8 TV Shows and Comedy Stars Inspired by Monty Python
Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the super-influential British sketch comedy series featuring John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Sir Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, and the late Graham Chapman, first aired 50 years ago this fall.
BBC America is celebrating this Sunday (September 29) with a marathon of classic episodes followed by the crew’s cult feature-length movies Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
To whet your appetite, here's a reminder of some of the many comedy stars and series inspired by the Pythons over the years. As John Oliver wrote back in January: "This strange group of wildly talented, appropriately disrespectful, hugely imaginative and massively inspirational idiots changed what comedy could be for their generation and for those that followed."
1. The Simpsons
Creator Matt Groening has said he was influenced by Monty Python's "high velocity sense of the absurd and not stopping to explain yourself." His long-running show paid homage to the British comedy posse with this Season 5 couch gag, which features a take on the famous "Monty Python foot."
2. Austin Powers
Mike Myers has said his Swinging Sixties secret agent was conceived as a tribute to his father, a proud Liverpudlian, who introduced him to British culture ranging from The Beatles to Monty Python as a child. "Everything I’ve ever done can be distilled to at least one Python sketch," Myers said in 2005. "If comedy had a periodic element table, Python would have more than one atom on it."
3. Sacha Baron Cohen
The Borat and Bruno creator has often cited Monty Python as an influence, and even attributed the "filthy" humor in his 2016 movie Grimsby to their fearless style!
4. Simon Pegg
Pegg starred in Absolutely Anything, the 2016 sci-fi comedy movie directed by Terry Jones, and said when he was cast: "As someone whose love of comedy was hugely informed by Monty Python, the chance to work with Terry was a gift. Meeting your heroes is one thing – working with them is something else." Sadly, the film wasn't very well received, but it's definitely notable for featuring a mini-Python reunion: the five remaining members (including Jones) all have small voice roles as a creepy group of aliens.
5. South Park
Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are firm Python fans – so much so that they created an homage to the iconic "Dead Parrot Sketch" when Monty Python's Flying Circus turned 30 in 1999.
6. Family Guy
In 2012, creator Seth MacFarlane explained how Monty Python inspired Family Guy's combination of provocative humor and high-quality original music. "I view Monty Python as the great originator of that combination," he told Radio Times. "The Meaning of Life in particular comes to mind, and my favorite example is "Every Sperm Is Sacred." It’s so beautifully written, it’s musically and lyrically legit, the orchestrations are fantastic, the choreography and the presentation are very, very complex – it’s treated seriously."
7. Saturday Night Live
Explaining how Monty Python's freeform style had influenced sketch comedy, Tina Fey said in 2005: "Sketch endings are overrated. Their key was to do something as long as it was funny and then just stop and do something else.”
8. Jim Carrey
The Ace Ventura star has called Monty Python "the Super Justice League of Comedy" and said he was especially blown away by their "Funniest Joke In The World" sketch. Check out Michael Palin's performance at the beginning and you'll completely see how Carrey might have been inspired by it.
Which contemporary comedy shows do you think are most inspired by Monty Python?