Thursday, April 17, 2014

#A-TO-Z CHALLENGE – LETTER “M” – MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS


MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS

Monty Python's Flying Circus was a British sketch comedy troupe and their show aired originally on the BBC from 1969 to 1974 and in the USA, the first segments of the show were aired during NBC's summer replacement series, Dean Martin's Comedyworld. The shows were made up of surreal sight-gags, risqué or innuendo-laden humor and observational sketches with no punchlines. The show also features animations by it's one American comedian, Terry Gilliam, and these were often sequenced or mixed with live action. The Flying Circus flew from 5 October 1969 on BBC One, with 45 episodes airing from 1969 to 1974, plus two episodes for German Tee Vee.


Monty Python's Flying Circus Logo; I can never play the "Liberty Bell March" by John Philip Souza without seeing that damned foot!

Again, with the grounding of Gilbert & Sullivan and with a heaping helping of Spike Milligan's style based upon his ground-breaking series Q5 (which became Q6, Q7, Q8. . .Q10, and then just There's A Lot of It About), the Pythons' show was not in the traditional sketch format and often targeted the idiosyncrasies of British life, especially that of professionals, and is at times politically charged. The member of Monty Python were highly educated; Terry Jones and Michael Palin were Oxford University graduates; Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman attended Cambridge University; and American-born member Terry Gilliam graduated from Occidental College. The team intended their humor to be nigh impossible to categorize and were so successful, that the adjective, “Pythonesque,” was invented to define it, and later, similar material.


Jones as Mandy, Brian's mother in The Life of Brian. Just hearing "her" talk prompts hysteria!
The Pythons play the majority of the characters themselves, including the majority of female characters (Terry Jones is undeniably the best and screechiest, at this) but would occasionally cast an extra actor. Regular supporting cast member include Carol Cleveland (referred to by the team as the unofficial “Seventh Python”), Connie Booth (Cleese's first wife, and regular on the amazing Fawlty Towers) series Producer Ian MacNaughton, Ian Davidson, Neil Innes and the Fred Tomlinson Singers for the musical numbers.

The John Philip Souza March, The Liberty Bell was used as the opening music, because it was in the public domain and could be used for free. I've played this many a time, and I can never play the thing without seeing giant feet coming down and squashing things.


Monty Python's Flying Circus Opening Montage

The title Monty Python's Flying Circus was partly the result of the group's reputation at the BBC. Michael Mills, the BBC's Head of Comedy, wanted their name to include the word “circus” because the BBC referred to the six members wandering around the building as a circus, in particular “Baron von Took's Flying Circus”, after Barry Took, who had brought them to the BBC. The group added “flying” to make it sound less like an ACTUAL circus and more like something from World War I. They were coming up with their name at a time when the 1966 Royal Guardsmen song Snoopy vs. The Red Baron had been at a peak. Manfred von Richtofen, the WWI German flying ace known as the Red Baron commanded a squadron of planes known as “The Flying Circus.” The words “Monty Python” were added because the group clamed it sounded like a really bad theatrical agent; the sort of person who would have brought them together. They chose “Monty” because the name “Monty” made them laugh, as in “Lord Montgomery” the great general of Second World War.

Each of the Python members had recurring characters that they specialized and honed. Among the afore-mentioned Jones' screechy, loud and disheveled “Rat-Bag woman”, the best in the business, were Terry Gilliam's “Cardinal Fang” as a member of the Spanish Inquisition, which would pop up from time to time in some completely unrelated sketch. John Cleese, played ridiculous authority figures (a role he was to re-create in Fawlty Towers) and intimidating maniacs. Terry Gilliam claims that Cleese was one of the funniest Pythons in drag (a staple of their humor) as he barely needed to be dressed up to look hilarious, with his square chin, 6' 5'' frame and one of Cleese's most memorable, Mr. Praline, the put-upon consumer, is featured in some of the most famous sketches, most notable “Dead Parrot” (voted by TV Guide as the second-funniest sketch of all time).


Dead Parrot sketch, voted #2 funniest sketch of all time, by TV Guide.

