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Trivia / Monty Python's Flying Circus

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  • Actor-Shared Background:
    • Graham Chapman often played authority figures, such as doctors and policemen. Not only was he a qualified doctor, but his father was a policeman.
    • Michael Palin often played gruff Northerners. He hails from Sheffield.
  • Approval of God: Sam Peckinpah loved the "Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days" sketch, often showing it to his houseguests.
  • Better Export for You: The original episode package that aired on PBS in The '70s. The episodes were taken from the master tapes and not the BBC broadcast tapes, which meant that several of the cut scenes mentioned in the Executive Meddling entry below were untouched in the PBS version.
  • Big Name Fan: Believe it or not, Elvis Presley was a huge Python fan and would often quote "Nudge Nudge" to his friends.
  • Corpsing:
    • Sometimes even the Pythons have to smile at the other Pythons' jokes.
      Chapman: Intercourse the penguin!
      Cleese: [smirks broadly, struggling to remain in character]
    • In And Now For Something Completely Different, Eric laughs out-of-character as Sir George Head (Cleese) takes out a dictionary to look up the definition of "mountaineer" (he's leading an expedition to climb Kilimanjaro).
  • Defictionalization: A British man named John Desmond Lewis legally changed his name to "Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel", from the "Election Night" sketch and ran for a parliamentary seat in 1981. He came in fifth of nine candidates. He later became involved with the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, a real British political party that was loosely inspired by "Very Silly" party from the sketch.
  • Edited for Syndication: In the "Mouse Problem" sketch from Episode 2, the address and phone number of an interview subject who has admitted to wanting to be a mouse are displayed and read out by John Cleese. In the original broadcast from 1969, the phone number was David Frost's home phone number, and after fielding a large number of prank calls, an annoyed Frost complained to The BBC, who edited the number out of the first re-runs in August 1970.
    • In the first run (1973), show no. 38 started with a Party Political Broadcast that was choreographed. Upon the syndication rights changing in 1983, the brainiacs at Time-Life (first syndicators) erased it. It was replaced with brief superimposed titles. The first DVD release of the Monty Python 16-Ton Megaset delivered an even worse blow: the previews of BBC comedies ("Dad's Pooves", "Up The Palace", etc.) at the end were left out.
    • See below for the end result of ABC's attempts at editing the show.
  • Executive Meddling: The BBC frequently got cold feet over some of the Pythons' humour, resulting in often awkward acts of censorship.
    • Series 3, episode 10 (centering around the Tudor porn shop) is noticeably disjointed compared to other Flying Circus episodes, because it had to be edited severely before it was allowed to air.
      • After the Tudor porn sequence, the original script has sketches involving a sculpture with a huge nose, a Half-a-beenote , revolting cocktailsnote , and finally the "Free Repetition of Doubtful Words" bit. The animation of big game being ground into cocktails was meant to be a transition between the latter two. And then, the reason for the announcer being in a barrel in "Silly Noises" is because that was meant to be a follow-on from...
      • The infamous "Wee-wee" sketch, which is believed to have been filmed, but has never surfaced from the vaults. It revolved around a wine connoisseur being served urine by a French waiter and repeatedly believing he's drinking fine wine ("No, sir, zat is wee-wee."). The BBC didn't like it because one of the wine glasses was slightly rosé (pink), which they took to mean menstrual urine. Eric Idle protested, but the excuse was good enough for John Cleese who detested this sort of humor and managed to get the sketch canned for good.
      • The upshot is that to pad out the run time, entire sketches had to be ripped out of other episodes - "Disturbing Vicar"note  and "E. Henry Thripshaw's Disease" note  were not originally intended for this show, and it shows.
    • The "Political Choreographers" sketch was edited out of one episode after its initial broadcast and apparently only survives in low-quality off-air recordings from PBS stations, and for a time it was believed that the only existing recording was one that had the usual pledge drive graphics in the lower third.
    • Additionally, most episodes of the two Python precursor series, Do Not Adjust Your Set and At Last the 1948 Show, have been wiped. This could have happened to Flying Circus itself were it not for the actions of Terry Gilliam, who bought the masters as soon as he could.
