October 6, 2017: TONIGHT ON METROFOCUS

The push to build another railroad tunnel linking New York and New Jersey may hinge on support from the White House.  Will the President get on board? Or will the gateway tunnel get stuck at the station?  We talk to Philip K. Howard, the chair of Common Good for the answers. A legend comes home.  Tony Bennett is back in the Big Apple to take Radio City by storm.  Ahead of the show, the music icon joins us for a conversation you don’t want to miss. An anniversary for the ages.  As Monty Python celebrates 48-years since the series premiered on the BBC, Python co-founder John Cleese keeps us laughing in this “MetroFocus” exclusive with a look back at television history.

 

TRANSCRIPT

TUNNEL TROUBLE.

THE PUSH TO BUILD ANOTHER RAILROAD TUNNEL LINKING NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY MAY HINGE ON SUPPORT FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.

WILL THE PRESIDENT GET ON BOARD, OR WILL THE GATEWAY TUNNEL GET STUCK AT THE STATION?

WE INVESTIGATE.

> A LEGEND COMES HOME.

TONY BENNETT IS BACK IN THE BIG APPLE TO TAKE RADIO CITY BY STORM.

THE MUSIC ICON JOINS US AHEAD OF THE CONCERT FOR A CONVERSATION YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS.

> AND AN ANNIVERSARY FOR THE AGES AS MONTY PYTHON CELEBRATES 48 YEARS SINCE THE SERIES PREMIERED.

PYTHON CO-FOUNDER JOHN CLEAVES KEEPS US LAUGHING IN THIS 'METROFOCUS' EXCLUSIVE.

ALL THAT AND MORE AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANNIGAN.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY -- CORPORATE FNUNDING WAS PROVIDED BY MUTUAL OF AMERICA, YOUR RETIREMENT COMPANY.

AND BY PSE&G, SERVING CUSTOMERS, STRENGTHENING THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY, AND INVESTING IN THE FUT FUTURE.

> A NEW TUNNEL TO CONNECT NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY TRAIN LINES AND EASE COMMUTING?

THE GATEWAY PROJECT, A PLAN TO BUILD JUST THAT TYPE OF STRUCTURE FOR CLOSE TO $30 BILLION, HAS STOPPED AND STALLED FOR YEARS.

NOW IT SEEMS THERE MAY BE A NEW ALLY FOR ITS CONSTRUCTION IN THE FORM OF PRESIDENT TRUMP.

LEADING I AUDITION DOES WITH NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY -- LEADING A DISCUSSION WITH NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY OFFICIALS THAT INCLUDED CHUCK SCHUMER AND CORY BOOKER AS WELL AS GOVERNORS ANDREW CUOMO AND CHRIS CHRISTIE, PRESIDENT TRUMP SEEMED ENTHUSIASTIC FOR THE PROGRAM.

DESPITE THE MEETING, THE WHITE HOUSE HAS NOT YET COMMITTED TO FUNDING.

GOVERNOR CUOMO LATER STATED, 'WHILE THE WHITE HOUSE MEETING WAS PRODUCTIVE, IT WAS INCONCLUSIVE.'

WILL THIS PROJECT EVER GET OFF THE GROUND?

JOINING ME WITH THE LATEST IS PHILLIP K. HOWARD, AN EXPERT ON THE GATEWAY TUNNEL PROJECT, AND CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMON GOOD, A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION WHOSE GOAL IS TO SIMPLIFY GOVERNMENT.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

NICE TO BE WITH YOU.

ALL RIGHT.

WE HAVE ALL OF THESE POWER PLAYERS, MOVERS AND SHAKESHAKER TOGETHER IN ONE ROOM, WHO PULLS THE TRIGGER AND SAYS OKAY BECAUSE IT SEEMS WE'VE BEEN CHEWING OVER THIS FOR DECADES.

PRESIDENT TRUMP PROPOSES A BUDGET, AND THE BUDGET NEEDS TO INCLUDE MONEY FOR THIS VITAL PROJECT FOR THE NEW YORK AREA WHICH IS 10% OF THE NATION'S ECONOMY.

CONGRESS HAS TO AGREE AND PUT THAT MONEY IN THE BUDGET.

