You’ve blasted through all 45 episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and their movies, but you want more. More surreal hilarity, lampoons of bureaucracy, insane animations, and volcanic anger.
Be careful what you wish for!
1. Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus
Following the success of the first two series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the team was invited to Germany by producer Alfred Biolek. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin created two 45-minute episodes. Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus has rarely been seen in the USA and United Kingdom but feature some well-known sketches.
Broadcast in January and December 1972, they feature the Silly Olympics (including the 200 meters freestyle for non-swimmers) and The Philosophers’ Football Match.
These episodes are yet to have a full DVD release, so you’ll need to track Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus down.
2. Fawlty Towers
Regarded as one of the greatest British sitcoms, if you haven’t seen Fawlty Towers, now is the time. Written by and starring John Cleese and Connie Booth, it’s about a hotelier who is completely unsuited to the job.
You see, Basil Fawlty is a snob, one with a strong misanthropic streak. He’s also petrified of his wife, Sybil (Prunella Scales) which leads him to make countless, snowballing, farcical errors of judgement.
Cleese was already well-known as a writer and performer when Monty Python’s Flying Circus began. However, Fawlty Towers (screened in two six-part series in 1975 and 1979), is considered his finest work.
3. Ripping Yarns
Following the end of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Michael Palin and Terry Jones also wrote a sitcom for the BBC. However, this was not a typical show, rather an anthology in classic pulp boy’s fiction style.
Ripping Yarns stars Palin (with occasional appearances by Jones) in a series of memorable roles. The first, Tomkinson’s School Days, is memorable for being set in a classic English school with its own tiger. Other adventures include Escape From Stalag Luft 112B, Across the Andes by Frog, and the soccer-oriented Golden Gordon.
This show, which aired from 1976 to 1979, is as barmy as it sounds, and every episode superb.
4. All You Need Is Cash (1978)
Telling the story of rock band The Rutles (“The Pre-fab Four”), All You Need Is Cash is a parody of The Beatles. Written by Eric Idle and occasional Python collaborator Neil Innes (Monty Python and The Holy Grail‘s minstrel), All You Need Is Cash was produced by Idle and SNL’s Lorne Michaels.
It’s stuffed full of excellent Beatles pastiches, written by Innes and Idle, who appear as the Lennon and McCartney equivalents, Ron Nasty and Dirk McQuickly.
A spoof rockumentary six years before This Is Spinal Tap, All You Need Is Cash features appearances from The Beatles’ George Harrison, alongside Michael Palin, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Mick Jagger.
The Rutles began life as a shorter spoof mockumentary on Idle’s Rutland Weekend Television show in 1975. In total, 14 episodes of that BBC show were produced, with more Idle/Innes madness. There’s also a Boxing Day special which features George Harrison in a pirate-obsessed guest appearance.
5. Clockwise (1986)
John Cleese appears as punctuality-obsessed school headmaster Brian Stimpson who accidentally finds himself late for everything in this movie. Rarely seen in the USA, Cleese is in fine form, interpreting playwright Michael Frayn’s script as if it were his own.
The trademark Cleese mania is largely bubbling under in Clockwise, save a couple of key moments. While it has the feel of an overlong sitcom, Cleese is excellent, and stars alongside Penelope Wilton (After Life).
6. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Another feature length comedy from John Cleese and arguably his best work. As barrister Archie Leach, Cleese is bored with life, and finds himself seduced by Jamie Lee Curtis’ femme fatale.
With Kevin Kline and Michael Palin co-starring, the movie is a comedy heist film. Curtis’ character Wanda Gershwitz and Kline’s Otto West are looking for stolen diamonds. Palin’s Ken Pile knows how to find them but is hampered by a terrible stammer and deep love of animals.
Packed with top performances, A Fish Called Wanda is a true comedy movie that you won’t want to miss.
A little bit different, this one. To watch Spamalot, you’ll have to venture to a local theater to catch a performance.
But you won’t regret it.
An insane combination of Monty Python and the Holy Grail skewed Arthurian take and every Broadway musical cliché you can think of, Spamalot even features “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from The Life of Brian for good measure.
Tim Curry, Peter Davison, and Alan Dale have all headlined on Broadway and London’s West End as King Arthur. These days you’re likely to see a more low-key performance, but it’s certainly worth every penny. At least, until the inevitable movie comes along…
Even More Monty Python
Want more Pythons? Look out for Michael Palin’s travelogues (Around the World in 80 Days, Sahara, Himalaya, etc.), John Cleese making cameos (he starred in a UK sitcom, Hold the Sunset, 2018-2019), and Terry Gilliam’s movies. Graham Chapman died in 1989 but contributed to many British sitcoms.
And Eric Idle is still singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
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