Saturday 6 October 2012

Why I think I might be the biggest Monty Python fan

This is my entry in the British Film Institute's competition:

Here are 28 reasons why I think I could win this competition:

Monty Python itself                                     
1) I first saw the Flying Circus on a black and white TV in 1969 aged 9. It meant nothing to me, plus I was disappointed there was no circus as promised. My big brothers loved it and I couldn't figure out why. Then in 1973 aged 13, a school friend played me his Python albums and I got completely hooked. Python has been a major part of my life ever since.
2) I recently visited Teddington Lock where the famous fish-slapping dance was filmed.
3) I own all 45 Flying Circus TV shows, all 4 movies, all the Python audio albums, an original copy of the "Big Red Book", the "Papperbok", "Just the Words" (the complete scripts of all 45 TV shows) as well as the scripts of almost all the movies, and I also attended  "Not the Messiah", Monty Python's 40th anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall. 
4) I have seen "Monty Python's Spamalot" 11 times since 2007 and blogged about it each time, and I was part of the Spamalot-hosted world's largest coconut orchestra in Trafalgar Square. I blogged about that too. Last month, I won Harold Pinter Theatre's Spamalot's competition for a free goody bag (because no one else entered)
5) In 2011, I saw Hampstead Theatre's Monty Python legal docu-drama play "No Naughty Bits" twice, the second time being press night which was attended by Terry Gilliam who signed my copy of the script, together with Nancy Lewis-Jones (a central character in the play and wife of Simon Jones who plays an official in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil").
6) In 1979, I transcribed the entire "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" soundtrack album - yes, on a typewriter!! - as a present to the same friend who got me hooked in 1973.
7) In 2009, I carried out some research on a voluntary basis for Bill and Ben Productions when they were putting together the "Almost The Truth" documentary. In return, they gave me a credit in the movie in the 'With Special Thanks' section. Priceless!
8) I run the Pythonesque blog and Twitter account. If you search for "biggest monty python fan" in Google, #1 of the 2.2m results is the BFI announcement of this competition, but at #2 and #3 you will see my blog post entitled, "Are you the biggest Monty Python fan of your country?" predating the BFI article by over two years. So there!

9) Python is such an important and central part of my life which has even shaped the way I see the world, I can't imagine it being possible to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't get Python. It's like being tuned into a very weird wavelength. You're either tuned into it or you're not. My ex most certainly was not. No surprise we split then. She considered Python to be infantile drivel! So in finding a new life partner, my top priority is to find someone who at least gets it. This is paramount for me, while age and looks do not matter (that is a blatant lie!) I am hoping that, out there somewhere, is a gorgeous 30-something, Python-quoting single lady. If this BFI competition helps me find her, what a story that will be!

10) I have suggested to Methuen, Python's publishers, on many occasions to bring out a book of the scripts of the albums. In many ways, I find the albums better than the TV shows as they are so polished and contain so many gems. But to this day, many have never even heard of the albums! This is sacrilegious! I'm hoping that the release of the scripts will stimulate a resurgence of interest in the albums. I'm going to keep pushing for this until the book is in print. It's unthinkable to me that this book does not already exist!

11) I was actually considering studying Python for an MA or similar post graduate qualification (but real life intervened). Photo:

12) Future Plans: Preferably not alone, if you know what I mean, I want to visit more Python filming locations such as Doune Castle and the streets where the Gas Men, Silly Walks and Hungarian Phrasebook sketches were filmed. And at this rate I shall, no doubt, want something Python-related played at my funeral... will have to think of something more original than "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" though.

Individual Monty Python members

13) I met Terry Jones and Michael Palin together by chance in 1975 when they were working on Ripping Yarns. While my brother, Steve, was giving me a lift driving through Soho, he stopped at the Nellie Dean Pub to buy some cigarettes. In the pub BY COINCIDENCE were Michael and Terry. I used to collect autographs at the time (I was a teenager, come on!) and the celeb I had just met previously wasn't particularly friendly. So my first words to Terry and Michael were: "Excuse me, are you nice famous people?" Michael's response was to say to Terry, "I'll 'old 'im," whilst grabbing the labels of my coat, "and you 'it 'im." In my autograph book, they wrote "Michael and Terry, Nellie Dean Pub, Mon-Fri 8-8.30pm". I have since met them both again on several occasions, the most recent being the signing of the recently released "Ripping Yarns" DVD.

14) In 1989, I attended the premiere of "Erik the Viking" in Brighton where I managed to say hello to Terry Jones again.  
15) I am a big fan of Eric Idle's 1990 film "Nuns on the Run", so much so that I visited its filming locations in Chiswick, London.
16) I attended the "Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball" for which the billing included John Cleese and Michael Palin. I managed to speak to John when he popped out of the theatre for a break. I asked him what the Neville Shunt sketch meant, and he explained it to me!
17) I managed to catch the Oxford performance of John Cleese's Alimony Tour last year. 

18) Astrophysicists had told Eric Idle that the figure he gives in the lyrics for the width of the Milky Way in "The Galaxy Song" was incorrect, so he changed the figure in future live performances to what they had said was more accurate. Then another astrophysicist discovered that Eric was actually right all along. I noticed that Eric was not aware of it because he was still using his altered figure. I managed to get this message through to Eric via the then administrator of Eric's response was "I wish they'd make up their fucking mind!"