IN THE BUDGET THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP PRESENTED EARLIER THIS YEAR, THERE WAS ZERO MONEY FOR THIS PROJECT OR INDEED FOR THE FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION WHICH FUNDS RAIL AND TRANSIT PROJECTS.

SO HE RECENTLY SAID THAT HE WOULD AGREE TO A 50/50 SPLIT WITH THE STATES ON THIS PROJECT WHICH IS WHAT THE STATES WERE ASKING FOR.

HE STILL HAS TO PROPOSE IT.

AND CONGRESS STILL HAS TO AGREE WITH IT.

SO THERE'S STILL A LONG WAY TO GO WITH THIS, UNFORTUNATELY.

WELL, THERE ARE DECISIONS TO BE MADE.

DECISIONS CAN BE MADE IN A MATTER OF WEEKS.

IT REQUIRES LEADERSHIP, COMMITTED LEADERSHIP, TO SPEND PUBLIC MONEY TO DO THIS VITAL PROJECT.

WELL, PERHAPS THE LEADERSHIP MIGHT BE MOVED IF THEY KNEW WHY THIS WAS SO IMPORTANT.

AND OF COURSE LEADERSHIP IS ALWAYS MOVED BY CONSTITUENTS AND THEIR CONCERNS.

THAT'S RIGHT.

OUTSIDE PRESSURE.

YES.

OUTSIDE PRESSURE.

SO WHAT MAKES THE GATEWAY TUNNEL SO CRUCIAL?

WHY IS THIS A NON -- NON- YDOAB PROJECT?

THERE ARE TWO RAIL TUNNELS INTO MANHATTAN THAT SERVE AMTRAK AND NEW JERSEY TRANSIT.

100,000 PEOPLE COME IN ON THESE RAILS EVERY DAY, AND 100,000 GO OUT.

THOSE TUNNELS WERE OVER 100 YEARS OLD, AND THEY WERE BADLY DAMAGED BY SUPERSTORM SANDY.

SOMETIMES THEY CLOSE DOWN, SOMETIMES FOR DAYS, WHEN PEOPLE -- THEY'RE SO FRAGILE AND DECREPIT.

THEY NEED TO BE -- THERE NEED TO BE TWO NEW TUNNELS BUILT SO THAT WE DON'T HAVE 25-MILE GRIDLOCK WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENS WHENEVER THEY CLOSE DOWN.

THEN ONCE THE TWO NEW TUNNELS ARE BUILT, THEN THOSE TWO OLD TUNNELS CAN GET REHABILITATED, AND THEN THE COMMUTE WILL BECOME QUICKER FOR DOUBLE THE CAPACITY.

AND AGAIN, I WANT TO SORT OF EXPLAIN TO PEOPLE ABOUT THIS NORTHEAST DIRECT ROUTE THAT ALL THESE TRENDS ARE TAKING.

IT'S NOT JUST COMMUTE TRAINS GOING THROUGH, LIKE NEW JERSEY TRANSIT.

THERE'S AMTRAK, THERE'S -- THERE IS --

WE'RE LIVING ON THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF OUR GREAT, GREAT GRANDPARENTS.

THESE TUNNELS WERE BUILT 105 YEARS AGO.

THERE WAS A BRIDGE IN BETWEEN NEWARK AND THE TUNNEL CALLED THE PORTAL BRIDGE WHICH WAS ALSO BUILT ABOUT 110 YEARS AGO.

THE BRIDGE WHICH IS BASED ON BASICALLY CIVIL WAR TECHNOLOGY, THIS OLD IRON AND WOODBRIDGE, SOMETIMES CATCHES ON FIRE.

THE BRIDGE HAS TO OPEN UP TO LET BARGES COME THROUGH ON THE RIVER, AND THEN SOMETIMES IT DOESN'T CLOSE PROPERLY, AND IT TAKES HOURS -- PEOPLE ARE SIT ON TRAINS FOR HOURS, ON AMTRAK, TRYING TO GET TO WASHINGTON OR GET TO NEW YORK WHILE THEY TRY TO LINE UP THE RAILS AGAIN WITH THIS BRIDGE THAT OUGHT TO BE IN A MUSEUM.

THAT BRIDGE HAS TO BE REPLACED.

THAT'S PART OF THIS PROJECT, TOO.

