JOHN CLEESE IS HERE

October 10, 2018 at 5:00 am

Monty Python’s flying circus crash landed on American public television more than four decades ago. Now, in a MetroFocus exclusive, comedy ringmaster and Monty Python co-creator, John Cleese, reminisces about his wild ride with this legendary group.

Aired on October 9, 2018.

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>>> THIS PARROT IS NO MORE.
IT HAS CEASED TO BE.
THIS IS A LATE PARROT.
>> THE CLASSIC DEAD PARROT
SKETCH.
IN 1969 THE BBC INTRODUCED THE
WORLD TO A NEW BRAND OF COMEDY,
A GROUP OF SKETCH COMEDIANS PUT
TOGETHER A PROGRAM SO UNIQUE AND
DIFFICULT, THAT IT Q ONLY BE
DESCRIBED AS A FLYING CIRCUS.
"MONTY PYTHON'S" FLYING CIRCUS.
JOHN CLEESE RECENTLY SAT DOWN
WITH RAFAEL P. ROMAN TO REFLECT
ON THE ORIGINS OF THE SHOW'S
COMEDIAN CHEMISTRY AND ITS
HISTORIC RUN HERE ON PBS.
>> WE NEVER THOUGHT IT WOULD
HAVE A CHANCE IN THE UNITED
STATES.
WE NEVER HAD ANY IDEA IT WAS
GOING TO CATCH ON.
OF COURSE, IT DIDN'T CATCH ON
UNTIL WE STOPPED MAKING
TELEVISION SHOWS.
IT STARTED IN DALLAS IN '74.
>> THE PBS STATION.
>> YES.
ALL HIS FRIENDS RANG THE NEXT
MORNING AND SAID, HAVE THEY
BURNED THE STATION?
IT'S ALL RIGHT.
IT'S OKAY.
>> IT CAUGHT ON.
>> AND THEN 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.
>> HOW DID THE SIX OF YOU COME
TOGETHER, THE SIX UPON ANY
PYTHONERS?
>> WE KNEW EACH OTHER IN
DIFFERENT WAYS.
GILLIAM SAW ME ON STAGE AND SAID
HE LIKED THE FACES I PULLED.
ENORMOUS COMPLIMENT.
CHAPMAN I KNEW FROM CAMBRIDGE IN
'62.
I JUST MET ERIC, IT WAS MY LAST
YEAR.
IT WAS HIS FIRST.
WE SORT OF KNEW EACH OTHER.
AND THEN THESE ARE THE GUYS, THE
OXFORD GUYS, MIKE AND TERRY.
THEY HAD DONE A SHOW IN LONDON,
AND THEN THEY WERE AT A FESTIVAL
WHEN ERIC WAS THERE.
WE KNEW THEM PERIPHERALLY.
WHEN DAVID KNEW THE SHOW, THEY
WERE ON THE WRITER'S TABLE.
THE SCRIPT EDITOR, THERE WAS
MYSELF, CHAPMAN, PALIN, JONES.
AND THEN, OF COURSE, THERE WERE
OLDER THAN US.
WE ALL GOT ON TERRIBLY WELL
TOGETHER THE VERY FIRST MEETING
WHEN WE WENT ALONG TO THE HEAD
WRITER AT BBC AND THE GUY WHO
GREETED US AND HE SAID I'VE
HEARD YOU WANT TO DO A SERIES.
WE SAID YES.
HE SAID, WHAT ARE YOU PROPOSING
TO DO?
SO TYPICAL OF PYTHON.
THERE WAS AN AWKWARD SILENCE
BECAUSE WE HADN'T DISCUSSED IT.
>> NO IDEA WHAT KIND OF SHOW YOU
WANTED.
>> HE SORT OF ASKED US.
WELL, WE'RE GOING TO DO A
HUMOROUS SHOW TO MAKE PEOPLE
LAUGH WITH COMEDY MATERIAL AND
JOKES AND VISUAL GAGS.
HE SAID GO MAKE 13 PROGRAMS.
>> EVEN 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.
BUT I LEARNED FROM THAT, YOU
SEE.
I THINK THAT'S WHY IT WAS SO
CREATIVE.
PEOPLE WILL BE SURPRISED.
IF WE COME UP WITH A CONCEPT
AFTER THAT, WE WOULD HAVE
