And now for something completely predictable...
Monday 09 March 1998
And Now For Something Somewhat Predictable. Python's five surviving members, after appearing on stage together for the first time in 18 years, have agreed - more or less - to do a six-week run of live shows in America and Britain. The decision came as they met for a 90-minute tribute to their work, recorded for American television at the US Comedy Arts Festival in the Aspen ski resort. It was the Pythons' first public reunion since the death of Graham Chapman 10 years ago.
When Robert Klein, the American host, observed that Graham Chapman "would have loved this", Cleese retorted: "But he's dead. So fucking dead." They then turned his absence into the running joke of the evening, first producing an urn, then accidentally on purpose kicking his fake ashes on the floor. The best line of the night came afterwards, as the press demanded details of the proposed reunion tour, in London and several US cities on their 30th anniversary next year. "Is that a definite?" barked a US reporter. "I think so," said Cleese. "Unless anyone else dies. I would say it's about a 90 per cent definite."
The Pythons were in Aspen for a business meeting. Today a High Court suit begins over the rights to The Life of Brian. They accepted an invitation from the US cable network HBO to do the show, watched on Saturday night by a small audience heavy with US comic luminaries such as Cheers's Ted Danson. It was a very unPython format: older men in armchairs, not quite in cardigans but almost, answering questions relayed from the Internet. The strangest moments came as they sat, like the ghosts of Python present, awkwardly watching their younger selves playing the Parrot Sketch and other classics. Cleese guffawed, watching the screen; Michael Palin looked out at the audience, unsmiling; Terry Gilliam quietly sipped water. Against the back drop of Gilliam's cartoons, they talked of how it was almost Gwen Dibbley's Flying Circus, how masturbating was the one word banned by the BBC, how they all learned to be funny in boarding school, and why some skits worked with real women and others demanded drag.
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