Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl

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Monty Python
Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by Terry Hughes
Written by
Music by
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • 25 June 1982 (1982-06-25)
Running time
80 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $327,958

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl is a 1982 British concert comedy film directed by Ian MacNaughton (with the live segments by Terry Hughes) and starring the Monty Python comedy troupe (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin) as they perform many of their greatest sketches at the Hollywood Bowl. The film also features Carol Cleveland in numerous supporting roles and Neil Innes performing songs. Also present for the shows and participating as an 'extra' was Python superfan Kim "Howard" Johnson.

The show also included filmed inserts which were mostly taken from two Monty Python specials, Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus, which had been broadcast on German television in 1972. The performance was recorded on videotape in September 1980 and transferred to film.[2] In the wake of Life of Brian's worldwide success, the Pythons originally planned to release a film consisting of the two German shows redubbed and re-edited, but this proved impractical, and so Hollywood Bowl was released instead.

Although it mostly contains sketches from the television series, the scripts and performers are not identical to those seen on television. The line-up also includes some sketches that predated Monty Python's Flying Circus, including the "Four Yorkshiremen sketch", which dated from 1967's At Last the 1948 Show.

Sketches and songs[edit]

  • "Sit on My Face" – A ribald parody of Gracie Fields' "Sing as We Go" from Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, performed by Cleese, Chapman, Gilliam and Jones in waiter outfits, sans trousers or underwear.
  • "Colin 'Bomber' Harris" – Chapman is his own opponent in the wrestling ring as Cleese delivers play-by-play. This is a mime piece that dates back to Chapman's college days.
  • "Never Be Rude to an Arab" – Jones performs an ostensibly anti-racism song filled with demeaning epithets, and is subsequently blown up. This sketch has two parts at different points in the show. In the first part, he's blown up and dragged offstage by Kim Johnson dressed as a large frog. In the second, he's blown up and dragged off by Johnson dressed as a Christmas tree. Also from Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album.
  • "The Last Supper" – Michelangelo (Idle) defends his creative first draft of The Last Supper painting against the objections of the Pope (Cleese). Was originally written for the TV series by Cleese and Chapman but somehow never got on the air (although its punchline, "I don't know much about art but I know what I like" was featured in a different Season 1 skit), and was first performed for one of the Secret Policeman's Ball shows. It's based on a historical incident involving the Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese.
  • "Silly Olympics" – In a filmed section, athletes compete in absurd sporting events of the "Silly Olympiad," an event traditionally held every 3.7 years. The events include
    • The 100m for Runners with No Sense of Direction. On the starting gun, the runners run off in every single direction.
    • The 1500m for the Deaf. They don't move because they can't hear the starting gun.
    • The 200m Freestyle for Non-Swimmers. At the starting whistle, they all jump into the water and immediately sink without surfacing, to which the commentator remarks that they'll return to the swimming when they start "fishing the corpses out".
    • The Marathon for Incontinence with extremely weak bladders. In this, runners fall away from the group every couple of metres to relieve themselves, giving others the lead.
    • The 3000m Steeplechase for People Who Think They're Chickens. In this, the runners are all doing chicken movements all over the course, and seem to be trying desperately to lay eggs on the hurdles.
    • The High Jump briefly features, with one of the Pythons, perhaps Cleese, dressed as a woman. He takes a run-up, then jumps ridiculously high over a wall and onto a high balcony.

The "Silly Olympics" sketch is from the first Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus episode, dubbed into English. The original version also featured the events "1500m for people and their mothers" and "Hammer throw to America", whereas the latter acted as a link to the next sketch.

