Unable to think up a plot for their forthcoming film MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (1983), the Python comedy troupe took time out to play the Hollywood Bowl on the evenings of September 26-29, 1980. The program was comprised mainly of classic sketches from their popular former TV
show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus," and material from their recent recording, Monty Python's Contractual Obligation.
The cavernous Hollywood Bowl was an odd venue for the Flying Circus, which had found in television the ideal medium for its miniaturized humor. In compensation for the Bowl's lack of intimacy, a screen was set up behind and above the stage for the projection of sports-oriented sketches that
couldn't be performed live and Terry Gilliam's animated cartoons. Additionally, two side screens provided the audience with close-ups of the performers, and tickets were sold for the Bowl's front sections only.
The documentary opens with four members of the troupe, costumed as singing waiters, rendering the song "Sit on My Face." At number's end the audience discovers that the boys are wearing no trousers under their aprons. Then Michael Palin introduces Graham Chapman who impersonates both contestants
in a wrestling match. Terry Jones begins to sing an outrageously bigoted song but is blown up in the process. He will try again later. Next Michelangelo (Eric Idle) and the Pope (John Cleese) squabble about an early draft of The Last Supper ("Now will you please tell me what in God's name
possessed you to paint this with three Christs in it?").
A series of races from "The Silly Olympics" are projected; funniest event: the 200-meter freestyle for nonswimmers. Next, a trio of Aussiefied Pythons throw cans of Foster Beer into the audience and lead it in a sing-along devoted to the drinking habits of the great philosophers ("Aristotle,
Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle"). Cleese and Palin perform their classic "Silly Walks" routine followed by a sketch in which Palin and Idle, as two swish judges ("I gave him three years; he only took 10 minutes"), doff their robes to reveal women's underwear. Following a Gilliam cartoon,
Idle hosts "World Forum," a TV program in which Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Che Guevara are submitted to a trivia quiz about British sports. Neil Innes and Carole Cleveland sing and dance, respectively, to the song "The Urban Spaceman." A police investigation of a manufacturer of chocolate covered frogs
is memorably interrupted when Gilliam, as one of the bobbies, realistically vomits in his helmet. (The piece is no match for Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's hilarious "Frog and Peach" routine.) At intermission, Cleese, in drag, vends albatross in the audience.
Idle and Jones's immortal "Nudge, Nudge" sketch precedes a soccer match between the most celebrated philosophers of Germany and ancient Greece. (At this point in the proceedings, the Pythons' penchant for humor centered on history's great thinkers devolves from the redundant to the obsessive.)
Next the competitive reminiscences of four men about their poverty-stricken childhoods escalate into absurdity. ("There were 150 of us living in a shoebox in the middle of the road!") Then Cleese, Palin, and Idle resurrect one of the most brilliant of the Python routines, "The Argument Clinic."
It's followed by an Innes song, "How Sweet to Be an Idiot," and a Gilliam animation about two flashers who fall in love. As a customer in a travel agency, Idle embarks on an endless rant which he ultimately takes into the audience a la Olsen and Johnson. Next, Chapman delivers an illustrated
lecture on the art of japing, which concludes with a timed barrage of pie-throwing. Following a filmed version of "Little Red Riding Hood," Cleese in the title role, the group giggle their way through "Church Police," a rather pointless, scattershot routine. The revue concludes with the familiar
While inarguably amusing, MONTY PYTHON LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL clearly indicates that the Pythons were at their best within the half-hour TV program format that brought them fame. Forced to overproject when in concert and tempted perhaps to be a bit broader and coarser than customary, the boys
are still inimitable and priceless--a lot closer to the heart of their comic genius than they ever were in their other feature films. (Nudity, profanity.)
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- Released: 1982
- Rating: R
- Review: Unable to think up a plot for their forthcoming film MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (1983), the Python comedy troupe took time out to play the Hollywood Bowl on the evenings of September 26-29, 1980. The program was comprised mainly of classic sketches… (more)