A six-part cable TV miniseries that aired last fall, Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut), is now out on DVD. Yes, the entire fat package of more than seven hours of comedic history, biography, all the famous sketches and — best of all — extensive one-on-one interviews with the Pythons dishing on each other.
Lest they be seen as self-important twits, the Pythons make plenty of jokes about how this show was driven by lawyers and how the whole thing is out of their hands, really. Plus, the theme song gets angrier and more bitter as it opens each episode: “So [bleeping] sick of Python. Six sodding hours of Python.”
The episodes are exhaustive. Each of the Pythons talks about childhood. We see where they begin to meet as performers in skits and theater at Cambridge and Oxford. How they bump into each other as writers or performers on British television sketch comedy shows after rejecting the careers their parents had laid out for them (doctor, lawyer, etc).
The late Graham Chapman is spoken about fondly, and he calmly – even genially – addresses his alcoholism and homosexuality in archived television interviews conducted prior to his death in 1989.
Michael Palin, the troupe agrees, is the one they all like best. This prompts Eric Idle to reveal: “I’m always mistaken for Michael Palin … and I always say ‘Yes, I am Michael Palin, now f--- off, you ugly old bastard!’ Because I’m trying to destroy his reputation one person at a time.”
Present-day comedians discuss Monty Python’s contributions to the history of comedy.
Interviews also show Monty Python’s influence and reach in the 1970s: Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin financed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Elvis Presley would stay up all night for private screenings of Python skits, doing impressions in his Tupelo accent.
George Harrison even put his London house up as collateral to get a $4 million loan to finance The Life of Brian when other investors were scared away by the subject matter.
To which we say: Blessed are the cheese makers. (Not rated)