Monty Python – early home video discovered

You just think programs like America’s Funniest Home Videos or full-blown channels such as YouTube are new and original ideas. Not so, say Dan Cruickshank and Kirsty Wark, who are out to prove that shooting a video and showing it off to the public isn’t a new thing. Beginning this week, on BBC Two, Home Movie Roadshow presents 100 years of Britons’ lives filmed on home movie cameras.

What does this have to do with British comedy, you ask?

Glad you asked. British comedy fans worldwide will get to see some very cool early home movies, shot by Terry Jones, that show the Pythons during scripting and rehearsals and just general screwing around long before they hit the big time. The bit towards the end with Cleese doing his best to imitate Anthony Perkins is priceless.

For those of you outside the UK, Northern Ireland and Scotland….here’s the clip from the 2nd episode of Home Movie Roadshow featuring the Pythons at play. Enjoy.

Pythons invade the U.S. in 1975

Speaking of early Python video where you truly get the sense that these are just 6 guys having fun and not realizing just how big they are about to get…here’s the 1975 footage of when they were in the KERA Dallas studios during a membership campaign just after arriving in the U.S. for the premiere of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

In: Comedy

  • Keith Gairdner

    If you apparently “love” British comedy and “all things British”… it might be useful to know a few things about the source of them. The country is called “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” which is commonly shortened to “the U.K.”
    Judging by your comment “for those of you outside the UK, Northern Ireland and Scotland…” you clearly think “U.K.” means “England” and you felt the need to include two other parts of the U.K. because you don’t know that they are part of it. Just saying “the U.K.” automatically includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The U.K. is the union of two kingdoms: Great Britain, on the larger island and comprising England, Scotland and Wales (think of them as California, Oregon and Washington and you might get it) and the kingdom of Northern Ireland, on the smaller island to the West. Thus, when the Kingdom of Great Britain was considered “united” with the Kingdom Of Ireland (now just the northern part of it since the Republic of Ireland was formed) the term “U.K.” was coined to describe it. If you’re just talking about one part of it, for example the mainland, you might say “Great Britain” and you’d be referring to England, Wales and Scotland together. The BBC and other British broadcasters broadcast to ALL of the United Kingdom and their nearby possessions: the Isle of Man (in the Irish sea between the island of Great Britain and island of Ireland) and The Channel Islands, south of Great Britain, off the coast of France. You could have just said “for those of you outside the U.K.” or “for those of you outside Britain…”. Your statement sounds like “for those of you outside the U.S., Alaska and Iowa…”. If you “love” British TV, get a grip on what you’re talking about.

    • @Keith: I stand corrected, but just to clarify as to where my comments came from, with respect to saying “outside the U.K, Northern Ireland and Scotland”, word for word that was taken off of a BBC Two website in referencing who could see the broadcast of the show I was talking about. In the future, I will do as you suggest and use the correct ident as “outside the U.K.”. Bill

  • Keith Gairdner

    Well then, Bill, I aopolgise if I sounded a bit harsh…whoever wrote what you saw on a BBC web page is clearly a person who doesn’t know much about their own country. Just saying “country” when talking about the U.K. can have pitfalls: each “country” of the U.K. (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) is referred to that way internally. For outsiders, they should be thought of not as “countries” but “states” as in the U.S. or “provinces” (I’m Canadian). For example, a person living in Scotland will say he is “Scottish” and hardly ever says he is “British” and that his country is “Scotland”. This is the source of the confusion for outsiders as the English tend to be the only citizens of the UK prepared to say they are “British” and so the outside world can be forgiven for thinking Britain=England and the Scots, Welsh, Irish are in separate countries. The U.K. is the unitary state comprising 4 “countries” just as the U.S. unitary state (head of is Obama) comprises 50 “states”; The Queen is not “Queen of England” but “Queen of the United Kingdom”; David Cameron is Prime Minister of the U.K.; it issues passports to all its citizens called “British Passport” right on the cover; it is the name at their desk at the UN (there is no Scotland, Wales, etc. at the UN just as there is no Texas, New Hampshire, etc.) If someone in Wales or Scotland goes to join the army, he is joining the British Army… Sorry to go on, but living in the U.K. but of Canadian origin, I am quite content to say I’m British, I live in Britain (or the U.K.) but, Scotland being fairly nationalistic, (like Quebec in Canada) it doesn’t go down well with the locals (Ha ha!)
    To bring this back to “telly”… let it be known that living near Glasgow in Scotland, I have to pay for a “Television Licence” which funds the BBC; when I switch on my telly I receive BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, etc… from a transmitter just a few miles away and firmly in Scotland (i.e. I’m not watching “English” TV from across the border) and the only difference is that there are regional variations at some times of the day: for example at 6 o’clock the BBC transmitters in Scotland carry, from studios in Glasgow, “Scotland Today” whereas someone near Birmingham, England would see “BBC 1 West Midlands Today”. Have you noticed at the last credit of the Doctor Who series recently revived, it is a “BBC Wales Production”? They film almost all of it in Cardiff studios.
    Anyway, here endeth the geopolitical lesson! Now, if I can only find that person responsible for that BBC2 web page!!!!!