YOU CAN'T CONTINUE TO HAVE THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD WHEN PEOPLE GET STUCK IN 100-YEAR-OLD INFRASTRUCTURE ON AN UNPREDICTABLE BUT SOMEWHAT FREQUENT BASIS.

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE WILL NOW TO PUT GOVERNMENT FUNDING BACK INTO INFRASTRUCTURE THE WAY WE DID 100 YEARS AGO?

AS YOU WERE SAYING -- IS THERE ENOUGH POLITICAL WILL BEHIND THAT?

IF YOU WANT TO INVEST IN A MODERN ECONOMY, IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A MODERN -- YOU HAVE TO INVEST IN IT.

AND SO FAR WE HAVEN'T HAD THE POLITICAL WILL TO DO THAT.

CONGRESSMAN FREELNGHYEY AT THE N IS CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE.

HE SKILLFULLY IN THE PROPOSED BUDGET FROM THE HOUSE PUT IN $900 MILLION TO GET STARTED ON THE PORTAL BRIDGE, THAT ANCIENT 100-YEAR-OLD BRIDGE, REPLACING THAT RIGHT NOW.

AND IF CONGRESS WOULD PASS THAT, THE WORK WOULD GET STARTED TO FIX THAT BRIDGE LITERALLY IN, YOU KNOW, ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

SO THE FACT THAT WE'VE HAD, WHAT WAS IT, THESE FIVE GENTLEMEN TOGETHER IN THE ROOM, THE TWO SENATORS, THE TWO GOVERNORS, AND THE PRESIDENT, IS THIS A POSITIVE STEP, YES OR NO?

YES.

IT'S PROGRESS.

NOW THEY HAVE TO ACT ON IT.

LISTEN, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO JOIN US AND TALK TO US ABOUT SOME OF THE COMMON SENSE AND HOPEFULLY THE GATEWAY TUNNEL WHICH WE WILL HOPEFULLY SEE SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU.

> I'M JOHN CLEAVES, AND YOU'RE WATCHING 'METROFOCUS.'

IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING -- IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING, YOU ARE WATCHING 'METROFOCUS,' AND YOU SHOULD GET MEDICAL ATTENTION AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

♪ AS LONG AS I KNOW I HAVE LOVE I CAN MAKE IT ♪ ♪ FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE I HAVE SOMEONE WHO NEEDS ME ♪ [ APPLAUSE ]

> NO ONE ELSE IN POPULAR MUSIC HAS RECORDED FOR AS LONG AND AT SUCH A HIGH LEVEL OF EXCELLENCE AS THE LEGENDARY SINGER, ARTIST, AND PERFORMER T EER TONY BENNET.

FOR DECADES, THE SINGER HAS SOLD MILLIONS OF RECORDS WITH 24 SONGS IN THE TOP 40 INCLUDING 'I WANNABE AROUND,' 'THE GOOD LIFE,' 'WHO CAN I TORNAURN TO,' HIS SIGNATURE SONG, 'I LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO.'

♪ I LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO ♪

BUT HE BEGAN HIS ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT AS A YOUNG BOY HERE IN NEW YORK IN THE ASTORIA SECTION OF QUEENS, NEW YORK, WHERE HE WAS BORN?

9 -- WHERE HE WAS BORN SOME 90 YEARS AGO.

NOW HE AND HIS WIFE, SUSAN, A DEDICATED FORMER TEACHER AND CHAMPION OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS, ARE MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE FOR THOUSANDS OF NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS.

THEY STARTED THE EXPLORING THE ARTS OR ETA ORGANIZATION IN 1999 TO HELP TRANSFORM THE LIVES OF YOUNG PEOPLE THROUGH ARTS EDUCATION.

IT BEGAN WITH THEIR DREAM TO CREATE THE FRANK SINATRA SCHOOL OF THE ARTS, A PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL IN TONY'S HOMETOWN OF ASTORIA, QUEENS.

AND NOW THE ETA PROGRAM SERVES 23PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS, SOME IN NEW YORK AND SIX IN L.A.

I CAUGHT UP WITH BOTH AT THE PALEY CENTER FOR MEDIA COME IS CELEBRATING TONY'S 90 -- MEDIA WHICH IS CELEBRATING TONY'S 90 YEARS OF ARTISTRY WITH AN EXHIBITION OF HIS ARTWORK.