BENEFITTING OUR STUFF INTO THE
CONCEPT.
BY STARTING OUT LITERALLY NOT
KNOWING WHAT WE WERE DOING.
>> A BLANK SLATE.
>> EXACTLY.
>> HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHICH
SKETCH WOULD GO ON THE AIR?
>> WE'D ALL GO AWAY AND WRITE
AND WE'D SIT AROUND THE TABLE
AND READ IT OUT.
AND IF PEOPLE LAUGHED, IT WAS IN
THE SHOW.
IF PEOPLE LAUGHED AT HALF OF IT
WE'D SAY WE'LL KEEP THE FUNNY
BIT.
WE GOT THIS WAY OF DOING IT WITH
KIND OF A FLOW BY CUTTING
SKETCHES OFF AT THE MOMENT.
>> THERE WAS NO COMPETITION AS
TO WHO WOULD PLAY WHAT PART.
>> NONE AT ALL.
>> WE WERE WRITERS.
PEOPLE DON'T BELIEVE ME.
IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND
PYTHON, WE WERE SIX WRITERS WHO
HAPPEN TO PERFORM OUR OWN STUFF.
SO THE SQUABBLING WAS ABOUT
MATERIAL.
IN A SENSE THE MOTIVATION WAS
VERY ARTISTIC.
WHAT'S THE BEST WAY OF DOING IT?
SHOULD THE SKETCH GO THIS
DIRECTION OR THAT DIRECTION?
IS THIS PARTICULAR PIECE FUNNY
OR SHOULD IT BE REWRITTEN?
THAT'S WHAT WE ARGUED ABOUT LIKE
CATS AND DOGS.
EITHER WAY IT WAS GOOD BECAUSE
WE CARED.
ONCE WE GOT TO CASTING, IF I HAD
WRITTEN A SKETCH WHERE I KNEW.
>> A LOT OF THE SKETCHES WOULD
BE CONSIDERED TODAY INSENSITIVE,
IF NOT DOWN RIGHT OFFENSIVE,
RIGHT?
>> I LOVE INSENSITIVE.
>> DOWNRIGHT OFFENSIVE.
IT BEGS THE QUESTION COULD
"MONTY PYTHON" BE BORN TODAY?
>> NO.
ABSOLUTELY NOT.
WE'D NEVER GET AWAY WITH IT.
BACK IN '69 WE NEVER THOUGHT WE
COULD GET AWAY WITH IT ON
AMERICAN TELEVISION.
NOW WE'VE GOT BACK THERE WHICH
IS A LITTLE BIT SAD.
THE WONDERFUL THING IS THAT
PYTHONS SEEMED TO HAVE A
LICENSE.
PEOPLE THOUGHT, WELL, YOU ALWAYS
DID THIS.
IT'S NOT AS IF YOU SUDDENLY
STARTED DOING IT.
ANOTHER THING IS IF PEOPLE GET
OLD, IF PEOPLE COME TO SEE ME,
THEY'RE THERE BECAUSE THEY LIKE
MY STUFF.
THEY'RE PRESELECTED TO BE OKAY
WITH THE KIND OF MATERIALLY DO.
I LIKE PLAYING WITH THIS BECAUSE
IT'S VERY FUNNY SOMETIMES WHEN
THE AUDIENCE GOES [ GASP ].
IT'S FUN TO PLAY WITH THAT STUFF
INSTEAD OF IMAGINING THAT
EVERYONE IS SO FRAGILE, THAT IF
YOU MAKE A JOKE ABOUT THEM,
THEY'RE GOING TO FALL APART.
>> I HAVE TO ASK YOU BECAUSE I
WANT TO KNOW.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ALL-TIME
"MONTY PYTHON" SKIT?
>> PROBABLY THE --
>> A NOR WEEJIAN --
>> WHEN I READ THAT OUT, I HAD
THE HAPPYIEST MOST OF MY ENTIRE
PYTHON CAREER WHICH WAS THAT
MICHAEL STARTED TO LAUGH AT 30
SECONDS.
IT WAS SHEAR PREDICTABILITY, AND
HE STARTED TO LAUGH AND HE
COMPLETELY LOST IT, AND I HAD
NEVER SEEN HIM LAUGH LIKE THAT.
HE SLID OFF HIS CHAIR ONTO THE
FLOOR AND ROLLED AROUND ON THE
FLOOR, UNABLE TO STAND UP.

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Funders

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