Monty Python's Flying Circus

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Monty Python’s Flying Circus (known during the final series as just Monty Python) is an innovative, highly influential BBC TV sketch comedy programme from the Monty Python comedy team, and the group's initial claim to fame. The show has been noted for its surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and sketches without punchlines. It also features the iconic animations of Terry Gilliam, which are often sequenced or merged with live action.

The first episode was recorded on 7 September and broadcast on 5 October 1969 on BBC One, with 45 episodes airing over four series from 1969 to 1974, plus two episodes for German TV.

The show often targets the idiosyncrasies of British life (especially professionals) and is at times politically charged. The members of Monty Python were highly educated (Terry Jones and Michael Palin are Oxford graduates; Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman attended Cambridge; and American-born member Terry Gilliam is an Occidental College graduate; additionally, Cleese studied law and Chapman was a doctor), with their comedy often pointedly intellectual by way of numerous references to philosophers and literary figures. It followed and elaborated upon the style used by Spike Milligan in his groundbreaking series Q5, rather than the traditional sketch show format. The team intended their humour to be impossible to categorise, and succeeded so completely that the adjective "Pythonesque" was invented to define it, and later, similar material (Jones once commented, jokingly, that the fact that they had inspired a new word in the dictionary shows how miserably they had failed).

The Pythons play the majority of the series characters themselves, including the majority of the female characters, but occasionally they required an extra actor. Regular supporting cast members include Carol Cleveland (referred to by the team as the unofficial "Seventh Python"), Connie Booth (Cleese's first wife), Series Director Ian MacNaughton, Ian Davidson, Neil Innes (in the fourth series) and The Fred Tomlinson Singers (for musical numbers).

The series' famous theme song is the first segment of John Philip Sousa's The Liberty Bell, chosen because it was in the public domain, free to use without charge.


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