So what American TV show is Monty Python’s Michael Palin obsessed with? “Mad Men,” he told me last night at the jam packed premiere of the Monty Python 40th anniversary documentary, “Almost the Truth: (Lawyers Cut).”
The premiere was sponsored by IFC and BAFTA; I can’t remember seeing the Ziegfeld Theater so completely booked up. There literally was not a seat to be had for the doc and the Q&A afterward with Palin, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Carol Cleveland. A few celebs/fans showed up to pay their respects including Trudie Styler with her son Jake Sumner, Jeremy Piven, music manager and producer Peter Asher and his bw Wendy, Steve Coogan and a couple of the guys from “Mad Men.”
“Everyone’s looking for us,” Palin said at the afterparty across the street at the Parker Meridien. “But I can’t get over seeing the guys from ‘Mad Men.’ ” Palin’s seeing the second season in the U.K. now, so I didn’t ruin it for him with spoilers!
“Almost the Truth” was made by Terry Jones’s son, Bill, and it runs a total of six hours. We saw a two-hour edit last night, and it was incredibly funny and very absorbing. “At least, I didn’t fall asleep during it,” cracked Gilliam.
None of the Pythons have seen all six hours except Jones, but he’s the filmmaker’s dad.
“I don’t know if I sit through six hours of me and my friends,” said Palin. But he will, when he gets home.
Palin and Jones wrote the famous “Spanish Inquisition” sketch, and they each told that neither of them expected it to become a catch phrase. “When we shot it, I was more concerned about the hat I was wearing,” Palin told me. “I didn’t think anyone would be able to see me.”
Jones added: “I knew it was a hit from the beginning. It wasn’t obvious, and that’s what made it so good.”
The documentary covers all four decades, from the troupe’s early years, through the life and death of their friend and colleague Graham Chapman, up through Idle’s creation of “Spamalot.” Idle says he’s off to see the Spanish version of the hit musical soon. He doesn’t know a word of Spanish, however, not even how to say, “Always look on the bright side of life.”
But that’s what the Pythons do, four decades after their TV show hit it big in the U.K. I remember in 1971 when “Monty Python” overcame our junior high school lives: Every kid was doing Silly Walks and repeating the Dead Parrot sketch. “Monty Python” was a secret language.
Of course, there was no real person named Monty Python. Terry Jones said in the Q&A, “I always thought we were missing someone, we were waiting for someone. Maybe Mr. Python.” In short, the name was arrived at — after many failed tries — to suggest a jaunty snake.
The Pythons have a lot more ahead of them. They’re appearing in Eric Idle’s oratario, “Not the Messiah,” on October 23rd at Royal Albert Hall. It’s being billed as “Like Handel, only funnier.”
Here’s the Dead Parrot sketch, thanks to YouTube.
“Bereft of life, it rests in peace.”