'I hate the way Monty Python is remembered fondly' | Eric Idle says he would rather the show annoy people © Eduardo Unda-Sanzana/CC BY-SA 2.0

'I hate the way Monty Python is remembered fondly'

Eric Idle says he would rather the show annoy people

Few TV comedies are celebrated 50 years after their launch. But amid all the hoopla around Monty Python’s golden anniversary, Eric Idle has admitted that he hates the way people still fondly remember the show today.

He says the way the nostalgia surrounding the programme means its subversive and provocative intentions have been overlooked.

‘The disappointment to me now is that people like it and think it’s rather cuddly and lovely,’ he told the new edition of Radio Times. ‘Whereas it used to annoy people and upset them. I liked it better hen we did that. 

‘We got a lot of complaints from a certain section of the British public and I think that was good, That meant it was current.’

However, in the same magazine, John Cleese reacted to the suggestion that Python is still going strong in a typically grouchy manner.

‘It's not really going very strong,’ he countered. ‘One needs to point that out because, for reasons that I'm not very clear about, the BBC haven't put us out on terrestrial television for the best part of 20 years.’

The 79-year-old also took the opportunity to take aim at one of his favourite targets – the British press.

'The moment you have a success in Britain, journalists try to write it off - like Charlie Chaplin was never that good anyway,’ he said. ‘For a long time, there was that kind of ingrained negativity. As a result, I find that there's a lot more enthusiasm for Python in America, Canada and Australia than there is in the UK.' 

Cleese has previously voiced his support for Brexit and earlier this year faced a backlash after stating that London is ‘not really an English city any more’.

But Terry Gilliam told the magazine that wasn’t his view. ‘I love John enormously but I just disagree with the way he perceives the world,’ he said.

Gilliam, 78, also repeated the familiar refrain that modern comedy has lost his bite.

‘Humour is in decline,’ he said. ‘Comedians are treading carefully and this is terrible. Good comedy is about really getting to the truth about something and showing it for what it is.

‘If you can’t make fun of something, how do you survive? I want some comedians to really go for it again, but people are frightened  of saying the wrong thing, of causing offence.’

He also poured cold water on the idea the Pythons would have another reunion, citing Terry Jones’s dementia.

‘It’s dead, I think,’ Gilliam said. ‘There are only four of us who can actually function. It depresses me so much because he’s not there. It’s just very sad.’

Radio Times PythonMichael Palin added of his old colleague: ‘ There’s still a bit of Terry there, the sparkle in the eye. He can’t communicate, that’s the problem. which is so ironic for some who loved words and debate and jokes and opinion and ideas.’

• Gilliam designed the cover for this week’s Radio Times, marking 50 years of Python. It is on sale now.

Published: 3 Sep 2019

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