Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus

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Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus
Cover of the British VHS release.
Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam
Directed by Ian MacNaughton
Starring Monty Python, Connie Booth
Country of origin West Germany
Original language(s) German
No. of episodes 2
Producer(s) Alfred Biolek, Thomas Woitkewitsch
Location(s) Bavaria
Cinematography Justus Pankau, Ernst Schmid;
animation by Terry Gilliam
Running time 45 minutes
Production company(s) Westdeutscher Rundfunk
Python (Monty) Pictures
Original channel ARD
Picture format Film
Original run 3 January 1972 – 18 December 1972

Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus (Monty Python's Flying Circus) consisted of two 45-minute Monty Python German television comedy specials produced by WDR for West German television. The two episodes were first broadcast in January and December 1972 and were shot entirely on film and mostly on location in Bavaria, with the first episode recorded in German and the second recorded in English and then dubbed into German.


While visiting the UK in the early 1970s, German entertainer and TV producer Alfred Biolek caught notice of the Pythons and, excited by their innovative and absurd sketches, he invited them to Germany in 1971 and 1972 to write two special German episodes of their Monty Python's Flying Circus show and to act in them. The result, Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus, was produced by Biolek in co-production with Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Eric Idle has described the conception of the specials as "The Germans came to us and said 'Look, we haven't got a sense of humour, but we understand you do. Can we use yours?'"[1] Meanwhile, Michael Palin noted that "All I know is that it reversed all one's prejudices. Python has done very, very well in Germany, and the movies do extremely well. [...] Whenever anyone says, you know, the Germans have no sense of humor, say no, hang on, hang on, they got Monty Python before a lot of other countries."[2]

The second episode was recorded in English due to issues with the German accents of some of the members; only John Cleese and Michael Palin delivered their lines in German well enough to be easily understood by native speakers. The other Python performers all had very thick accents (particularly Terry Jones), making them difficult to understand. In some cases the episode was broadcast with German subtitles.[3]


Some of the material was reworked from At Last the 1948 Show.

Footage from these specials was used to fill time between live stage performances, as seen in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. Also, "Ten Seconds of Sex" from episode two was shown in Series 3, Episode 9, "Nude Organist", of the TV show.

Several new sketches were written specifically for this show, including "William Tell", "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Merchant of Venice" as performed by a herd of cows. Only "The Lumberjack Song" was translated from an existing BBC Monty Python episode.

List of episodes[edit]

Episode 1 (produced in 1971 and originally broadcast on ARD TV on 3 January 1972 at 9 pm CET)
  • An Introduction to Monty Python By Frau Newsreader Claudia Doren
  • The Journey of The Olympic Flame
  • Monty Python’s Guide to Albrecht Dürer
  • Anita Ekberg Sings Albrecht Dürer
  • The Merchant of Venice as performed by a herd of cows
  • Doctor Breeder
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Silly Olympics
  • Stake Your Claim
  • The Lumberjack Song with The Austrian Border Police
  • The Bavarian Restaurant

Edited versions of the "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Silly Olympics" sketches were dubbed into English and included in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl; The Stake Your Claim sketch was included on the English language record Another Monty Python Record.

Episode 2 (produced in 1972 and originally broadcast on ARD on 18 December 1972 at 9 pm CET)

An English-language version of the philosopher's football match was included in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. "The Tale of Happy Valley" turned up on the English language record Monty Python's Previous Record.


The first show received mixed reviews. Opinion surveys taken after the episode was broadcast revealed that 8% of the audience found the show to be very good, 15% found it to be very bad, and 43% found it to be good.[2]


Guerilla Films released both episodes on a single VHS tape in 1998, available in either PAL or NTSC format. The American A&E Network used this release as the basis of their DVD releases of the same material, with the first episode being included on Monty Python Live and the second episode included on The Life of Python. (This arrangement resulted in the second episode being omitted from A&E's otherwise-complete 16-DVD box set of Monty Python's Flying Circus.)

The Australian DVD company Rainbow Entertainment also released both episodes on one DVD.

The Swiss publisher Haffmans released a hardbound book containing the scripts of both episodes, with introductions and essays by the German producers, in 1998. This book has not been translated into English as of 2007.

Both episodes have been shown on the Paramount Comedy Channel in the UK and on PBS in the USA in 2007.

Lost sketches[edit]

Several behind-the-scenes photos from the specials' production were published in the group's autobiography,[3] some of which were from sketches cut from the specials:

  • A version of the "Marriage Guidance Counsellor" sketch.
  • A sketch involving a flute player (Graham Chapman) in front of a German sign.
  • A version of the "Sir Edward Ross" sketch
  • An alternate ending to the first special, in which two stage hands are carrying a giant sign that says ENDE off a huge field. Behind the sign is Terry Jones' singer character from the Albrecht Dürer sketch.


  1. ^ "Monty Python Live at Aspen". Monty Python's Flying Circus. 21 March, 1998. ISBN 0-7670-8566-3.
  2. ^ a b Wehn, Henning. "Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus!". Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Monty Python. Edited by Alfred Biolek (1998). Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus: Sämtliche deutschen Shows. Haffmans. ISBN 3-251-00414-X. 

External links[edit]