    • There is an animated section in between the "Crackpot Religions" sketch and "How Not to Be Seen" involving Jesus and the two thieves being crucified on telephone poles, while an Alter Kocker Satan (played by Idle) appears out of the ground. It was cut after its initial showingnote , but it is now available in full colour.
    • In the narration to one Gilliam animation they crudely replaced the word "cancer" with "gangrene".
    • In the "Summarize Proust Competition" where Chapman's character was supposed to give his hobbies as "strangling animals, golf and masturbating", they muted the word "masturbating", leaving a very conspicuous silence followed by a big laugh. As Terry Jones later remarked, it's odd to think that strangling animals is all right but masturbating isn't.
      • A slightly better edit for later broadcasts and video releases re-dubbed the line as "Golf and strangling animals –" and cut out the next few frames to make it look like the host was ushering the contestant off the stage before he said anything even more offensive. Unfortunately the dubbing and cut were still quite obvious.
    • In "Travel Agent", after Idle's character realizes he can replace the letter B with the letter C, the script was meant to say "I never thought of that, what a silly bunt." Replace the B in "Bunt" and you know... Editors used the laughter from the missing line to ease the transition.
    • They would only allow the "Undertaker Sketch" to be recorded if some of the studio audience were seen protesting about it. Even so, the sketch was apparently cut from the master tape after transmission, and had to be reinserted from an NTSC copy.
    • The "Quiz Show"/"Spot the Brain Cell" sketch was cut from BBC repeats for several years, but restored for DVD release.
    • Some of the BBC's complaints stretched into downright paranoia. In the "New Brain from Curry's" sketch, a representative for the brain's delivery asks a Pepperpot to sign a fake leg; when the Pythons submitted the sketch for review, they were told to "cut the penis." The angle that Cleese held the leg into the doorway caused it to resemble an oversized Johnson.
    • In 1975, ABC got the rights to the Cleese-less fourth series, which hadn't yet been aired in the U.S. They planned to show them as two late-night specials, after they'd been cut for time and censored for content. The Pythons were horrified and tried unsuccessfully to try and block the broadcasts. But they did get a decision to allow their lawsuit over misuse of their material (on the grounds that the ABC version was inferior product under the Python name) to proceed. They settled out of court, with the Pythons winning full rights to the show.
  • Fake American: Many cases, to varying success. Even Terry Gilliam, who is American, had trouble sounding like it because he had been living in England for so long (even now, as a British citizen since 1968, his real speaking voice sounds similar to a fake American accent!). For specific examples...
    • In the Marriage Counselor sketch, John Cleese plays a random cowboy with a laughably thick accent to help give a pep talk.
    • Bicycle Repairman has everyone attempting American accents, though a dead giveaway is when Cleese uses the word spanner instead of wrench.
    • John Cleese's narration in the Science Fiction Sketch goes an over-the-top Hollywood-style narration.
    • The Twentieth Century Vole sketch casts the entire group as a Hollywood film exec and his writers.
    • The Attila The Hun show is done in typical American 50s sitcom fashion.
    • Carol Cleveland, who is British but was raised in the United States, actually manages a better American accent than all of the guys (even, at times, Gilliam) when she's called upon to give one in sketches like "Scott of the Antarctic".
  • Fake Australian: The Pythons have also done this from time to time, including in "The Bruce Sketch", which features a bunch of characters all named Bruce, who are all teachers in the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolamaloo.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Network's region-free "Norwegian Blu-Ray Limited Edition" which is in an elaborate cardboard packaging that springs open and is the only set with 4 170-page volumes of linear notes charting the entire history of the group up to the end of the series' production.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: John Cleese has often expressed frustration over the fact that, of all the high-minded, satirical sketches they'd done, it's the "Ministry Of Silly Walks," the one skit that deliberately made absolutely no sense, is considered their best (this also probably has to do with people stopping him the street and asking him to do a silly walk).
  • No Stunt Double: The Pythons did almost all of their own stunts, including Graham Chapman (a qualified mountaineer) reading a sketch while hanging upside-down on a rope, and Michael Palin plummeting 15 feet into a canal in "The Fish-Slapping Dance" after John Cleese smacks him in the head with a trout.
