Long before they wrote sketches about how to irritate people in restaurants, six comedians went out for dinner at their local curry house and made a decision that would change the course of their lives.
On this day in 1969, Monty Python was born. And the world of comedy was transformed.
Known collectively as ‘the Pythons’, the group was made up of John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman and Terry Jones.
From creating their first television show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which aired on BBC in 1969, to stage shows, musicals, books and films such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), the group’s influence on comedy was so profound that it has been likened to the Beatles’ influence on music.
And it all began at a Kashmir tandoori restaurant in Hampstead, north London, on May 11, 1969.
That date marks the first time all six comedians got together following a taping of sketch show, Do Not Adjust Your Set, which Cleese and Chapman attended.
The group reportedly went back to Cleese’s apartment on Basil Street to continue discussions about forming their comedy troupe.
If you’re wondering how the group got its wacky name, don’t think too hard about it.
Cleese apparently suggested something slithery like ‘Python’ while Idle chose the name ‘Monty’ to evoke a drunken British stereotype.
They both thought the name Monty Python was hilarious.
The group’s silly and surreal brand of humour continuously pushed the boundaries of what was deemed acceptable in the 1970s.
They deliberately poked fun at sensitive subjects like religion and produced events that were obviously illogical to try and make people laugh.
Their 1979 film Life of Brian was particularly controversial – and hugely popular.
It tells the story of a young Jewish man who was born on the same day as his next-door neighbour Jesus Christ, and is subsequently mistaken as the Messiah.
The film’s theme of religious satire drew accusations of blasphemy and protests from some religious groups, with 39 authorities in the UK imposing a ban on the film being shown.
The film was a box office success, the fourth-highest-grossing film in the UK in 1979, and the highest grossing of any British film in the United States that year.