The Meaning Of Monty Python. Image shows from L to R: Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam.

The Meaning Of Monty Python

Sky Arts documentary. 1 episode in 2013. Features John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones.

The Meaning Of Monty Python

A discussion between John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones about their film The Meaning of Life

Genre
Documentary
Broadcast
2013
Channel
Sky Arts
Episodes
1
Features
John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

Thirty years on from the release of The Meaning of Life, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones reunite to discuss their memories of the comedy classic.

When it was released in 1983, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life had audiences in stitches of laughter with its farcical sketches about the mysteries of the Catholic doctrine, the cautionary tale of Mr Creosote and his gluttonous appetite, why one should avoid the salmon mousse and the critical importance of the machine that goes ping!

Now, 30 years on, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin (plus Eric Idle on video call) are reunited in London to discuss this beloved film, as well as comedy, creativity, food, fish and their own mortality.

John Cleese kicks things off. "I think we all have a different feeling about the Meaning of Life," he says. "Some of us think it's the funniest thing we ever did." Palin nods in agreement but was aware of its shortcomings. "The Meaning of Life had some of our very best things in it," says he. "What we didn't have was that narrative." Cleese concurs: "If you don't have a narrative holding it together, it rises or falls on the quality of every single scene."

Fortunately, each scene was a comedic triumph, and so they should be when so many ideas never made it into the film. In fact, the Pythons reveal they had about three times more material than was used. This leads the gang to discussing the idea of making a sequel with the aid of a medium, so the late Graham Chapman can be involved.

But that's not to say that all members were fans of every sketch. Cleese, for example, says that, "The fishy thing was weird without being funny," before admitting, "I always felt the problem was we rushed into it. We really should have just stepped back after The Life of Brian for a couple of years." Clips of Mr Creosote eating himself into oblivion and Graham Chapman being chased by topless women punctuate Eric Idle's reflection on the songs written for the film, Cleese's fears over the film's reception and the group's thoughts about just using their material for a TV series instead of a film. They also muse on the evolution of comedy over the years, how TV changed the comedy landscape and what they would like to be written on their gravestones.

Production Details

Part of

Monty Python

Laugh track
None

Broadcast details

First broadcast
Thursday 24th October 2013 on Sky Arts at 10pm
Episode length
1 hour
Last repeat
Friday 10th April 2015 at 2:45am