I BEGAN WITH ASKING ABOUT WHY HE IS SO PASSIONATE ABOUT SUPPORTING THE ARTS AND THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

I THINK THE AMERICAN PUBLIC SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED TO BE AS CREATIVE AS POSSIBLE.

WE SHOULD ALL CREATE.

THE MORE WE CREATE INDIVIDUALLY, THE MORE IT WILL GO OUT INTO THE WORLD, AND WE'LL GET GREAT RESPECT FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD FOR SAYING GOOD THINGS ABOUT BEING ALIVE.

SUSAN, YOU WERE A TEACHER FOR MANY YEARS.

I WAS, YEAH.

I'M SURE YOU SAW WHERE AS BUDGETS GOT TIGHTER ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THAT WENT AWAY WERE THE ARTS.

THE ARTS AND SPORTS.

THE TWO REASONS WHY KIDS COME TO SCHOOL.

TO KEEP THEM TO SCHOOL.

YEAH.

WHY WAS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR YOU AND TONY -- AND LET'S FOCUS FIRST ON THE FRANK SINATRA SCHOOL OF THE ARTS.

WHY WAS IT SO IMPORTANT TO CREATE THAT?

WHAT WERE YOU HOPING TO GET FROM IT?

WELL, AS YOU SAY, I WAS A TEACHER AT AN ARTS SCHOOL, ARTS HIGH SCHOOL.

TONY, WHEN HE WAS IN PUBLIC SCHOOL, THERE WERE GOOD ARTS PROGRAMS.

SO WE EACH IN OUR OWN WAY SAW FIRSTHAND THE DIFFERENCE THAT THE ARTS MAKE IN A CHILD'S LIFE.

WHEN YOU TEACH THE ARTS, THE KIDS WANT TO COME TO SCHOOL.

THEY TEND TO DO BETTER ACROSS ALL THE DISCIPLINES.

THEY TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHO THEY ARE -- AS A TEEN, YOU TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT DO I WANT TO DO IN SCHOOL.

THEY DISCOVER THEIR CREATIVITY AND THE CREATIVITY OF OTHERS AND CELEBRATE THAT.

THE GOOD THING ABOUT PUBLIC EDUCATION IS IT BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE.

YOUR FELLOW ARTISTS OR CLASSMATES MIGHT BE FROM A TOTALLY DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS THAN YOU.

YOU COME TOGETHER OVER THE SHARED EXPERIENCE OF CREATING OR SIMPLY EXPERIENCING ART.

YOU LOOK BEYOND THE DIFFERENCES, AND YOU'RE NO LONGER AFRAID OF THOSE DIFFERENCES.

YOU CELEBRATE AND REALIZE THAT MY PERSPECTIVE IS AS VALUABLE AS YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

AND THAT I THINK IS WHAT BRINGS THE WORLD TOGETHER, BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER, IS THAT SHARED EXPERIENCE IN THE ARTS.

I MEAN, AND TONY HAD ALL THESE WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES AS A YOUNGSTER WHERE HE WAS ABLE TO REALIZE HIS DREAMS, AND WE SEE THAT TAKEN AWAY.

LIKE YOU SAY WITH BUDGET CUTS.

TONY, LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THAT.

YOU AS A TEENAGER WENT TO A HIGH SCHOOL, THE HIGH SCHOOL FOR INDUSTRIAL ARTS.

RIGHT.

RIGHT.

HOW DID THAT HELP TO SHAPE YOU?

HOW DID THAT HELP TO PUSH YOU IN THE DIRECTION THAT YOU EVENTUALLY TRAVELED IN?

IT MEANT EVERYTHING.

IT MEANT EVERYTHING.

IN JUNIOR SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL, THEY SAID YOU NEED TO DO A LOT OF WORK.

THE NEW SCHOOL, THEY SAID GO INTO CENTRAL PARK.

I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT.

THEY SAID PAINT NATURE.

WANDER INTO THE PARK AND DO SOME PAINTING.

YEAH, PAINT NATURE.

STUDY NATURE.

THIS WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN HIGH SCHOOL?

HERE I AM 90 YEARS OLD AND STILL STUDYING NATURE.

