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The Life of Python    by George Perry order for
Life of Python
by George Perry
Order:  USA  Can
Pavilion, 2007 (1984)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I can't claim to be a huge Monty Python fan (heresy I know), my teen sons regularly subject me to their own re-enactments of Python skits, as well as the originals (they have the entire collection in DVDs) - and I do share their appreciation for the martial arts sequence, in which combatants are armed with different fruits.

In his 1999 Introduction (whatever you do, also read his hilarious Acknowledgements) to The Life of Python, George Perry speaks of 'the amazing decade of the 1960s, at the very end of which Monty Python sprang into glorious existence', and of the evolution and subsequent dumbing-down of British comedy. He tells us that Monty Python worked so well because 'Six quick-witted young men of superabundant clowning talent came together and allowed a synergy to occur.' He discusses the impact of their Oxbridge educations, and their individual careers since the days of Python glory. The book is generously illustrated with photos and artwork.

Perry goes on to cover the birth of the Pythons in 1969 London, England via the debut of Monty Python's Flying Circus as a 'mewling infant' on British television, heavily influenced by radio comedy. He continues with chapters on the backgrounds and contribution of each of the six comic geniuses: Michael Palin, 'the nice one' whose 'interest in the Arthurian legend' inspired Monty Python and the Holy Grail; Welsh Terry Jones, whose 'range of enthusiasms is breathtaking'; American Terry Gilliam (who provided the graphics) and his foot fetish; John Cleese, 'prickliest of the Pythons', who has married three Americans and has mellowed; the apparently calm but unpredictable Graham Chapman, who sadly died of cancer in 1989; and Eric Idle, 'the group loner' and 'tongue-twisting wordsmith'.

Finally, Perry talks of how the show got its name and signature tune, its choice of locations in the wilds of Britain, its stock figures, its introduction of a style of comedy that mocked the 'very essence of television', its wild success and 'sheer bloody genius.' He covers the books and movies, and a threat of censorship during the third television series. He also describes what the Pythons achieved once each struck out on his own. A multitude of Monty Python fans (including my sons) will devour this delightful tribute to a team that 'changed the face of British comedy - forever.'

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