Monty Python's Flying Circus

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Television series
German title Monty Python's Flying Circus
Original title Monty Python's Flying Circus
Country of production United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
original language English
Year (s) 1969-1974
Python (Monty) Pictures
length 30 minutes
Episodes 45 + 2
genre Comedy
production Ian MacNaughton
John Howard Davies
First broadcast October 5th, 1969 on BBC One
first broadcast
September 8, 1971 on German television

Monty Python's Flying Circus was a British comedy show by the comedian group Monty Python . It was originally broadcast on the British broadcaster BBC from 1969 to 1974 . The Pythons showed skits in four seasons and a total of 45 episodes , which were characterized by subtle and above all black and surreal humor. In addition, two episodes were produced for German television. The series applies to both form and content as groundbreaking for the genre of comedy ; In particular, the renouncement of a punch line after a particularly absurd scene was revolutionary and had a style-forming effect.

Popular themes in the series

In numerous parodies and parodies everything was in a hitherto unseen on TV directness and openness almost made fun of what shaped the British society and media publicity of the late 1960s and early 1970s and moved. State and social authorities (e.g. police officers, politicians, soldiers, scientists, judges) were devotedly parodied and dismantled. Other typical and stereotypical figures in society also appeared again and again, such as B. the simple-minded British housewife, the frustrated and / or neurotic clerk, doctor or salesman or the snooty upper-class member. Other nationalities such as Scandinavians, French and Germans were parodied as well as real historical figures such as B. Oscar Wilde , the Montgolfier brothers , Cardinal Richelieu , Jean-Paul Sartre or German Nazi celebrities. Even pronounced TV taboo topics such as B. Violence, death and sexuality were not left out of Monty Python's Flying Circus. The BBC itself was always a popular target of Python's ridicule . Numerous skits parody television programs of the time, e . B. Talk shows, news programs and documentaries, showing the vanity, ignorance and voyeurism of their moderators. The prudish nature of the television program at the time was also frequently put to the test by provocative jokes with sexual innuendos and (half) naked people.

The show also broke many conventions formally, so the skits usually did not end with a final punchline, but merged, were linked by cutscenes (often Terry Gilliam's animated film sequences) or were dissolved in an absurd, surreal way, for example by protagonists were shot, beaten to death with huge hammers or weights, or characters came into view who declared the sketch over. In addition, the form of the program itself was often played ironically, for example by protagonists often breaking through the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience or openly complaining or making fun of the program or the BBC.

The creation of the title

Before the striking title was found, there had been a few other suggestions, including "Owl Stretching Time", "Bunn, Wackett, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot" and "A Horse, A Spoon and a Basin". The BBC's Comedy Director then insisted that the title of the series contain the word “Circus” because the group of comedians roamed the broadcaster's offices, much like a circus. In order not to arouse false expectations, it became “Flying Circus”. During the First World War , “Flying Circus” was the British name for the Luftkampfgeschwader Jagdstaffel 11 of the “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen .

Michael Palin and Terry Jones then came across the name "Gwen Dibley" in a telephone directory and wanted to name the series "Gwen Dibley's Flying Circus" because they thought it was funny to imagine how Gwen Dibley's family would one day watch the television paper reads and states: "Hey, Gwen, you have your own TV show!" However, the BBC asked for this to be changed, and so the artificial name "Monty Python" came about. How exactly this name came about is not clear.


The British comedian group appeared on other sketch shows before Monty Python: John Cleese and Graham Chapman on At Last the 1948 Show , Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin on Do Not Adjust Your Set . Both series were shot in black and white . Cleese, Chapman and Palin also worked in the 1968 TV film How to Irritate People . Most of the skits in these programs were already in the later style of Monty Python, but had closing punchlines.

