When it comes to pop culture staples that have managed to spread across the entire world, few have been more successful than Monty Python. The British surreal comedy troupe, featuring members Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, is perhaps one of the most famous comedy groups to ever have existed.
A Brief History of Monty Python
Monty Python rose to fame in 1969 when the television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus first aired on the BBC. Their influence grew as the troupe began to release movies, including Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian (1979) and The Meaning of Life (1983), all of which are still highly praised to this day. Numerous books, albums and merchandise, as well as a few live stage shows, followed and by the late 1990s Monty Python had become a worldwide phenomenon.
The troupe’s influence reached far beyond comedy as well. Monty Python has even entered our lexicon, as the term ‘spam’ – meaning bulk, unsolicited emails or comments – is a reference to a 1970 sketch. In 1985, a fossilized snake was named the Montypythonoides Riversleighensis as its discoverer was a huge fan of the comedy troupe. Not only that, but the endangered Bemaraha woolly lemur is named Avahi Cleese after John Cleese.
More recently, the Python programming language created by Guido van Rossum was named after the troupe, evidenced by the number of Monty Python references that can be found in the sample code. In addition to this, back in 2001 an April Fools joke conducted by van Rossum and Perl creator Larry Wall during which they named the merger of Python and Perl “Parrot”, a reference to the sketch Dead Parrot. While there are surely many more instances of Monty Python impacting our every day lives, these are perhaps this most notable.
Monty Python, Media & Merchandise
Of course, Monty Python continues to reign supreme within the world of entertainment. There has been a number of theatre shows, including Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran between 1974 and 1980 and was comprised mostly of sketches from the original television show. From June 1 – 10 2007, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performed a show titled He’s Not The Messiah (He’s A Very Naughty Boy), which featured lyrics from Eric Idle and music by John Du Prez. Arguably, the most famous stage show is the musical Spamalot, which has gone on to win three Tonys and is still performed by troupes around the world today.
As physical memorabilia, there are currently 19 different albums and 21 books produced by the Monty Python cast and crew, ranging from 1970 to as recently as 2014. The most recent releases were the album Monty Python Sings Again and Monty Python At Work, which was a collection of diary entries by Michael Palin. The group has even managed to enter the incredibly popular industry that is gaming, with their first video game Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1990) appearing on numerous 8-bit systems. This release was followed by Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time (1994) for PC, Mac and DOS, Monty Python & The Quest for the Holy Grail (1996) and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1997).
In more recent years, Monty Python’s work has inspired a variety of online games. For instance, fans will find Monty Python’s Spamalot scratchcard alongside bingo rooms and slot games at Fabulous Bingo, in which players must match the prize symbol that appears on the parchment to any of the six symbols on the scratch card, which are generally made up of iconography from the franchise. Additionally, there’s Monty Python’s Camelot Smashalot, a sort of Angry Birds spin-off during which you catapult livestock, Holy Hand Grenades and Trojan Rabbits at French fortresses. If you’re interested in gaming on your smartphone, there are even some Monty Python themed apps including Monty Python’s Cow Tossing (2011), The Ministry of Silky Walks (2014) and Monty Python: The Holy Book of Days.
Needless to say, Monty Python lives on in through almost every sort of media imaginable, but what about merchandise? The official Monty Python online store sells t-shirts, collectable action figures, costumes and everything in between. There’s even a three-headed giant 12” plush that fans can purchase for £5. Elsewhere on the internet, there’s even more fan-made merchandise: for instance, on sites like Redbubble and Cafepress, there are more t-shirts, as well as smartphone cases, pillows and almost type of stationery you can think of.
Clearly, the global phenomenon that is Monty Python continues to live on today and while there may be a few cast members missing from the troupe, we hope that there is more to come in the future.