It’s the reunion which John Cleese once dismissed as “absolutely impossible”. But hatchets have been buried and grudges set aside as the surviving members of the ground-breaking comedy troupe confirmed that the Monty Python circus will fly once again.
Following months of secret talks, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin will announce their plans at a London press conference on Thursday.
The reunion, expected to involve a stage show and a television special, is the first time that the remaining members have worked together on a full-length project since The Meaning Of Life film in 1983.
The death of Graham Chapman in 1989 was previously thought to have ended any hopes that their absurdist humour, which revolutionised comedy following the 1969 television debut of Monty Python's Flying Circus, could be recreated.
Previous attempts to engineer a reunion tour, usually driven by Idle, 70, creator of the £100 million-grossing Spamalot musical, have fallen foul of internal squabbles over business issues.
Cleese, 74, said sitting the Pythons down in one room to perform comedy was a geographical impossibility. But the Python parrot was not dead, just resting for 30 years, it transpires.
Jones, 71, told the BBC. “We’re getting together and putting on a show – it’s real. I’m quite excited about it. I hope it makes us a lot of money. I hope to be able to pay off my mortgage!”
Idle tweeted: “Python meeting this morning. Can't wait.”
A world tour, re-enacting Python’s “greatest hits” such as the famous “Dead Parrot” sketch, would prove hugely lucrative. The film and television legacy left by the “Beatles of comedy” retains huge popularity in North America.
The Pythons hinted that they could revisit previously unreleased sketches. Palin, 70, said: “There was much more material written for the Meaning of Life and not used - probably as much as three times as much as we put in.” Cleese added: "Maybe we should do a Meaning of Life 2?"
Palin and Jones have recently re-filmed lost material from their 1969 ITV sketch show The Complete And Utter History Of Britain, which helped form the Flying Circus template, for a DVD release next Spring.
Fans will hope that the long-awaited reunion was prompted by a desire to create fresh mirth worthy of the brand, rather than financial motivations. Earlier this year, the surviving members were ordered to pay extra royalties to Mark Forstater, a producer of the 1975 film Monty Python and The Holy Grail, who won a High Court case over Spamalot profits.
This year, Cleese sold off his art collection and completed an Alimony live tour, to help pay for his divorce from his third wife, American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger.
The five remaining members of the comedy group appeared together in 1998 at the Aspen Comedy Festival in the US.
They almost agreed to a 1999 US tour but Palin pulled out at the last minute. “At which point Eric became very cross,” recalled Cleese, who also disappointed Idle when he decided not to take part in a mooted sequel to the Holy Grail.
Idle once joked: “We would only do a reunion if Chapman came back from the dead. So we're negotiating with his agent.”
The first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus was broadcast on October 5, 1969. It ran for four series and spawned spin-off records, books and even German-language specials.
The comedy group made their successful film Monty Python and the Holy Grail on a small budget in between filming the third and fourth series of of the TV show.
Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, released in 1979, telling the story of a man mistaken for Jesus, was attacked by Christian groups and banned in some areas but has since been named the greatest comedy film of all time.
After The Meaning Of Life, another financial and critical success, the Pythons went on to forge successful solo careers.
Cleese, who had previously co-created the classic Fawlty Towers sitcom in 1975 went on write the hit film A Fish Called Wanda in 1988, which he starred in with Palin.
Gilliam, whose unique animation style became a key element of the Flying Circus, became a successful film director, with credits including the ambitious sci-fi fantasy Brazil and The Fisher King.
Palin made hit travel shows, including Around The World In 80 Days and won a Bafta Academy Fellowship Award this year.
Idle wrote the global hit musical Spamalot and enjoyed a 1991 hit song with "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" from the Life Of Brian soundtrack.
Jones directed an adaptation of The Wind in the Willows and has written books and hosted television history documentaries.
Chapman, who played the lead in Holy Grail and Life Of Brian died, after developing tonsil cancer and secondary spinal cancer, aged 48 in 1989.
The first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus was broadcast on October 5, 1969. The zany series, featured open-ended sketches, which dispensed with traditional punchlines,
Its 45 episodes spawned a host of memorable sketches including Dead Parrot, Spam, The Lumberjack Song and The Spanish Inquisition.
Python’s surreal humour influenced generations of comedians including Vic Reeves and Eddie Izzard.
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