STILL WANDERING INTO THE PARK TO STUDY.

HERE'S MY QUESTION FOR YOU -- IT'S NOT THE TONY BENNETT SCHOOL OF THE ARTS, IT'S THE FRANK SINATRA SCHOOL OF THE ARTS.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO PUT FRANK'S NAME ON THAT SCHOOL?

THAT'S HOW MUCH I RESPECTED HIM.

HE REALLY WAS THE FIRST ONE AS A SOLO ARTIST TO MAKE POPULAR MUSIC VERY, VERY FAMOUS.

I WAS INSPIRED BY HIM BEING 15 YEARS OLDER THAN ME.

HE WAS MY INSPIRATION.

TO THIS DAY, HE WAS A MAGNIFICENT ARTIST THAT ALWAYS DEPENDED ON QUALITY MUSIC.

I SAW AT ONE POINT IN TIME WHERE FRANK SINATRA SAID, YOU KNOW WHO THE BEST SINGER IS OUT THERE RIGHT NOW -- TONY BENNETT.

WHAT DOES HE KNOW?

I THINK HE KNEW A LOT.

TO PICK YOU --

IF I MAY, ONE OF OUR MOST SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMS THAT WE HAVE WITH OUR NONPROFITS EXPLORING THE ARTS IS OUR TONY BENNETT APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM.

IN A WAY, SINATRA WAS ONE OF YOUR MENTORS WHEN YOU STARTED OUT.

RIGHT?

NOW WE'VE --

HE GOT TO APPRENTICE --

YEAH.

TO A DEGREE.

IT WASN'T, YOU KNOW, A TRUE APPRENTICESHIP.

HE HELPED YOU OUT A LOT WHEN YOU WERE FIRST STARTING OUT.

AND SO INSPIRING TO ME.

I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT --

HE WAS SO GENEROUS TO YOU.

YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR NONPROFIT, TALKED ABOUT EXPLORING THE ARTS.

TELL ME ABOUT HOW THAT WORKS.

THERE ARE ABOUT 33 NOW PARTNER SCHOOLS THAT YOU HAVE --

BETWEEN NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES.

BETWEEN NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES.

EXACTLY.

HOW DOES IT WORK WHEN EXPLORING THE ARTS GETS INVOLVED WITH ONE OF THE PARTNER SCHOOLS?

WE WERE WELCOMED IN BOTH NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES.

BOTH CITIES VALUE THE ARTS SO MUCH AND PUBLIC EDUCATION.

IN A WAY, IT'S RATHER EASY.

WE DON'T HAVE TO GO THROUGH BUREAUCRACY.

WE REACH OUT TO SCHOOLS.

THEY SEND US PROPOSALS.

WE WORKED IN SCHOOLS FOR FOUR YEARS.

THEY WORKED ON BEING OUR GRADUATE SO TO SPEAK, OUR LEGACY SCHOOLS.

THE SINATRA SCHOOL, WE ALWAYS SUPPORT.

THEY PRESENT THEIR GOALS, AND WE WORK WITH THEM ON AN ANNUAL BASIS TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE WORKING TO ACHIEVE HIGH-QUALITY, SUSTAINABLE ARTS PROGRAMS.

IF WE HAVE A CERTIFIED ARTS TEACHER, WE HAVE TO HAVE AT LEAST ONE BECAUSE HOW CAN THEY SUSTAIN A PROGRAM.

IF THEY HAVE THAT, WE WILL COME IN WITH THE FUNDING AND GUIDANCE AND OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP STRUCTURE THE PROGRAMS SO THEY CAN CARRY ON.

WHAT KIND OF REACTION HAVE THE TWO OF YOU GOTTEN TO ALL THAT YOU'VE DONE FOR EDUCATION AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

WHAT KIND OF SATISFACTION HAS THAT PROVIDED FOR THE TWO OF YOU?

IT'S TREMENDOUSLY SATISFYING TO KNOW YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING GREAT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE, OF COURSE.

I ALSO SEE IT PERSONALLY AS I LOVE IT AS PART OF TONY'S LEGACY.

WE HE WANTS TO GIVE BACK.

THAT'S TREMENDOUSLY GRATIFYING.

