I had been umming and ahing about going to see Monty Python Live. Initially I had felt that I didn’t need to have my happy childhood memories being raked over and feared that it might be a slightly tragic evening. But increasingly I had been worrying that I might regret not going along, if only so I could tip my hat to a group of men who had awakened my interest in comedy. I had adored them as a teenager, via their records and films, learned their sketches and written my own versions of some of them. As I became more serious about making comedy my job I had maybe tried to distance myself from them, but was excited to briefly meet Michael Palin in my late 30s as I had been to chance across Terry Jones in a bookshop when I was 18. Rik Mayall and the Young Ones would usurp them somewhat in my affections perhaps, but Python were the ones that tore the hole in the sky for me and allowed me to see the possibilities of what lay beyond. Perhaps my feelings of the death of Mayall made me realise that I didn’t want to miss this chance to see the remaining Pythons. Though I had left it late. Earlier in the week I’d looked for tickets, but they’d all seemed a bit expensive. I’d hoped that my management company could get me in, but alas it seems I have not risen high up enough the comedy ladder to warrant free entry. And perhaps it’s more apt that like the fan that I am I would have to pay to see my heroes. I got an email from a stranger this morning, who seemed to totally understand the position I was in (without me having said anything to him) and saying that he had had reservations, but had been delighted he’d gone. He pointed me towards a site offering tickets for sale and said he’d got a bargain there. So I had a tentative look, still didn’t bite, but felt more inclined to take the chance that my memories would be soiled. After lunch I found some £200, 14th row tickets reduced to £70 (although actually about £85 once booking fees were taken into account). I wanted to be close enough to see them without having to look at the screens. And I decided that the price was right. I took the plunge.
Weirdly the minute I had done that the excited teenage fanboy who’d been simmering inside me, plunged to the surface and the cynical middle-aged man disappeared. I was immediately thrilled that I was going to be there. And the fact that this was going to be the very last night that they ever performed together made it even more special. How could I have even thought that I wasn’t going to do this? Even if this was an ex-comedy troupe, it would be fitting to go to their wake, as they tried to pretend that they weren’t dead, only resting.
I had made the right choice. It was a really enjoyable night and fantastic to be a part of it. Even though the O2 is a pretty horrible comedy venue, they had pulled out all the stops to make the show an extravaganza. For some reason the venue won’t sell you a bottle of water with a top on it (and I think at £2.50 for 500ml a top is the least you can expect). As we sat down I held a topless bottle between my thighs so it wouldn’t get kicked over, but then I spasmed and splashed ice cold water into my trousers and pants. The comedy had begun.
We were sitting right in the heart of the kind of people who had been comped into the venue. Alan Yentob and another important TV executive (whose name I can’t remember - this is why I am not doing very well in my career) were sat in front of us and Steven Moffat was behind. I bet none of them had paid for their ticket. And I bet whoever sold us theirs hadn’t paid for it either. They all had passes to get to the after party too. I have never regretted my failure to become a successful comedian more (though when we picked up our tickets the guy who worked at the agency had expressed surprise that I’d had to pay). I doubt that had I gone backstage I would have spoken to anyone, but it would have been nice to have got my foot in the door for this one.
The show was pretty much joyous. Palin, who is definitely my favourite, was particularly youthful, handsome and still had the chops for performance. Idle was also very much on top of it all. Gilliam was having an awful lot of fun. Jones and Cleese seemed a little diminished by age, but still gave it all a good crack. The ad-libs and bloopers and corpsing was all a bit too scripted, but it was a delight to see these familiar (with a couple of less familiar) skits getting a proper run out. And to be there for the last time that the parrot sketch and lumberjack song were ever performed (by the actual Pythons - John Hannahs will continue to perform them for Gwyneth Paltrows for many years yet, though with more realistic outcomes than Sliding Doors predicted). It really was something to see the Spanish Inquisition or Argument sketch unfolding before my eyes. They did the material justice.
The big song and dance numbers were OK - the additional vagina and arse verses to the Penis song were particularly lovely - but the real fun was seeing the Pythons doing their best bits and revelling in the audience’s adoration. It wasn’t a funeral at all, just a deserved final bow. I am happy to give them £160 for all that they have given me (though I have a feeling that all my money ended up in the pocket of a BBC executive who didn’t want his comps and the ticket agents), but still.
I thought I might cry, but I didn’t. But shame on those who let their outer critics overwhelm their inner child. I have seen some right old lazy crap at the O2, but this was a full on proper show from some living (and one dead) legends. And we also got special appearances from Eddie Izzard, Stephen Hawkings and Mike Myers, which made the lack of backstage access more annoying. But hey, today was about being a fan. And saying thanks.
I was too young to be there at the beginning, but very glad I got to be there at the end.