​​Monty Python reunion as co-stars assembled for Michael Palin’s birthday

Trio reunited without Python member Eric Idle following online spat

Ellie Muir
Friday 10 May 2024 07:51 BST
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Monty Python co-stars John Cleese, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam have reunited to celebrate Palin‘s 81st birthday.

John Cleese, who recently revealed he is “surprisingly poor” despite his five-decade career, posted a dinner table picture on X/Twitter of himself smiling alongside the pair, with Palin holding up a plate of dessert that had “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate sauce.

Cleese jokingly captioned the photo: “An 18 foot Python celebrates Pallin’s 181st Birthday and 195th Travel Book. Photo taken at cafe on peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.”

The day after Palin’s birthday, Cleese wrote: “I was travelling yesterday, and forgot to wish Mickey Palin a joyous 81st Birthday. We shall shall [sic] celebrate it together tonight, along with Terry Gilliam, if he promises to behave.”

Original Python member Eric Idle, who now lives in Los Angeles, appeared to be absent from the festivities following his bitter online spat with Cleese and Gilliam in February.

Idle criticised the group’s management for its dwindling finances, blaming manager Holly Gilliam, who is the daughter of Terry. Idle also wrote that it makes him “happy” that he had not seen Cleese in seven years.

Cleese later responded saying that he and Idle had always “loathed and despised” each other.

“I have worked with Holly for the last 10 years, and I find her very efficient, clear-minded, hard-working, and pleasant to have dealings with,” Fawlty Towers star Cleese said in response to Idle’s comments.

Michael Palin celebrating his 81st birthday with Monty Python friends John Cleese and Terry Gilliam
Michael Palin celebrating his 81st birthday with Monty Python friends John Cleese and Terry Gilliam (Twitter via John Cleese)

“Michael Palin has asked me to make it clear that he shares this opinion. Terry Gilliam is also in agreement with this.”

When asked about his views on Idle, Cleese wrote on X/Twitter: “We always loathed and despised each other, but it’s only recently that the truth has begun to emerge.” He later clarified in a follow-up post he meant this as a joke.

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Meanwhile, Idle shared that he and the Fawlty Towers star hadn’t seen each other in years, as fans wondered if the spat was all a gag.

When a social media follower said the revelation made him sad, Idle said: “Why. It makes me happy,” and added: “I haven’t seen Cleese in seven years.”

Idle said that the reason he is working into his 80s is due to financial difficulties he is facing, stemming from mismanagement of the group’s money and royalties. He also called Python a “disaster”.

“I don’t know why people always assume we’re loaded,” he wrote. “Python is a disaster. Spamalot made money 20 years ago. I have to work for my living. Not easy at this age.”

John Cleese and Eric Idle were involved in an online spat earlier this year
John Cleese and Eric Idle were involved in an online spat earlier this year (Getty Images)

He named and shamed Gilliam and his daughter Holly for his financial plight: “We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously.

“But I guess if you put a Gilliam child in as your manager you should not be so surprised. One Gilliam is bad enough. Two can take out any company.”

Meanwhile, Cleese has recently adapted three episodes from the group’s hit series Fawlty Towers into a play, which opened at London’s Apollo Theatre on 4 May, almost 50 years after the sitcom first aired.

Michael Palin celebrated his 81st birthday last week
Michael Palin celebrated his 81st birthday last week (PA Archive)

The new production adapts three episodes of the series, including the famous “Germans” instalment, and Cleese said that racial slurs were removed from the script to avoid offending “literal minded” viewers who “only have one interpretation of what’s been said”.

Comedy troupe Python was co-founded in 1969 by Graham Chapman, Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Terry Jones, and Palin. Chapman died in 1989 of tonsil cancer aged 48, while Jones passed away in 2020, aged 77, from a rare form of dementia.

They last performed together in the 2014 production Shrek the Third and Monty Python Live (Mostly) at the O2 Arena in London.

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