AND ONE QUICK STORY, YOU PROBABLY REMEMBER IT, OUR FIRST GRADUATING CLASS OF SINATRA SCHOOL AMONG PEOPLE LIKE TONY AND HARRY BELAFONTE, JERRY SEINFELD, ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE, IT WAS GREAT.

WE HAD THE LATE GOVERNOR MARIO CUOMO.

I'VE NEVER FORGOTTEN THIS BECAUSE IT -- TALK ABOUT INSPIRATIONAL AND MOTIVATING YOU TO KEEP GOING, ESPECIALLY IN THIS DAY AND AGE.

HE WAS TALKING TO THE KIDS AND ENDED HIS SPEECH BY SAYING THAT A NATION GETS ITS SOUL FROM THE ARTS.

NOT ITS MILITARY OR ITS ECONOMY.

IT GETS ITS SOUL FROM THE ARTS.

AND THEREFORE, BRINGS HOPE TO THE WORLD.

SO WE CHALLENGE THE GRADUATES TO GO OUT AND GIVE HOPE TO THE WORLD.

AND I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, WHAT COULD BE BETTER THAN HELPING THESE YOUNG PEOPLE TO HAVE THAT OPPORTUNITY FOR THEM TO GO OUT AND GIVE HELP TO THE WORLD?

IT MIGHT SOUND CORNY, BUT IT TOUCHED ME.

IT TOUCHED THESE GRADUATES.

IF THAT'S WHAT WE'RE HELPING KIDS DO IS GIVE HOPE, WHAT COULD BE BETTER, MORE IMPORTANT ESPECIALLY IN THIS DAY AND AGE?

WE GO TO SLEEP ON THAT EVERY NIGHT.

IT'S BEEN A FASCINATING JOURNEY, OF COURSE.

AND WE ARE ALL SO THRILLED THAT IN SOME WAY WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPANY YOU ON THIS JOURNEY.

WELL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU.

IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE TALKING WITH BOTH OF YOU.

BOTH BE WELL.

THANK YOU.

♪ ♪ FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE I HAVE SOMEONE WHO NEEDS ME ♪

> IT IS NO MORE.

IT'S EXPIRED, GONE TO MEET ITS MAKER.

THIS IS A LATE --

THE CLASSIC DEAD PARROT SKETCH.

IN 1969, THE BBC INTRODUCED THE WORLD A NEW BRAND OF COMEDY.

A GROUP OF SKETCH COMEDIANS PUT TOGETHER A PROGRAM SO UNIQUE AND DIFFICULT THAT IT ONLY CAN BE DESCRIBED AS A FLYING CIRCUS.

MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS.

COMEDY ICON AND MEMBER JOHN CLOSE RECENTLY SAT BODOWN WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN TO REFLECT ON THE ORIGINS OF THE SHOW'S COMEDIC CHEMISTRY AND HISTORIC RUN RIGHT HERE ON PBS.

FIRST A WE CAN -- DID CLEESE THINK THE HUMOR BASED ON IDIOSYNCRASIES OF ENGLISH LIFE HAD A CHANCE TO FIND SUCCESS WITH AMERICAN VIEWERS?

WE NEVER THOUGHT IT WOULD HAVE A CHANCE IN THE UNITED ST STATES.

WE NEVER HAD ANY IDEA IT WOULD CATCH UP, AND OF COURSE IT DIDN'T CATCH UP UNTIL WE'D STOP MAKING TELEVISION SHOWS.

IT STARTED IN DALLAS IN '74.

THE PBS STATION IN DALLAS.

YEP.

ALL HIS FRIENDS RANG THE NEXT MORNING AND SAID HAVE THEY BURNED THE STATION DOWN.

HE SAID, IT'S ALL RIGHT, IT'S OKAY.

CAUGHT ON.

PBS AND SOMEBODY ON PBS ONCE SAID IF IT WASN'T FOR MONTY PYTHON, WE MIGHT NOT STILL BE AROUND BECAUSE WE DREW A LOT OF PEOPLE.

YEAH.

SO WE WERE -- MIND YOU, WHAT YOU PAID US.

I USED TO GET A QUARTER OF ONE CENT OF MY FEE.

BUT YOU WERE ON PBS.

THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH.

I WAS -- FUNNY.

