Anthony's Film Review
Monty Python: Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982)
Monty Python continues to make us laugh through their silly sketches...
As a group originating in the United Kingdom, the Monty Python comedy troupe, consisting of John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam, had not really captured American audiences when Monty Python's Flying Circus premiered on the BBC in 1969. It would take a few years before some television stations in the United States started airing episodes of the show. From there, a Monty Python following began in the States. Naturally, it would make sense for the Pythons to perform a live show in America given this rise of new fans.
That's exactly what they did. As proof of this, we have Monty Python: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, a 1982 film that captures a live-stage performance in California featuring the Pythons. What's neat about the beginning of the movie is how it captures the American fans' anticipation for the show. During the opening credits, which are silly only when the six stars are named, there is footage of people filling up the seats at the Hollywood Bowl. You can see some British flags in some shots, a reminder of how the British can really bring unique pop culture to the States, just like when the Beatles arrived.
Then the show begins. Everything goes dark. The stage lights shine to reveal John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones as waiters. They begin singing a delightful song about something many people love: oral sex. There is laughter from the audience after the first line is sung. It gets funnier when the rest of the song presents lyrics with cleverly chosen words. Once it ends, there is applause, followed by laughter at an unexpected sight as the four men walk off the stage.
Basically, this show consists of sketches that have been featured on Monty Python's Flying Circus as well as some new and original material. I'm not going to list all the new sketches, but I will share my favorite of these. The sketch features John Cleese as the Pope and Eric Idle as the Renaissance painter Michelangelo. The scene involves the Pope expressing displeasure at Michelangelo's painting depicting his own version of the Last Supper. Why? Because the painting features three Jesuses, twenty-eight Disciples, and one kangaroo. The dialogue between Cleese and Idle here is very funny.
As for the old sketches, the Pythons reenact plenty of their notable ones, including the Argument Clinic, Ministry of Silly Walks, and Bruces. It's interesting to see how some of these sketches are greeted with applause the moment it becomes clear what sketch it is. It's a sign that the Pythons did have an influence on those across the Atlantic. Other elements from the Flying Circus you can expect to see in this movie include the World Forum turning into a quiz show, the Colonel who dislikes overly silly sketches, Silly Olympics (originally from an episode of Flying Circus made specifically for a German audience), and an Albatross being sold during a colorful Intermission. And the final sketch to end the performance is one I thought was wisely chosen. And no, it's NOT the Dead Parrot sketch.
I'm going to mention one more old sketch just because it stands out. It's the one with Eric Idle as Mr. Smoke-Too-Much, a man who enters a travel agency, encounters Carol Cleveland and her flirtatious advance, and Michael Palin as the travel agent. There's one major difference between this sketch from the Flying Circus show and this sketch in the Hollywood Bowl movie. In the latter, Carol Cleveland doesn't have a line with sexual innuendo. Instead, it goes for sexual explicitness and stirs up a cheer from the audience. How explicit is it? Just think of the singing waiters I mentioned above. I describe this sketch as part of an interesting observation: the Pythons seem to go further with political incorrectness when there is no TV censorship and when a particular audience, like (arguably) the Americans, seems to enjoy a little extra vulgarity.
I enjoyed Monty Python: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, not because the Pythons go above and beyond what they did before but because they keep doing what they did before: silly, witty, and intelligent comedy. I liked how the sketches that were recorded for television were arranged such that the performers could move from one to the next with ease. The new setting and arrangement makes the show feel like a whole new experience, not simply just a straight reenactment of the Flying Circus. And most importantly, the Pythons hadn't lost their touch even after a decade. Believe me. If you are a Python fan, you will enjoy this movie.
For more information about Monty Python: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of the following:
Monty Python in Film
Monty Python on Television