The Shrubbery
August 1999
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Monty Python Speaks! by David Morgan

A review by Jessica Brandt

With the 30th anniversary of the beginnings of Monty Python comes a barrage of new Python books (look for others to be reviewed in this publication as the author lives paycheck to paycheck), and rightfully so. As stated in another article this month, Monty Python can be considered this generation's leading comedic inspiration. By "studying" Python (ie not just watching it and giggling, but truly trying to find out why it is so funny), one can become quite the comedic scholar.

David Morgan's book, Monty Python Speaks!, is a very raw and original look at the entire history of Monty Python, from their beginnings at Cambridge and Oxford (and in Terry Gilliam's case, "America") to their solo careers and recent group appearance at the Aspen Comedy Festival.

What makes this particular book so unique is that it is merely transcripts of interviews with the five remaining Pythons, as well as producers, directors, friends, press agents, and other people integral to bringing us their genius. The interviewer, Morgan, asked the same or similar questions to all parties involved, and grouped their answers with the questions they pretain to, so it doesn't read like a bunch of short interviews, but more like a roundtable discussion.

Much of the book is filled by the "rantings" of the three most vocal Pythons, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, and Terry Jones. Michael Palin had some funny things to say, and Eric Idle's passages were usually short bits of nonsense (hey, this is Python. Someone had to be funny!). The book shows repeatedly how Cleese and Jones didn't get along too well because both are control freaks, how Gilliam was "the visual director" while Jones was "the compassionate director," and how everyone really likes Michael Palin.

There is a lot of discussion in this 300+ page book about movies, and the making of the television show, which leads to a lot of drivel about setting up shots and the like. It's an interesting inside-look at the making of film, but sometimes it gets too wordy and boring to the non-filmmaker.

However, Monty Python Speaks! is a great book for those of us obsessed with the troupe, and offers a lot of insight. It's definitely not for the casual Python fan, or anyone new to the group. Many of the stories have been told in other publications, but it's still a great source of information. It kept me awake for 4 days straight (No, it's not scary like Blair Witch. I mean I read it at night.)

Included in the book is also an extensive index and a great list of Flying Circus episodes, Python publications, films, videos, and other naughty bits. Oh yes, there are also some great "never-before-seen" backstage and candid pictures.

Of all the other Python books I've read, I'd give this an A for originality, a B for content, and a C for accessability.

Buy Monty Python Speaks! at Amazon.com for much much less than what Jessica paid at Borders!

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