For decades, Monty Python has been notorious for cracking up audiences. The Pythons: John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and the late Graham Chapman, ended their comedy troupe after a 1980 performance at the Hollywood Bowl. After a 34 year hiatus, the group was back in action for a 10 day run of shows at the O2, a London arena in July of 2014. These 10 shows are the subject of Roger Graef and James Rogan’s documentary “Monty Python and the Meaning of Live.”
As expected, the film is filled with humor and insight into what it takes to create a successful show. One of the greatest things about the movie was the fact that Python fans and newcomers alike can understand the references. Through archive footage of clips from their TV show “Flying Circus” and first hand accounts from the Pythons themselves, audiences feel connected to the long history of the group. As Terry Gilliam points out, the film was an opportunity for audience members to “get a glimpse into the personal lives of the Pythons.”
“The Meaning of Live” gives audience members a glimpse into a bond between comedians that has spanned over 45 years. Between jokes, pseudo-arguments, and emotions occasionally brimming to the surface, the Pythons prove that nothing has changed.
The age of the Python’s is a key theme throughout the film. Cleese explains he enjoys being older because he now realizes what a “madhouse” the world is. However, Palin feels as though the spotlight on the age of the group is exaggerated. “Live” helps show that age is just a number. As Gilliam points out in one scene, “Onstage, we were kids again.” The film also shows the universality of comedy. By showing an ad for the O2 shows featuring the Rolling Stones followed by a clip from the groups performance on the BBC’s “The Graham Norton Show,” “Live” shows that young and old alike still love the Pythons.
“Live” gives audiences a look into the highs and lows of the Python’s career as a team, including their support from legendary rock bands, such as the funding for the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” that came from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. On the other hand, “Live” also gives insight into the unfortunate alcoholism that plagued Chapman, to whom the film is dedicated.
This well-organized, fast-paced movie takes audiences through the history of these comedy legends and gives amazing insight about what went into producing the last shows that the Python’s will do.The film opens to the group rehearsing for the shows, unsure if they could reproduce the sketches that made them legends, and ends with them saying farewell to audiences that have loved them for years. In typical Python fashion, that goodbye was a sarcastic “piss off.”