The evolution of the series

The late, often changed broadcasting slot, the small broadcasting area and the unusual format ensured that the series was initially only noticed by a small audience. According to Michael Palin , the audience in the early days consisted of people with insomnia, intellectuals and unemployed burglars . It was only after the series was canceled that it was successful. The show first aired in the US in 1974 and gained a huge following there - much to the surprise of the Pythons, who considered their humor non-exportable .

In the early 1970s, Alfred Biolek discovered the show; In 1971 it was broadcast for the first time in Germany on German television . Since the show's humor was considered untranslatable, the third programs in Germany broadcast it exclusively in the original language with German subtitles. As a result, two German episodes were created in 1971/72 called Monty Python's flying circus , the so-called German Episodes . One episode was spoken entirely in German and the other with German subtitles.

Further episodes were shown on German television in 1971 and 1972, but it was not until 1991 that N3 showed all episodes - also in the original language with German subtitles. It was only in 1998 that Sat.1 dared to do a German dubbing - with young actors / voice actors, as the usual German voices from the Monty Python films would have been too old. But the result was controversial. Due to the bad ratings, the series was quickly withdrawn from the program.

The title track was an excerpt from John Philip Sousa's Liberty Bell March . The reason for this choice was not a preference for this music, but a product of chance. According to their own account, the group heard a band play this piece when they were looking for a theme song for their show. The rights to this song were free and therefore no royalties had to be paid.

Recurring characters

Within the series, a few characters returned in several skits, these achieved a certain cult status:

  • The "It's" man, played by Michael Palin : This is a man with torn clothes, long hair and a long beard. Its appearance is reminiscent of a shipwrecked man. He appears especially in the first episodes in the scene immediately before the opening credits. Most of the time he runs towards the camera, having to overcome obstacles such as undergrowth or water. When he arrives at the camera, he says: "It's ...", a cut follows and the opening credits begin with the title of the show.
  • The BBC announcer portrayed by John Cleese sitting at a desk. This desk is usually in an unsuitable area, e.g. B. in a forest or a river. It usually appears in a scene between two sketches and delivers the striking sentence: “And now for something completely different.” (German And now to something completely different. ).
  • The Gumbys , respectively Mister Gumby ( Terry Jones ), a mentally retarded person with a knotted handkerchief on his head, wire glasses , a small mustache, high water pants and rubber boots (hence the name, from the English Gum Boot ).
  • The Pepperpots (German: Pfefferstreuer ). This is how the writers in the script called female roles played by one of the male Python members. John Cleese said in the film How to Irritate People that the typical figure of an English middle-class housewife looks like a pepper shaker. This is how the name came about.
  • A short clip in black and white, about three seconds long, showing applauding middle-aged women. The clip came from the BBC archive and was filmed at the meeting of the English women's institute.
  • A knight in full armor, portrayed by Terry Gilliam , who in the first series finishes the skits by hitting people on the head with a raw, plucked chicken.
  • The Colonel, played by Graham Chapman (originally from the sketch Funniest Joke Of The World ), fulfills a similar function : he ends skits when they get too silly.
  • A Hungarian (originally from the sketch Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook ), played by Cleese, who sexually insults people - but only because he uses a phrase book in everyday situations in which normal sentences are incorrectly translated (as sexual insults).
  • Ken Shabby (Palin), a rather worn-out man who constantly coughs. He had his own sketch, then showed up from time to time to give his opinion on certain topics.
  • Eric Praline (Cleese), a mostly angry man in a heavy accent raincoat, complaining to someone (often Palin) about something. Many of his skits are among the better known, such as Dead Parrot and Fish License .
  • Luigi Vercotti (Palin), a mafioso. He shows up the first time with his brother Dino to extort protection money from the army. Since then only had a few short appearances.
  • A naked organ player (played the first two times by Gilliam, then by Jones).
  • The indignant viewer. A voice from the off (mostly John Cleese) reads a faded-in (fictitious) viewer's letter, which, full of moral indignation, refers to the previously broadcast sketch and condemns it in the strongest possible way. The content of the letter occasionally exposes the writer as a hypocrite or a voyeur .
  • Several members of the Spanish Inquisition (from the sketch of the same name) in full regalia , who appear completely unexpectedly ("Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!").
  • A weight of 16 tons that completes a sketch by burying overly embarrassing characters. In the short cartoon sequences, this role is taken over by the foot of God or an oversized pig shown above .

