The Monty Python reunion in July might be the biggest cultural event of 2014. The Pythons- John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, minus the still dead Graham Chapman- are comedy royalty, and sketches like the Dead Parrot, the Lumberjack song and Sam Peckinpah’s Salad Days, as well as three movies, have sealed their status as masters of surreal humour.
Any rundown of iconic Python moments would make a very long list- so why this fairly short, critical piece? Well, as big as the reunion is, there are several factors counting against it. And so, like a Gumby repeatedly smashing his face with a brick, here are my biggest gripes, none of which contain the word semprini.
5. It’s Not A Full Reunion
Dying with excellent comic timing on the twentieth anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Graham Chapman was the team’s most able straight man (as well as its most able gay man). His innate dignity will be difficult to replace, and although it has been promised he’ll be included somehow, surely the best tribute would be the recognition that no reunion can go ahead without him?
A hellraiser off-screen, but the image of sobriety on it, Chapman once played Mr Neutron- the most terrifying and dangerous man in the universe- in bouffant wig, yellow pyjamas and pixie boots, and made him seem completely reasonable (“hairdressing is very interesting”). He transformed the utterly surreal into the charmingly mundane. The only real choice to portray King Arthur in Holy Grail and Brian in the Life thereof, Chapman managed to wring pathos from those beaten-down stoics, banging his coconuts together with unexpected- and genuine- gravitas.
Chapman could be erratic, but at his best he was the heart and soul of Python, and without him, the reunion will lack not just another doddering geriatric- it will lack its most relatable comic presence.
This article was first posted on January 12, 2014