Theater & art

Monty Python shows aim for Jagger-like energy jolt

From left: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones in London on Monday.

Paul Hackett/REUTERS

From left: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones in London on Monday.

LONDON — The members of Monty Python are aiming to move like Mick Jagger in their live farewell shows.

The five surviving Pythons have reunited for 10 dates at London’s 15,000-seat O2 Arena starting Tuesday. It’s a fast-paced comic revue that requires the septuagenarian comedians to act, sing, dance, and pull off rapid-fire costume changes.


Michael Palin says the group drew inspiration from the Rolling Stones frontman, still gyrating at 70.

‘‘A kind of madness takes over,’’ Palin told a news conference on Monday. ‘‘You just leap about at a certain point.’’

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Fellow comedian Terry Gilliam added: ‘‘Our version of ‘Brown Sugar’ is far better.’’

It turns out the Stones singer is one of Monty Python’s many famous fans. Jagger has filmed a promo clip for the show, in which he asks wryly why audiences would want to watch a ‘‘bunch of wrinkly old men trying to relive their youth.’’

It has been 40 years since ‘‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’’ was on television, but the anarchic troupe remains a phenomenon.


World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking — another Python aficionado — is due to make a guest appearance in the show. Journalists at Monday’s news conference came from Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and beyond. A Spaniard asked about the Spanish Inquisition sketch; a Finn wanted to know ‘‘How do you feel about Finland?’’

(Answer: Monty Python wrote a song about the Nordic nation. It’s in the show).

Eric Idle, who has done much of the work assembling the evening, said fans can expect old favorites, back-catalog gems, and a few new twists.

‘‘Our motto has been: Leave them wanting less,’’ he said.

As well as Idle, Palin, Gilliam, John Cleese, and Terry Jones, the show features a dance troupe, singing lumberjacks, Spam-loving Vikings, a dead parrot, and much more. It is, unsurprisingly, a bit naughty.

‘‘I’m happy and proud to say it’s actually rather filthy,’’ Idle said.

The troupe last performed together at the Hollywood Bowl in 1980. Times, and the Pythons, have changed since then.

‘‘All the audience was smoking marijuana,’’ said Jones. ‘‘When John and I went into the audience we came out pretty high.’’

Now, said Palin, ‘‘we’ve got some Viagra in our dressing room.’’

Each member of the group has adopted his own style of preparation for the 10-night stand, which ends July 20 with a show beamed to 1,800 movie theaters around the world, including the Boston area (check theater listings for local sites).

‘‘I’ve not been drinking for a week,’’ said Jones. Idle has been hiking and running. Cleese has opted for ‘‘sleeping more,’’ while Palin is enduring ‘‘a punishing schedule of lying down and watching television.’’

This may be the end of the road for Monty Python, but none of its members plan to retire. Upcoming projects include a memoir from Cleese and a movie by Jones based on Tchaikovsky’s ‘‘Nutcracker Suite.’’

‘‘I think of it as a pre-posthumous memorial service,’’ Gilliam said of the last bow.

‘‘Preposterous?’’ Palin chipped in. The Pythons still slip seamlessly into affectionate banter when they are together.

Mortality is just another thing to be laughed at. The show is titled ‘‘One Down, Five to Go’’ in honor of the sixth Python, Graham Chapman. He died of cancer in 1989 but will appear onscreen.

‘‘We’ll just carry on working till we drop,’’ said Palin.

‘‘If one of us has died, the rest of us will bring in more money.’’

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