  • The Other Darrin: A couple of times one of the actors was needed to play another character, and was replaced mid-sketch once their lines ran out:
    • In "Court Charades", the jury foreman (Palin) and the defendant (Jones) were also two members of the Spanish Inquisition. When the defendant says "I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition", the scene cuts to film of the Inquisition racing to the court house, and then cuts back to the studio when the Spanish Inquisition storms in; by which time the defendant has been replaced, and the foreman seems to have disappeared altogether.
    • In the "Father-In-Law" sketch, the father is played by Graham Chapman; when the sketch comes back as a link, he is replaced by Terry Gilliam.
    • Speaking of Gilliam, he first portrayed the nude organist in the original televised version of the "Blackmail" sketch. When said sketch was refilmed for And Now for Something Completely Different, he was replaced by Terry Jones.
    • In live stage productions, Eric Idle would sing the Lumberjack Song instead of Michael Palin.
    • Also, in the stage productions, for the "Crunchy Frog" sketch, Chapman replaced Cleese as the Chief Inspector, while Gilliam replaced Chapman as the Superintendent.
  • Reality Subtext: "Spam" wasn't just an Inherently Funny Word that the Pythons thought sounded funny when repeated ad nauseam. Post-World War II England had a massive surplus of canned goods which they were still in the process of getting rid of some fifteen years later, so a restaurant trying to push spam onto a customer in a meal which didn't typically include it wasn't all that absurd (though it's safe to assume that few of these restaurants also served vikings).
  • Romance on the Set: Terry Gilliam met British makeup artist Maggie Weston on the set of the show and they married in 1973. She subsequently worked on the Python films and some of Gilliam's films. They have three children and are still together.
  • Serendipity Writes the Plot: The unique style of animation was developed by necessity of the small budget and short production schedule of the series. Traditional animation takes a lot of time and money, but as part of being produced under BBC they had free access to an image library of old paintings, photographs, caricatures and the like, which Terry Gilliam then put together into animations through literal cutting and pasting.
  • Throw It In!:
    • During a sketch with John Cleese where they played a pair of Pepperpots, Graham Chapman suddenly went off script and screamed "BURMA!" for no reason. Cleese then asked Chapman, in character, why he did that, to which Chapman replied, in character, "I panicked!". It was later decided it was too funny not to include.
    • The entire "Stolen Wallet" skit from episode 13 of season 1 was completely improvised on the spot between Michael Palin and John Cleese.
  • Unfinished Episode:
    • A sketch John Cleese found in poor taste was written but not filmed. (There is actually some controversy amongst the Pythons themselves as to whether it was filmed or not, but certainly never broadcast.) It involved a wine connoisseur showing off his wine cellar to a visitor, and after each tasting he reveals that it's "wee wee."
    • One idea that never got past a mere concept was to do a sketch in which the sound would gradually get fainter and fainter, forcing viewers to gradually increase the volume on their TV sets, only to then cut to something at regular volume and shock them as the now-cacophonous noise. The Pythons never did it, but it did eventually become a popular staple of YouTube Poop known as "ear rape."
  • Working Title: Gwen Dibley's Flying Circus; Owl-Stretching Time; Bun, Whackett, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot; A Toad Elevating Moment; Sex and Violence; A Horse, a Bucket and a Spoon. One early working title for the series was simply, It's...
    • Owl-Stretching Time, A Toad Elevating Moment, and Sex and Violence were all later used as episode titles.
  • Write What You Know: Most of the members of Python were veteran British comedy writers from The '60s. Much of their humor was deliberately made to send up, invert, subvert, flanderize to ridiculous proportions and/or just plain do away with many of the tropes, idioms and devices British comedy writers used at the time, along with British TV in general.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Cleese described their writing process as extremely loose and fluid, never knowing where ideas would come from.
    • The Cheese Shop sketch was born out of an idea of someone asking for cheese in a chemist's shop, until they asked "Why would he ask for cheese in a chemist's shop?" and the answer was "Well, he went to a cheese shop and they didn't have any."
    • According to Michael Palin in an interview on NPR, "The Lumberjack Song" originated as a last-minute gag they composed in about fifteen minutes when they couldn't figure out how to conclude the barbershop sketch.