For those of you who don't know -- and sadly I fear there may be a few nowadays -- "Monty Python" was a sketch comedy show from Great Britain that originally aired on the BBC from 1969 to 1973. It's 45 episodes were subsequently picked up by a number of PBS outlets here in America and aired incessantly all through the 70s and 80s. Most recently, it enjoyed a few runs on A&E and in not digitally remastered form on BBCAmerica.
"Monty Python's Flying Circus" was (as it says in the credits) conceived written and performed by John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, legendary comic talents all.
Their most recent credits include:
John Cleese: Probably best known to the kiddie-winks as the voice of the King in the Shrek films. He also voiced a sheep in Charlotte's Web. He had a memorable turn as Lyle Fenster in several episodes of "Will and Grace." And he's Nearly Headless Nick in the Harry Potter films.
Eric Idle: Also a cartoon voice -- he plays Merlin in Shrek the Third and he has recently made several appearances on "The Simpsons" as Declan Desmond -- Idle is probably best known now as the driving force behind the Broadway hit Spamalot, a musical adaptation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Michael Palin: Palin has become Mr. Travelogue for the BBC, logging thousands of miles for a number of excellent programmes (British spelling) like "Around the World in 80 Days," "Pole to Pole," and most recently "New Europe."
Terry Jones: Jones makes the odd appearance as a guest or presenter for the BBC here and there, but these days, he's devoted more to academia; he's a world-renowned medieval scholar. He anchored a very good mini-series from back in the 90s about the Crusades, and has recently followed that with "Terry Jones' Medieval Lives" and "Terry Jones' Barbarians."
Terry Gilliam: The American in this British ensemble, after his days as the cartoon guy on the Flying Circus, Gilliam became a major movie director with tremendous films like Time Bandits, Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and others. His The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with Johnny Depp is scheduled for a 2009 release. It was the film Heath Ledger was working on when he died.
Graham Chapman: And speaking of dying, Chapman shuffled off the mortal coil (it was probably a soft-shoe shuffle) in 1989, taken by a rare form of spine cancer.
Digitally remastered or not, "Monty Python's Flying Circus" is an absolutely critical touchstone in modern comedy that still holds huge influence today. Enjoy.