In glorious news for comedy lovers everywhere, it has been announced that the five surviving members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus will reunite after taking a break for more than 30 years.
Back in 1969, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and the late Graham Chapman took the world by storm with "Monty Python's Flying Circus," which aired on the BBC. The bizarre, stream-of-conscious comedy sketch was like nothing seen on television before, taking its cues from Surrealism and Dada art movements and folding them into the small-screen format. Forty-five episodes were made over four seasons, and the wild success of their wacky brand of humor spawned touring stage shows, films, albums, books and a stage musical and catapulted the members to stardom.
Monty Python became such a phenomenon that George Harrison once said the spirit of the Beatles had passed onto them. And indeed, beyond just steering comedy in an entirely new direction, the impact of the zany Pythons can be seen in a variety of disciplines, everywhere from astronomy to zoology. Consider the following:
1. They inspired astronomers
Seven asteroids have been named in honor of the troupe: 9617 Grahamchapman; 9618 Johncleese; 9619 Terrygilliam; 9620 Ericidle; 9621 Michaelpalin; 9622 Terryjones; and 13681 Monty Python.
2. They played muse to paleontologists
What's every paleontologist-Monty Python fan’s dream? To discover a giant prehistoric snake and name it after your favorite snake-themed comedy team. Which is exactly what happened in 1985 when a 15-million-year-old 30-foot-long fossil python was found and given the taxonomic name of Montypythonoides riversleighensis.
While in the routine called, “Fish License,” Eric Praline, played by John Cleese, has a number of odd pets all named Eric; in real life, John Cleese has an animal species named after him. Biologist Urs Thalmann named the endangered Bemaraha woolly lemur (Avahi cleesei) after the comedian. The creature is now commonly known as Cleese's woolly lemur.
4. They spawned new words
Adding to the group of people whose names have become adjectives, like Kafka and Rubens, the Pythons officially inspired the coining of “Pythonesque.” It is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “after the style of or resembling the absurdist or surrealist humor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Terry Jones reportedly expressed his dismay with the term, saying that the aim of Monty Python was to be novel and impossible to categorize, “the fact that Pythonesque is now a word in the Oxford English Dictionary shows the extent to which we failed."
Perhaps one of the more notorious words Monty Python inspired is one most of us employ every day: the term “spam” for unsolicited mail. In the popular “Spam sketch,” the word “Spam” takes over each item on the menu in a cafeteria, until the dialog is little more than a chorus of “spam, spam, spam, spam…” As described in a set of guidelines for mass unsolicited mail from Northwestern University, the proliferation of Spam in the sketch so closely resembles what happens when “mass unsolicited mail and posts take over mailing lists and net news groups that the term has been pushed into common usage in the Internet community.”
6. They changed television forever
Martin Short, formerly of SCTV, has said that their influence was that “absurdity in character could replace the punchline, the ba-dum-bum thing,” and they clearly added absurdity into genre. Matt Groening, creator and co-developer of the "The Simpsons," cites Monty Python as an influence. As do those involved in the creation and production of "South Park," "Saturday Night Live," "The Kids in the Hall" and even television programs as disparate as "The Daily Show" and "Alton Brown’s Good Eats" give a hat tip to the Pythons.
Mike Myers may have summed it up best: “Everything I've ever done can be distilled to at least one Python sketch. If comedy had a periodic element table, Python would have more than one atom on it.''
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