We’re dusting off the old scripts and giving them an update for our O2 show – who wants to end up like poor Neil Diamond, booed for trying too much new material?
I’m still trying to find out how I feel after the press conference announcing the Monty Python reunion at London’s O2 Arena. Of course, I’m excited about getting back together again – it’s not every day you have a reunion after 30 or more years – but there’s a little worry at the back of my mind. Will it go off OK? Can I remember the words? Of course we are all going to make a lot of money out of it, but is the O2 too big for our little TV show?
I was bowled over about how we’ve suddenly become famous! At the the press conference we had journalists from the US, Spain, Germany, Norway, and Australia. Wow! The front page of the Sun! If you’d told me Monty Python could have that to advertise their comeback, I wouldn’t have believed you – although I had the honour to grace the front page of the Sun in the 1980s, when I directed a film called Personal Services. The headline was: PYTHON AT SEX ROMP. What happened was, David Leland, the writer, persuaded Cynthia Payne to hold a so-called sex party specially for me, so I could see what went on at them as part of my research for the film. As far as I could see the “sex party” consisted of elderly gentlemen sipping sweet sherry. I later testified at her trial that I was doing research (and I noticed the judge scribbled that down) and I didn’t see any money changing hands. Which I didn’t. She got off.
The O2 intimidates me. No! It terrifies me.
Last Tuesday we held a read-through of the script. Eric Idle had prepared something consisting mostly of the old standards. Anyway, we read the script out and were encouraged by the reaction. Quite honestly we were surprised they were so funny. The heads of departments were laughing too. So far, so good.
John Cleese says he’d been to a Neil Diamond concert a few months ago, and, when Neil tried to do some new numbers, the audience actually booed him. So that warns us off trying to do too much new material. We’re going to update the scripts and give it a new edge but that’s about all. Basically it will be the sketches from the TV shows or the films.
Interestingly enough, when John announced at Aspen in 1999 that we were all going to get back together again, it was Mike Palin who finally scotched the project. He’d got some traveling to do. Eric had been in negotiations for a couple of months with venues in Las Vegas, and he was very bitter about how Mike had pulled the plug. But he knew Mike wanted to travel the planet and he respected that.
Journalists are always wanting to talk about the group dynamic. Doesn’t John hate Eric or doesn’t Eric hate John? I think we’ve all mellowed over time, and deep down I think we really all love each other. Monty Python is like a good marriage: you may have your spats and quarrels but deep down you know you love the other person.
There exists an aura around Monty Python and we are not averse to doing more than one show at the O2 – I can’t put it any stronger than that. But I know John would like to pay off his alimony and I need to pay off my mortgage, so I suspect there might be a little pressure, if the show is successful, to do it in the US. I know Terry Gilliam is an unwilling partner in all this – he just wants to make films. And Mike wants to continue going round the world. But I can’t help hoping that we will continue to do the show all around the world. As if the world needs it.