    • Keith: All excellent points. Thoroughly confusing to an outsider from Texas, :), but excellent. I have now printed out and put in a prominent place next to the computer as a constant reminder.

      I have begun to notice the creeping influence of Wales into the picture not only on the credits of Doctor Who, but in just the production of Gavin & Stacey, etc. Isn’t Torchwood shot up there too?

      I’m having a hard time understanding the move of some BBC staff up to the studios in Manchester, especially for the morning BBC Breakfast show. Just my personal opinion, but I can’t see anyone going up there as a guest live, especially if you need a quick turnaround on a breaking story. All will be merely on satellite now and lose the in-studio interaction.

      Thanks again for the geography lesson. Comment anytime. Suggest topics too if you have something you’d like discussed.

  • Keith Gairdner

    Hi Bill, I wasn’t aware that BBC Breakfast had moved to Manchester. I agree that being away from the “centre of the Universe” (London) would mean less available “A-list” celebs and politicoes. Most of their “entertainment” interviews concern a new BBC programme or a play or film and Manchester is quite a big city so perhaps they would just interview a celeb currently in M’chester, perhaps in a play at a Manchester theatre. Don’t forget that Granada (or “ITV Productions” as it’s now known) is based there, so it’s quite a hub of production and there are always celebs around. Also, Britain doesn’t really have a “Hollywood” or “Beverly Hills” and many, many in the arts don’t live in London. After production of a TV show the star will be back home in Yorkshire or wherever and when the time comes to “plug” it they may just as well go to M’chester than London. As for political interviews, you’re right, they’ll interview them down the line from London (no need for satellites here on this tiny island for domestic feeds, just run it down the fibre…) and I agree it ruins the feel. Maybe they were just “doing a week” from Mancs, as British TV often do shows from “the regions” as a change of scenery. How is it you’re able to watch BBC Breakfast, a domestic programme which I don’t believe is on BBC America (I know it’s not on BBC Canada)?
    2) I noticed on the 1975 KERA tape of the Pythons, Michael Palin joked about the armadillo and “English” customs, so you see how the English, being 85% of the population, are guilty of Britain=England and that’s why the Scots, Welsh, etc are so nationalistic or “anti-English” at times. The English can, sometimes, act as if they’re the only part that counts. It’s funny ‘cos the Pythons filmed in Scotland A LOT (rugged landscape, lack of traffic congestion, etc) so you’d think they’d know better. I had a laugh at Terry Gilliam’s accent on the KERA tape, he seems to have lost some of that “imprinted” English accent when I see him in recent interviews. The interview was, in general, pretty excruciating to watch, the Pythons seemed so stiff and not very articulate. They tended to answer a question by trailing off as if they’d lost interest. Terry Jones did a terrible job but I knew his point was that “commercial” TV execs censor or dumb-down because they’re afraid of ANY offence to ANY viewer as they want max numbers to “sell the soap”. The BBC certainly care about numbers but they do tend to push the barriers more and challenge the viewer rather than spoon-feed them. As a Canadian I know how mind-numbing North American TV can be, except PBS and the CBC. And Canada tolerates a lot more “questionable” language or subject matter, perhaps our British roots are still showing 😉
    3) Did you know the Doctor Who reincarnation is a co-production with CBC? I watched it in Canada the same weeks it was on in the UK, 5 years ago but I think it’s more under just the BBC now. “The Tudors” is also a CBC co-prod. As for Torchwood (an anagram of “Doctorwho”), yes it’s done by BBC Wales as well. The Beeb is big on distributing more work around the country, they’re not a big monolithic org now and contract out a lot of prods either to the Regions or to private prod houses.
    By the way, Scotland is “up” and Wales is “over” (from England’s viewpoint) as it is the Western part of the island and Scotland is the top half. In Scotland, when we’re going to travel to England we say we’re going “down south” and we say “the worst thing about Wales is that you have to go through England to get to it!” :b

    • Keith: Don’t think they’ve moved as of yet. FYI, I’m not able to see it, but know a couple of people that work at Television Centre who are anticipating the move in the not-too-distant future. They talked about Breakfast moving to the Manchester studios along with other staffers. Did I hear correctly that they are vacating Television Centre at some point and putting it up for sale with some staff going over the Broadcast House, too, in addition to Manchester?

      The Python interview tape from 1975 was “found” on an engineer’s save reel when he retired. I think the conversation/pledge break went on for another 30 minutes or so but not record of it anywhere. I guess Cleese was gone from the Pythons by then which would explain why he wasn’t there, but not sure about Eric Idle.

      Was interesting to read Palin’s diaries of the early days of Python and their subsequent trip to America.


  • Tom Jackson

    Hey Bill, don’t mind our friend Keith there jumping down your throat – I think most people with two brain cells to rub together will understand what you mean by “outside the UK, Northern Ireland and Scotland”. And I know most people in Northern Ireland and Scotland will have no problem with it. Or most in Southern, Eastern or Western Ireland for that matter.

    • @Tom: Not to worry. I’ve been nailed to the wall for much worse not unlike Michael Palin was on St. Tadger’s Day in the Ripping Yarns episode of Tomkinson’s Schooldays.