LISTEN, I -- I USED TO GET A QUARTER OF 1% WHEN I USED TO GET 240 POUNDS A SHOW WHICH IS NOT A FORTUNE.

IF YOU DID 13 SHOWS, I MUST HAVE MADE SOMETHING IN THE ORDER OF $13.

SO HOW DID THE SIX OF YOU COME TOGETHER, THE SIX MONTY PYTHONERS?

WE KNEW EACH OTHER IN DIFFERENT WAYS.

WILLIAM SAW ME ON STAGE AND SAID HE LIKED THE FACES I PULLED.

AN ENORMOUS COMPLIMENT FOR AN ACTOR TO BE TOLD YOU PULL GOOD FACES.

AND I DID A MAGAZINE THING WITH HIM WHERE THEY PHOTOGRAPHED, AND I HAD DIALOGUE IN BUBBLES OUT OF THE MOTH.

CHAPMAN I -- THE MOUTH.

CHAPMAN I KNEW FROM CAMBRIDGE, '62.

I MET ERIC, MY LAST YEAR WAS HIS FIRST.

WE SAW EACH OTHER A LITTLE BIT AT CAMBRIDGE.

THEN THESE OTHER GUYS, THE OXFORD GUYS, MIKE AND TERRY.

THEY HAD DONE A SHOW IN LONDON, AND THEN THEY WERE UP AT THE EDINBOROUGH FESTIVAL WHEN ERIC WAS THERE.

WE SORT OF KNEW THEMATIV A PERIPHERALLY.

WHEN DAVID ASKED ME TO DO THE SHOW, THEY WERE ON THE RIGHT OF THE TABLE.

APART FROM MONTY WAS THE SCRIPT WRITER, MYSELF, CHAPMAN, PALIN, JONES, AND ERIC -- 1966.

THERE WERE, OF COURSE, ABOUT FIVE OTHER WRITERS.

THEY WERE OLDER THAN US.

WE ALL GOT ON TERRIBLY WELL TOGETHER.

THE VERY FIRST MEETING WHEN WE WENT TO THE HEAD OF ENTERTAINMENT AT THE BBC, THE GUY WHO GREETED US KNEW US A BIT.

HE SAID, I HEARD YOU WANT TO DO A SERIES.

WE SAID, YES.

HE SAID, WHAT ARE YOU PROPOSING TO DO?

AND IT'S SO TYPICAL OF -- THERE WAS AN AWKWARD SILENCE BECAUSE WE HADN'T DISCUSSED IT.

YOU HAD NO IDEA --

NO IDEA.

HE SORT OF ASKED US.

WE SAID, WE'RE GOING TO DO A HUMOROUS SHOW TO MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH.

COMEDY MATERIAL AND JOKES AND -- HE SAID, GO AWAY.

WITHOUT A PILOT?

WITHOUT A PILOT.

HE GAVE US A WHOLE SERIES.

HE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT WE WERE GOING TO DO, AND WE DIDN'T KNOW.

I'VE LEARNED FROM THAT.

I THINK THAT'S WHY IT WAS SO CREATIVE.

PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED -- IF WE COME UP WITH A CONCEPT AFTER THAT, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN FITTING OUR STUFF INTO THE CONCEPT.

BY STARTING OUT LITERALLY NOT KNOWING --

A BLANK SLATE.

YOU COULD FILL IT UP HOWEVER YOU WISHED.

EXACTLY.

AND YOU CAN LET THE SORT OF -- CREATIVITY COMES FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS.

IT COMES FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS.

AND YOU CAN'T GUESS WHERE THAT'S GOING.

WHEN I GO INTO THE SOUTH OR EAST FOR THREE MONTHS TO WRITE, I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M GOING TO WRITE.

I WON'T MAKE MY MIND UP FOR TWO OR THREE WEEKS UNTIL I SEE WHERE THE ENERGY IS.

AS THE QUAKERS SAY, WHERE THE SPIRIT IS MOVING ME.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHICH STEPS WOULD GO ON THE --

WE WOULD COME IN AND SIT AROUND A TABLE.

WE WOULD READ IT OUT.

IF PEOPLE LAUGHED, IT WAS IN THE SHOW.

IF PEOPLE LAUGHED AT HALF OF IT, WE WOULD SAY WE'LL KEEP THE FUNNY BIT.