The end of the Flying Circus and the consequences

Between the second and third season, the film The Wonderful World of Gravity , a selection of newly produced skits from the previous series , was released in 1971 . After the third season, John Cleese left the show. The fourth season consisted of only six episodes and with the airing of the last episode on December 5, 1974, the series was completed. There were other joint television productions only for anniversaries ( Parrot Sketch not included with Steve Martin for the 25th anniversary and at an award ceremony on American television for the 30th anniversary). For this purpose, the members of Monty Python together produced several movies and stage shows.

The movies:

The stage shows:

The first three stage shows consisted for the most part of sketches from the Flying Circus , rearranged and combined with new material, Monty Python Live at Aspen is in itself the award of a US comedy prize to the surviving pythons, which, however, turns out to be an almost one-hour stage show on the subject Monty Python emerges, on which even the late Graham Chapman is involved in the form of an urn that rattles away. (Source: US DVD Monty Python Live)

Famous skits

  • The parrot is dead ( Dead Parrot )
  • Annoying guest in the pub ( nudge nudge )
  • Spam Sketch ( The Spam sketch ). The current term spam for unsolicited and mass-sent advertising e-mails goes back to this sketch .
  • The Ministry of Silly Walks ( The Ministry of Silly Walks )
  • Lumberjack Song ( The Lumberjack Song )
  • Knusperfrosch ( Crunchy Frog / Trade Description Act)
  • Communist Quiz Skit ( World Forum )
  • The funniest joke in the world ( The Funniest Joke in the World )
  • The Spanish Inquisition ( The Spanish Inquisition )
  • By-elections in Minehead ( North Minehead by-election )
  • Gumby brain surgeon ( Gumby brain specialist )
  • Dennis Moore
  • Discover the madman ( Spot the Loony )
  • Johann Gambolputty
  • The golden age of ballooning ( The Golden Age of Ballooning )
  • Election Night Special. The character Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel later inspired the student John Desmond Lewis to change his name accordingly and under this name at to run for an election.
  • Party Political Broadcast (choreographed) . This sketch at the beginning of episode 38 shows then Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath in a pink tutu dancing through the sketch. However, this was too sensitive for the BBC, so this sketch was cut out. It still appears as text in Just The Words , but is still missing from broadcasts and on the entire Flying Circus DVD collection from 2007.
  • Biggles dictates a letter ( biggles Dictates a Letter )
  • Football game of the philosophers
  • Dirty Hungarian-English dictionary ( Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook ); (see: English As She Is Spoke , a faulty Portuguese-English phrasebook from 1853).


1971 - Golden Rose of Montreux - Silver Rose


  • Roger Wilmut: Monty Python's Flying Circus: Just The Words. Volume One and Two in One Book. , Methuen / Mandarin, London 1989. ISBN 0-7493-0226-7 .
  • Reinhard Gratzke: Monty Python's Flying Circus Selected Sketches , Reclam Fremdsprachentexte, Stuttgart 1995. ISBN 3-15-009023-7
  • Sven Böttcher ao: Monty Python's Flying Circus, Complete Words, Volume 1 , Heyne, Munich 1995. ISBN 3-453-09235-X
  • Rod Green: Monty Python's FLYING CIRCUS - Hidden Treasures , Edition Olms, Zurich, 2017, ISBN 978-3-283-01279-3

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. BBC Genomes. Retrieved October 3, 2019
  2. ^ Television dictionary »Monty Python's Flying Circus. Retrieved November 27, 2018 .