  • "Bruces' Philosophers Song" – The University of Woolloomooloo's Philosophy Department throws cans of Foster's Lager at the audience and perform "The Philosophers' Song", accompanied by large Gilliam cutouts, detailing the drinking habits of history's great thinkers and project lyrics for the audience and viewers to sing along to. Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Neil Innes play three Bruces. Originally from The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief.
  • "The Ministry of Silly Walks" – Palin has difficulty gaining funding for his (only slightly) silly walk. This also contains colour footage of the same archival 'silly walks' film seen in the first episode of the second Python television series.
  • "Camp Judges" – British judges (Idle and Palin) behave unconventionally outside the courtroom. From Monty Python's Flying Circus, series 2.
  • "World Forum/Communist Quiz" – Historical socialist leaders Karl Marx (Jones), Lenin (Cleese), Che Guevara (Palin) and Mao Tse-Tung (Gilliam) are asked British football trivia questions in a quiz show game hosted by Idle. From Monty Python's Flying Circus, series 2.
  • "I'm the Urban Spaceman" – Neil Innes performs the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band number as Carol Cleveland tap dances and constantly loses timing of the song. The song dates to 1968 and was performed in Do Not Adjust Your Set; this staging of it as a comedy dance routine previously appeared in Rutland Weekend Television with Lyn Ashley as the dancer.
  • "Crunchy Frog" – Candymaker Jones answers to the police (Chapman and Gilliam, who vomits into his helmet) for his disgusting varieties of chocolates. From series 1.
  • "Albatross" – Cleese, dressed as a waitress, attempts to vend a wandering albatross to audience member Jones. The sketch is stopped by the colonel (Chapman) for being too silly, who then orders Jones to report on stage for the next sketch. Originally performed during Season 1, although the film version uses adult language.
  • "Nudge Nudge" – Idle pesters Jones with perplexing innuendo. Originally performed in the third episode of Monty Python.
  • "International Philosophy" – In a filmed bit, German philosophers take on Greek philosophers on a football field. This piece is from the second Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus episode. It is shown in two parts, with "Four Yorkshiremen" in between each.
  • "Four Yorkshiremen sketch" – Well-to-do Yorkshiremen (Palin, Idle, Chapman and Jones) try to top one another's tales of their austere beginnings, each story getting more exaggerated and absurd. Originally written for At Last the 1948 Show.
  • The Argument Sketch – Palin pays Cleese to disagree with him. Sketch interrupted by Gilliam suspended from wires performing "I've Got Two Legs." Cleese ends Gilliam's singing by shooting him with a shotgun. The sketch originates from the TV series, though Gilliam's song was not part of the TV sketch.
  • "How Sweet to Be an Idiot" – Neil Innes sings an ode to lunacy.
  • "Travel Agency" – Palin attempts to sell a package tour to Mr. Smoketoomuch (Idle), who will not stop talking about travel difficulties, even as he is chased by an asylum orderly (Cleese) all about the stadium. He even interrupts the next sketch.
  • "Comedy Lecture" – Chapman explains slapstick comedy fundamentals in an extremely highbrow manner as Palin, Gilliam, and Jones demonstrate, with Jones invariably becoming the jokes' victim. Originally from Cambridge Circus where it was known as "Custard Pie Sketch".
  • "Little Red Riding Hood" – In a filmed bit, Cleese as Little Red Riding Hood endures a fractured retelling of the classic fairy tale. This piece is from the first Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus episode, dubbed into English. (Some VHS versions of Hollywood Bowl omit this piece.)
  • "Bishop on the Landing" (aka "Salvation Fuzz") – A dead bishop on the landing disrupts a family's mealtime.
    • During the performance of this sketch, technical difficulties (a microphone starts feeding back) make Terry Jones lose his place (he temporarily looks up with a smirk on his face). Eric Idle has trouble keeping a straight face while delivering his lines with an extraordinarily overwrought Yorkshire accent, which also causes Terry Jones to openly burst out laughing. At one point, Jones loses his Pepperpot wig, which goes flying across the stage. Graham Chapman and Michael Palin slide across the stage to hide Jones as he replaces the wig, after which they all have trouble keeping a straight face (particularly Palin). This was always a difficult sketch to perform live—on other occasions, the 'Hand of God' (a large Gilliam-designed cut-out) fingered the wrong character. Idle describes the sketch as "shambolic" as he segues into:
  • "The Lumberjack Song" – A rugged, masculine outdoorsman (Idle, as opposed to Palin in the original BBC series; Palin had also performed it in Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus) unsettles the chorus by revealing his fondness for wearing women's clothes.
  • According to the Live at the Hollywood Bowl book, quite early on, there is also a Spanish band singing an absurd song about llamas, and a Gumby performing flower arranging. He does this by gathering his flowers, and then arranging them neatly in a vase. However, after saying this, he smashes the plants in with a hammer until he is dragged off by two men in white coats (based on a skit from the original series).

Box office[edit]

A film version of the Hollywood Bowl performances, with direction credited to Terry Hughes, was given a limited theatrical release in North America beginning on 25 June 1982. It grossed a total of US$327,958 during its theatrical run.

Technical and release history[edit]

The show was originally recorded on a specially-made analogue High-definition video system called Image Vision, provided by Image Transform from Universal City, California. German Bosch Fernseh KCK-40 cameras were used that had been custom-modified to output a 1,000 lines, 24fps, 10 MHz video signal that was recorded on 1 inch type B VTRs. Simultaneously, this signal was recorded via a 3M Electron Beam Film Recorder to 16mm film, from which 35mm blow-up prints were made for theatrical release.

For a quarter of a century, all cinema and home video releases of the show were sourced from the 35mm prints, and thus suffered from poor quality due to the tape-to-film recording technology used in 1980 that increasingly became out-of-date. In 2008, the original 1,000 lines 1-inch video tapes were digitised and remastered to create a high-quality PAL DVD release.

In Europe, this remastered widescreen transfer is available as a standalone Region 2 DVD. In North America, the film is available only as the older lesser-quality full-frame version taken from the 35mm prints, as part of a two-disc set titled Monty Python Live, which includes the 1998 Monty Python Live at Aspen retrospective and the first episode of Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus. The show was also released as part of The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset and as part of Almost Everything Ever in One Gloriously Fabulous Ludicrously Definitive Outrageously Luxurious Monty Python Boxset.


External links[edit]

Complete script