TerryGilliam was responsible for the off-the-wall animation that would go off on bizarre, imaginative tangents. Some running gags culled from these animations were a giant hedgehog named Spiny Norman, who appeared over the tops of buildings showing, “Dinsdale!” The foot is appropriated from the figure of Cupid in Agnolo Bronzino's “Venus,Cupid, Folly and Time”. Gilliam was hired mainly as animator, and didn't even think of himself as an on-screen performer at first, but the others felt they owed him something, so he occasionally appeared before camera, usually in skits that no one else wanted to play, generally because they involved a lot of make-up or uncomfortable costumes. His most recurrent character was The-Knight-Who-Hits-People-With-A-Chicken, a knight in armour who would walk on-set and hit another character on the head with a plucked chicken when they said something really corny.

Graham Chapman often portrayed the straight man, of any age or class, frequently a military officer, policeman, or doctor. He could, at any moment, though, break character, launch in “Pythonesque” maniacal behavior and then just as quickly, revert back to his former calm self. 
 
Eric Idle was most known for his roles as a cheeky, suggestive playboy “Nudge, Nudge,” or as a crafty, slick salesman (“Door-to-Door Joke Salesman”) and the merchant who loves to haggle in Monty Python's Life of Brian, and the master of the one-liner. He was also the best singer/songwriter of the of the group; for example, he wrote and performed “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from The Life of Brian.


The Life of Brian's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" Warning: May be considered sacrilegious to Christians! I'm a Catholic and we find this hilarious, because Catholicism isn't for wimps. If you've ever seen an ex-communication, you'll understand; that's how we roll. Look at the Spanish Inquisition. Ain't nothin' Christian about that!

Michael Palin was regarded by the other members of the troupe as the one with the widest range, equally adept as a straight man or wildly over the top character. He portrayed many working-class characters and in contrast, also played, weak-willed, put-upon men, such as the husband in the “Marriage Counsellor” sketch, or the boring accountant in the “Vocational Guidance Counsellor”. He was equally good as the indefatigable Cardinal Ximinez of Spain the “The Spanish Inquisition”. One of his best and most famous creations was the shopkeeper who attempted to sell useless goods by very weak and ineffectual attempts at being sly and crafty, which are always spotted by the customer (often played by John Cleese), as in the “Dead Parrot”. Palin is also well known for his leading role in “The Lumberjack Song”.


 The Lumberjack Song

For a short-lived troupe and show, their influence on comedy has been monumental. At the end of their BBC run, the show earned enough money and interest to allow it to be picked up in its entirety by PBS, although bits and pieces of it had run on American television for years. The Flying Circus went one to create and produce, “Monty Python's Meaning of Life”, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, and “Monty Python's Life of Brian” among others. There have been stage shows and SNL's Lorne Michaels counts the show as a major influence on Saturday Night Live sketches. In computing, the terms spam and the Python programming language are both derived from the series. None other than Douglas Adams, the writer of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and a sometimes writer on the show, wished to audition for the part of John Cleese, and was saddened when he found the "part was already taken". Probably the highest accolade however is this: as of 2013, questions concerning the Pythons' most famous sketches have been incorporated into the examinations required of those seeking to become British citizens. Quite an honor, for a surrealistic comedy troupe!

BOOK RELEASE ANNOUNCEMENT AND RAFFLE-COPTER!!!



Title: Golden Dawn
Author: Aldrea Alien
Genre: Paranormal


Release date: April 18th, 2014

From now until April 18th, I will be show-casing Aldrea Alien's newest release, Golden Dawn. This will include an raffle-copter (be sure and enter!) and well. . . I'll let her take it from here!

 Family and blood.

After 1100 years, these simple words mean everything to Herald. His life has been ruled by keeping his siblings safe, keeping them from becoming prey whilst feeding on the weaker. His failures have been many and measured by those he has lost. People like his twin brother.

There has always been an enemy to push back or defeat.

Just who the enemy is comes into question when Herald meets the dangerous, angelic creature he is to guard. Wondering where his true loyalties lie is a dangerous thought. No matter whether he chooses family over the heart, it will mean death.

Only the right choice will ensure the life taken is not his.

Buy Links:


Andrea Alien

Author Bio:
Born and raised in New Zealand, Aldrea Alien lives on a small farm with her family, including a menagerie of animals. Since discovering a love of writing at the age of twelve, she hasn't found an ounce of peace from the characters plaguing her mind.






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