty Python?
Monty Python is a six man sketch comedy troupe often referred to as “The Beatles of Comedy,” because of their massive influence on comedy and popular culture. The troupe consists of comedy writers and performers John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Eric Idle, and animator Terry Gilliam (the sole American in this otherwise all-British group). The six men had worked variably in british television during the last half of the 1960’s. In 1969 the group decided to join forces to create “something completely different” for the BBC -- the now legendary sketch comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But who, exactly, was Monty Python?
What’s in a Name
Turns out, there is no Monty Python. It’s just one of the many silly names the six men pitched to the BBC. Flying Circus stuck because the BBC printed it in their schedules for the next season and were unwilling to change it, no matter how many other silly names the comedy troupe came up with. The origin of the Monty Python part of the name is less clear, with different members of the troupe remembering different versions of the origin story. Officially, the BBC claims that the name was “envisaged by the team as the perfect name for a sleazy entertainment agent.”
And Now for Something Completely Different
Monty Python’s Flying Circus was more than just sketch comedy. According to the Pythons themselves, it was a “gleeful deconstruct[ion] of the very medium of television.” The troupe didn’t belabor their sketches with traditional storytelling arcs, tortured punch-lines, or topical gags (all staples of traditional sketch comedy). They produced comedy that was, in their words, “unpredictable, aggressive, and irreverent.” Sometimes a sketch ended by the actors breaking the 4th wall. Sometimes sketches were interrupted by the now iconic announcement, “and now for something completely different,” or a man in a full suit of armor with a rubber chicken, or were simply smashed by a giant illustrated foot (courtesy of Terry Gilliam). Sometimes the sketches blended together, with characters from one sketch wandering the background of another sketch. Sometimes they seemed completely randomized and isolated. All were weaved together brilliantly by Gilliam’s cut-out animation in a surreal, stream-of-consciousness structure.
Beyond the Circus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus success, both in the U.K. and across the globe, resulted in the six creators becoming collectively known as Monty Python and expanding their comedic genius beyond television. The Pythons went on to produce a string of highly successful vinyl albums, books, feature films, and live on-stage tours; a Tony award-winning Broadway musical; a comic oratorio; and even a few video games.
As “the Beatles of Comedy,” Monty Python not only influenced comedy, but also modern culture. For example, internet “spam” derives its name from their famous “SPAM sketch." They are also the namesake of a computer programming language; a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor; and various recently discovered heavenly bodies, fossils, and mutant genes.
The Empress Gets Silly
British comedian and frequent Python stand-in, Eddie Izzard, said, “the essence of Monty Python’s comedy is a wonderful mix of intelligence and silliness,” and our Spamalot cast and crew are embracing that essence handily. They kicked-off their first day of rehearsals with a Monty Python themed pot-luck breakfast, complete with “spam spam spam Eggs and spam” casserole, “a shrubbery” salad, “2 empty halves of coconuts banging together” breakfast bars, “knights of the round bagels,” and “wafer thin dinner mint” cookies.
Don’t worry if you don’t “get” all the Monty Python references just yet. Come find out for yourself at the Empress as we present Spamalot January 18- Feb 2, 2019. Buy your tickets online today! In the meantime, here are some of our cast members’ favorite Monty Python sketches and quotes to get you in the mood. Got a favorite Monty Python sketch or quote of your own? Share it with us in the comments section. We love to hear from our readers!
Emily Jameson Since I'm apparently a twelve year old boy inside, I adore the French taunter and love yelling, "I fart in your general direction!" Farts are ALWAYS funny.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSo0duY7-9s)
Kevin F. Pope My favorite Monty Python sketch is "Argument Clinic". “This isn’t an augment” “Yes it is” “No it isn’t, it’s just contradiction.” “No it isn’t" “Yes it is” “It is not” “It is, you just contradicted me” “No I didn’t” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxrbOVeRonQ)
Melanie Turner My son’s favorite is the Black Knight and only a flesh wound sketch.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmInkxbvlCs)
Tanner Larsen "Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4_9kDO3q0w)
Charity Jones Mine is Tim the bridge keepers lines from the film (not in the stage production): “What is your favorite color?...” “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” Arthur: “what do you mean? African or European?”(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWS8Mg-JWSg)
Alyssa Powers Oh my goodness, so many favorites, but one of my favorite sketches has to be, "The Bookshop." I *may* have referenced it in my bio! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCM2nEBE0RY&t=2s)
Scott Ricks It is nearly impossible to choose a favorite Monty Python sketch but this is definitely on of my favorites: “Guards! Make sure the Prince doesn't leave this room …" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdKa9bXVinE)
Rod Hansen Wow. This is a difficult question. It is like picking my favorite child. (He or she knows who he or she is.) I use so many phrases from Monty Python every day! Obviously, I love "The Holy Grail" but my favorite sketch that I watched today is "Self Defense Against Fresh Fruit." It is hilarious, but also teaches some useful defense tips. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JgbOkLdRaE)
Michelle Gardner As a kid I loved the Knights who say NI! And the scene that Scott referenced. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIV4poUZAQo)