Monty Python team set for one last laugh

THE FIVE five surviving members of the Monty Python team are to take to the stage in Aspen, Colorado, next month for the first time in 10 years. While the event is not billed as a Monty Python show, the mere fact they are appearing together is generating huge excitement among comedy fans.

John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam will meet for a retrospective and tribute to their work at the US Comedy Arts Festival, surrounded by contemporary American comics who regard Python's anarchic style as an inspiration.

The 90-minute appearance is being taped for the American cable channel Home Box Office. They will take questions as clips of their work are played, an HBO spokesman said, with a US comedian, Robert Klein, presiding. But Michael Palin, fuelling speculation, told the Hollywood trade magazine Variety that they will probably perform a sketch or two.

The last time the five performed together was for a more sombre occasion - the memorial service for fellow Python Graham Chapman, who died of cancer in 1989. "We've considered getting together before, but there's been this feeling that we aren't quite complete without Graham and it would always be so," Palin said. It is 30 years since Python first aired in 1969.

A five-year television run led to spin-off films like 1975's Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But the team have long since forged separate and creative careers, and sometimes tire of being asked about a show that is now enshrined in modern comic and cultural history.

Palin's star is riding high as the host of a series of phenomenally successful travel shows, the latest a jaunt around the Pacific titled Palin's Rim.

He declined an invitation to a 25th anniversary dinner in the US, which had also fuelled speculation of a reunion. But he told Variety in January that "when we meet up together face-to-face, there's always the chance that something may come of it ... if we have a good time in Aspen, that may just mean that we'd consider a future project - most likely a movie, I would think."

John Cleese's latest film was Fierce Creatures, the less than stellar follow-up to A Fish Called Wanda. More recently he was the voice of an erudite talking gorilla in the recent Disney film George of the Jungle. Terry Gilliam has won accolades as a director of such films as Brazil and The Fisher King; Terry Jones is a successful film-maker and children's- book writer, while Eric Idle became a Hollywood writer.

The four-day Aspen festival draws many top contemporary comic acts in America, running from the television skit Politically Incorrect to the scatological cartoon South Park.