19) I was given permission by the Python office in 1990 to visit the set of Michael Palin's movie, "American Friends". I met with Michael and Charles McKeown and watched a scene being filmed. I also visited the Liberal Club in London where a scene from Michael's movie, The Missionary, was filmed.
20) In May 2011, I attended Terry Gilliam's debut as an opera director. 'Damnation of Faust' by Berlioz was performed at the ENO. On the way to my seat, I bumped into Elton John's percussionist, Ray Cooper, who has appeared in several of Terry's films, including 'Brazil'.

21) When I first saw Terry Gilliam's movie "Brazil" in 1986, it was rather a life-changing experience; an epiphany. I loved it SO much, it became another major part of my life. I have been to most of its filming locations and have met more than half the cast who signed my book "Battle of Brazil". I also - out of the blue - bumped into 6 members of the cast entirely BY COINCIDENCE. e.g. Bryan Pringle came into the restaurant I was in while I was talking about Brazil with my mother; Ian Richardson walked past me in the street in my hometown, and in 1991, I spotted Terry Gilliam at Gatwick Airport and invited him to lunch (as you do). I brought along my Brazil scrapbook and we spent 3 hours discussing the film and my obsession with it. In my book, he wrote: "Thanks for keeping "Brazil" alive! - at least in your mind. It makes me feel it was all worthwhile. Thanks for letting us take over your life, Yours Terry Gilliam. From the hand of the Ministry."

22) Apart from Graham Chapman, Eric Idle was the last Python I had not yet met. I finally caught up with him at the stage door of "Not the Messiah" at the Royal Albert Hall in 2009.

23) I was invited BY COINCIDENCE to Adobe UK's private screening of "A Liar's Autobiography" in October 2012 where I met Bill Jones (Terry's son), one of the 3 directors of the movie, and was photographed with him and Graham Chapman! Not meeting Graham is such a regret for me, but I felt I got pretty close to him that night.

People who have worked with Monty Python
24) I met up with Neil Innes after his show during one of his recent UK tours. 
25) I also met Carol Cleveland at the Royal Albert Hall after "Not the Messiah".

26) Julian Doyle and his daughter Margarita have worked with the Pythons on scores of projects for decades. I got a photo taken with them at the world premiere of Julian's movie, "Chemical Wedding". Julian is probably most well known to Python fans as the policeman who puts his hand over the camera at the very end of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and Margarita was the voice of Central Services in "Brazil": "This has not been a recording."

27) In December 2011, André Jacquemin, Python's sound engineer, was kind enough to invite me (plus friends) to his studio to listen to outtakes from the Python albums as well as see an exclusive preview of the first 9 minutes of "A Liar's Autobiography" which he was doing the sound for at the time.

28) At the premiere of Chemical Wedding, I also met up with Terence Bayler who delivers the famous 'Blessed are the Cheesemakers' line in "Life of Brian": "Well, obviously it's not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products."


Jesse Meriwether said...

LOL! I can say for certain... John is the biggest Monty Python fan I have ever met. The first time we spoke he said he had no idea why there was no dating site based off of movies/tv shows - because that has alot to do with who you are as a person, the movies and tv that you like (which... he has a point, you know). Then he started on the whole monty python thing... And he said any lady that was a Python lover - he already knew things about her (goofy, funny, lighthearted, easy going, not heavy, doesn't take themselves to seriously, etc).
This is a man who is so Python crazy he's looking for Python in a lady... I think that says everything. Don't you???

My Life in Words said...

I concur, Jesse!

John is, absolutely, without a doubt, not only their biggest fan, but is an inspiration to us all ("us" being fanatical Americans who have not only "grown up" on Python, but raised our children on their silly antics as well).

John has done an exceptional job of chronicling his experiences with "the boys" along with showcasing marvelous trivia and assorted unnaughty bits of Python paraphernalia.

I can't wait to visit him in the UK and spend hours reading, learning, and once again become utterly immersed in all things Python.

He has my vote!


Ana :D

Ana Livingston
Fine Artist & Muralist

johnalexwood said...

And so, the story continues... Eric Idle has just joined Twitter. I said hello to him and welcomed him to Twitter and he replied! Made my day!

uptone: @ericidle Hello Eric! Welcome to Twitter! Remember this, when you were talking about your Russian father in law?
1:04am, Oct 10 from HootSuite

EricIdle: @uptone Yes I do. Alex managed to live till 98, and was a very fine and fabulous father in law to me.

And he retweeted my tweet!

EricIdleOct 10, 2:59am via web
RT @uptone: @EricIdle Hello Eric! Welcome to Twitter! Remember this, when you were talking about your Russian father in law? ...

Unknown said...

Really pleased for you, John, on being crowned the number one Monty Python fan!

It was an absolute pleasure to meet you, randomly on the boat on the thames, and then for you to be able to come to the screening.

Can't wait to read your post about the Gala evening!

Huge congrats!

Emma Wilkinson


As an ex-messiah
(but who the heck ain't?)
I gotz to say again, ye do be the biggest Python fan.