Forty-five years after their singular brand of comedy debuted on British television, members of the comedy troupe Monty Python will reunite next year for their first live show in three decades.
The one-night-only affair will play in London on July 1.
“I think you can expect a little comedy, a lot of pathos, some music and a tiny bit of ancient sex," said Eric Idle at a press conference in London Thursday.
He stood in front of a banner with the group’s trademark giant foot and the words “One Down, Five to Go” — a reference to late member Graham Chapman, who died of cancer in 1989, and the advancing ages of the five surviving members.
Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam are all in their 70s. Cleese will not be reprising his noodle-boned performance in the famous “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch, he insisted — he has an artificial knee and hip.
Medical teams will be on hand during the performance, Palin said. He was joking. Probably.
The six members of Monty Python met as young men, most fresh from Oxford or Cambridge universities (Cleese met Gilliam, the only non-Brit, while touring with his Cambridge theater group in New York.)
Their groundbreaking style of sketch comedy drew heavily on word play, music, physical slapstick and more than a little bit of silliness.
The sketch television show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” ran on the BBC from 1969 to 1974. They followed it with “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1974), “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” (1979) and other films.
“Flying Circus” went on to air in some 100 countries. Monty Python has fans worldwide. Critics have called it comedy’s equivalent of the Beatles. Palin has said he was recognized as a Python on the slopes of the Himalayas — albeit by someone who thought he was Eric Idle.
On Thursday, a Hungarian woman who declined to give her name stood outside the Playhouse Theater where the group was due to appear, nervously checking her digital camera settings and hoping for a glimpse of her idols.
“I can’t explain it,” she said of her fandom, which began when she saw the “Flying Circus” on Hungarian TV. “They’re so funny. My Monty Python friends” — fellow fans she’s met on Internet forums — “are in England, America, all over the world.”
The group had dismissed rumors of a reunion for years, with Idle claiming that they’d get back together "just as soon as Graham Chapman comes back from the dead.”
South Park creators and longtime fans Trey Parker and Matt Stone finally convinced them to go ahead with it, Jones told a local London newspaper.
There’s another, less romantic reason for their reunion: money.
The group lost a $1.6 million lawsuit last year by a former producer over unpaid royalties. Cleese owes his third wife a $19 million settlement from their divorce four years ago.
"I'm quite excited about it. I hope it makes us a lot of money. I hope to be able to pay off my mortgage!" Jones told the BBC Tuesday.
They gently sidestepped rumors that their post-Python relationships have been less than warm. Well, mostly sidestepped.
“We may not like one another, but put us together in a room and we laugh a lot,” Gilliam said.
Tickets will probably sell out immediately when sales open Monday. But how will gags such as The Dead Parrot, “Lumberjack Song” and Upper Class Twit of the Year (just YouTube them) play in a new century?
Part of the appeal of Monty Python’s comedy was that no one had ever seen anything quite like it — it was, as the “Flying Circus” voice-over put it, something completely different.
Will it still resonate decades later, after generations of comedians have tweaked and built upon what the Pythons started?
"The fact that it still goes well after 40 years is astounding and genuinely surprising,” Idle said. “It’s general satire about humanity and it seems to travel well.”
He waited a beat before adding: “I think the clever thing was we waited ‘til the demand died down.”