THEN WE GOT THIS WAY OF DOING IT WITH A FLOW, CUTTING SKETCHES OFF WHEN THEY STOPPED BEING FUNNY --

NO CONVERSATION ABOUT WHO WOULD PLAY WHAT PART?

NOT AT ALL.

WE WERE RIGHTEOUS.

PEOPLE DON'T BELIEVE ME.

IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND PYTHON, WE WERE SIX WRITERS.

ALL THE SQUABBLING WAS ABOUT THE MATERIAL.

IN A SENSE, THE MOTIVATION WAS ARTISTIC.

WHAT'S THE BEST WAY OF DOING THIS?

SHOULD THE SKETCH GO THIS DIRECTION OR THAT DIRECTION, YOU KNOW?

IS THIS PARTICULAR PIECE FUNNY AS IS, OR SHOULD IT BE WRITTEN?

THAT'S WHAT WE ARGUED ABOUT LIKE CATS AND DOGS.

EITHER WAY, IT WAS QUITE GOOD BECAUSE IT CARED.

ONCE I GOT TO CASTING, IF I'D WRITTEN A SKETCH, I KNEW GRAY HAD TO PLAY THAT, ERIC HAD TO PLAY THAT, AND I HAD TO PLAY THAT.

A LOT OF THE SKETCHES WOULD BE CONSIDERED TODAY INSENSITIVE IF NOT DOWNRIGHT -- YOU KNOW.

I LOVE INSENSITIVE.

OR DOWNRIGHT OFFENSIVE.

IT BEGS THE QUESTION, COULD MONTY PYTHON BE PORN TODAY --

NO.

ABSOLUTELY -- BE BORN TODAY --

NO.

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

WE'D NEVER GET AWAY WITH IT.

IT'S FUNNY THAT BACK IN '69, WE NEVER THOUGHT WE COULD GET AWAY WITH IT ON AMERICAN TELEVISION.

NOW WE'VE GONE BACK THERE WHICH IS A LITTLE BIT SAD.

THE WONDERFUL THING IS THAT THE PYTHONS SEEM TO HAVE A KIND OF LICENSE.

PEOPLE SAY, WELL, YOU ALWAYS DID THIS, SO IT'S NOT AS THOUGH YOU SUDDENLY STARTED DOING IT.

ALSO THE LOVELY THING ABOUT GETTING OLD IS THAT WHEN PEOPLE COME TO SEE ME, THEY DON'T THINK I CAN'T STAND AND BUY SIX TICKETS -- THEY'RE THERE BECAUSE THEY LIKE MY STUFF.

THEY'RE PRESELECTED TO BE OKAY WITH THE KIND OF MATERIAL I DO.

I LIKE PLAYING WITH THIS BECAUSE IT'S FUNNY SOMETIMES WHEN THE AUDIENCE GOES 'UH.'

WE HAD FUN ON TOUR.

ERIC AND I -- WE USED TO GET QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE AND PUT THEM IN A GO-FISH BOWL.

I SAID WHAT IS THAT, HE SAID, DO YOU WANT THIS -- WHAT IS IT?

HE SAID, DID THE QUEEN KILL DIANA?

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

I LOVED THE RESPONSE.

I SAID, NOT WITH BARE HANDS WHICH GOT A GOOD LAUGH.

IT'S FUN SOMETIMES TO PLAY WITH THAT STUFF INSTEAD OF IMAGINING THAT EVERYONE IS SO FRAGILE THAT THEY'LL FALL APART.

I HAVE TO ASK, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ALL-TIME MONTY PYTHON SKIT?

PROBABLY THE CHEESE SHOP.

GRUYEÈRE?

EMMENTHALLER?

NO.

SHEER RELENTLESS NNESS OF TH LISTING OF THE CHEESES.

I HAD THE HAPPIEST TIME OF MY -- MICHAEL STARTED TO LAUGH AFTER 30 SECONDS OF THE SHEER PREDICTABILITY.

HE STARTED TO LAUGH AND COMPLETELY LOST IT.

AND I NEVER SEEN HIM LAUGH LIKE THAT.

HE SLID OFF HIS CHAIR ROLLED AROUND UNABLE TO STAND.

HERE -- ♪

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY -- ♪

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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