Monty Python on Inter-Python Tensions, Doctor Parnassus, and Ricky Gervais

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Last Thursday night, following a screening of their new documentary Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyers Cut) (which airs on IFC this week), the five surviving members of Monty Python reunited onstage at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre for the ostensible purpose of answering audience-submitted questions (you can see how seriously they took that obligation here). We spoke with them on their way into the theater and, miraculously, actually got them to answer a few of our queries.

How's Python getting along these days? Is there tension?
Jones: We are thinking of an outbreak of violence fairly soon. But no, so far it’s okay.
Palin: We don’t get quite as violent. John throws his Zimmer frame [walker] at people every now and then.
Idle: We’ve avoided violence, but you know, there’s still a lot of arguing, and squabbling, jealousy and greed. Mainly about me, you know. It’s pretty much envy, I think.

Who was more difficult to work with: Chapman when drunk or Cleese anytime?
Palin: Well, Chapman when drunk was a little difficult, but he was also very, very funny. But they were both tall, and that’s what I held against them.
Gilliam: Graham has been much harder to work with since he died.

John, did marrying a psychotherapist affect your sense of humor?
Cleese: Yes, I think it did for a time. And also, being with somebody from Oklahoma was not exactly good for honing my sense of irony.

Terry, how much Python influence is there in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus?
Gilliam: Well, there is one particular song, the dancing policemen, which is called "We Love Violence," and that's the Pythonic moment of the film. It just gets a bunch of big policemen with fishnet tights and miniskirts, it’s a dream come true.

Eric, have you been offering your musical talents to Gilliam for his movies?
Idle: Oh no, he’s never let anybody near his projects. I've been in a Gilliam film [The Adventures of Baron Munchausen], that’s enough for me. Look what happened to Heath Ledger. I felt like that on a Gilliam film too.

What do you think of Ricky Gervais?
Cleese: I haven’t seen a lot of his recent stuff. Obviously, I thought that The Office was very, very good, and so was Extras. I’ve done a couple of small things with him on-camera, and I’ve enjoyed being around him.
Jones: I think he is fantastic. I just saw The Invention of Lying, and I thought the first three-quarters of it was just brilliant.

How much longer do you think you can milk Python?
Gilliam: Well, the thing is, Python is very green. There are no comedy rain forests cut down to provide our DVD work — we just recycle everything!
Cleese: Milk Python? I don’t know. Ask Eric, he’s the one who does it for us — Chief Python Milker.

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