The Life of Python, George Perry

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The Life of Python, George Perry, Running Press, 1995, ISBN 1-56138-568-9, $16.95

Perry’s first version of this biography of the Monty Python comedy team was published in 1983 and I read it in 1987. Some good friends who knew that I was python phanatic gave me this, not knowing of an earlier version–and how would they, because there is no indication on this book that it is a rewrite/reprint of anything. The indica page even states that this is a first edition and doesn’t list the earlier book as the source of any material. Strange are the ways of publishers. The subject of Perry’s writing deserves the update. The team has only grown in popularity over the intervening years and the members continue to entertain audiences with new work, from Terry Gilliam’s directing/writing career to John Cleese’s acting. The Life of Python reads like a biography of a rock band, which Python actually is more similar to than the traditional comedy group such as the Marx brothers. They are also, like the great rock groups of the sixties, now missing one member, making the chance of a true reformation impossible. Graham Chapman’s death is not preventing Eric Idle from attempting a reunion “concert,” this time to be presented in Las Vegas (the very idea of which appeals to the members’ sense of humor).

The basic material of the book is to try to track each member of the group from their comedic beginnings to the formation of the troupe and then to the work following the cancellation of the TV series, all interwoven by time. Sounds like a mess, but it works. Perry interviewed all the members, sometimes more than once, and the book is liberally sprinkled with quotes. This new version has color photos as well as black and white, which fills the book (every page has a picture on it). This is probably the definitive biography of the group, although Kim “Howard” Johnson’sThe First 20X Years of Monty Python is a close second.

[Finished November 1995]

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