For this year’s annual reunions issue, Entertainment Weekly spoke with all five surviving members of Monty Python about their Eric Idle-directed shows last summer at London’s massive O2 arena, the legendary comedy team’s first live performances in more than three decades. In the hope of provoking some of the semi-friendly badinage for which they are famous, we also asked the quintet—Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones—which other Python member irritated them most in the course of rehearsing and performing Monty Python Live (mostly) One Down Five To Go. You can read the troupe’s answers below.
John. It was more than an irritation. Every time we did a sketch—and I’m playing the jailer, or whatever—I’d look up at John and I just knew he wanted me out of the way so he could do his part properly. [Laughs]
Terry Gilliam is always blabbing his mouth off to the press, because he’s not as funny as the rest of us, and he therefore has to say slightly shocking things to get attention. He probably annoys me more than anyone else. [EW informs Cleese that Gilliam feels he same way towards him.] That doesn’t surprise me at all. We’re as different as we can be. I remember when he was talking on British television, I remember thinking, I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with anything that Terry has ever said in the forty years I’ve known him.
We’re very very differently talented. He’s really good at things that I’m hopeless at, including, for example, music. He just directed an opera [Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini] very satisfactorily. But I always thought he was very bad at plot, at constructing stories for his movies. He never seemed to me to pay much attention to plot, which seems to me to be the most interesting single thing to do in movies. So there’s masses we disagree with—but he’s quite good-natured!
Well, it was hard to get Terry Gilliam to realize that I knew what I was doing. He was in directing mode. He’d been directing a film, and an opera, and directors take a long time to give up directing. And so you’d find he was just telling other people [to do things]. I was like, “You can have ideas but they must come through me.” I was very keen on communication. Terry’s great at chaos, he only thrives in chaos and disaster. So that was mildly irritating. I said rude things, and then I went and apologized, as one must. But the others could not have been nicer or more complimentary.
Eric got pretty shirty sometimes. [Laughs]
I think Graham [Chapman, the sixth Python member, who passed away in 1989], for dying so early on when we needed him, for God’s sake. How dare he get out of a show like that! But I find them all pretty irritating.
Monty Python Live (mostly) One Down Five To Go will be released on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 11.
For more on classic TV and movie reunions, pick up a copy of the latest Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.