And now for something completely lucrative
Monty Python are re-forming. Is it because they need the money? And what can they offer their fans?
Flying Circus: Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin in the 1970s. Photograph: BBC
And now for something completely predictable: Monty Python said this week that they are re-forming for a show at the O2 in London, with a tour likely to follow. It’s cash-in-your-status-chips time for the quintet in a move that will dismay as many people as it will excite.
Now all in their 70s, the surviving Pythons – John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam – haven’t worked together since their last film, The Meaning of Life, which was released 30 years ago. (Graham Chapman died in 1989). They had always said they would never get back together because of their age, geographical spread – Idle lives in Los Angeles – and their solo careers.
But on Thursday they announced details of a “one-off” performance in London on July 1st. It won’t be a one-off: it will sell out in brisk time when tickets go on sale, on Monday morning, and more days – weeks, even – will be added. Then it will likely travel to Broadway, with a live DVD also being scheduled.
Two key events earlier this year led to the Pythons’ announcement. In July one of the producers of their film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Mark Forstater, won a high-court case against the comedians about royalties from Spamalot, the hit musical based on the movie.
Since 2004 Spamalot has made hundreds of millions of euro in ticket sales. Forstater took the action because he believed he was entitled to a share of that money. The court having found in his favour, further hearings will determine how much he is awarded. The Pythons’ legal fees are believed to be substantial.
Also this year, Jim Beach was believed to have become Monty Python’s new manager. Beach is the long-time manager of the rock group Queen and was the prime mover behind getting We Will Rock You, the musical that uses the band’s songs, on stage. Translating big-name acts into theatrical productions is what Beach does best.
It’s no surprise, then, that Idle said on Thursday that the new show will be like “a huge musical”. John Cleese added that there will be “some new material”, but this will be mainly a greatest-hits affair – and, given the Pythons’ status and the rarity of live shows by them, box-office records could tumble.
Doing it for the money?
Critics already say that Monty Python are doing it for the money. Although the comedians aren’t poor, it seems they are not nearly as rich as they deserve to be. Despite being the “Beatles of comedy”, they were always more cult than mainstream, and they broke up well before the entertainment industry became as sophisticated at making money as it is today.