Monty Python's Personal Best and Flying Circus
Bios of the Pythons

The members of Monty Python standing on a beach

(In Alphabetical Order)

Graham ChapmanGraham Chapman

The late Graham Chapman was a British comedian who is best known for being one of the zanier members of the notorious Monty Python troupe.

Chapman was sometimes viewed as the quintessential Python, having played the lead in two of the Monty Python feature films. He was King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Brian in Life of Brian. One of his most famous characters from his days on “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” was “The Colonel,” who would often appear in the middle of a sketch and pronounce it too silly to continue. 

As a television writer, Chapman’s credits included work on the long-running television series “Doctor in the House” and “At Last the 1948 Show.” He first teamed with writing partner John Cleese on “The Frost Report,” where they met the men who would become the Pythons.  Chapman appeared on many US non-scripted television shows, including “Hollywood Squares,” “Still Crazy Like a Fox” and “The Big Show.” 

Chapman studied medicine at the University of Cambridge and earned his M.D. at the Barts Hospital Medical College.  After two years of practice, Chapman decided to pursue his true passion, comedy. 

Chapman lived a whirlwind life full of fun and adventure, from his friendships with Keith Moon and Ringo Starr to helping to pioneer the sport of bungee jumping.  Chapman died in 1989 after losing his battle with spinal and throat cancer. 

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John CleeseJohn Cleese

John Cleese is a British comedian and actor who is best remembered for his iconic character, Basil Fawlty, in the sitcom “Fawlty Towers,” and his role as one of the members of the legendary Monty Python troupe. In a 2005 poll, The Comedian’s Comedian, Cleese was voted the second best comedian of all time. 

Cleese has transcended his British roots, achieving international fame as a film actor for his role in the modern classic A Fish Called Wanda. Almost two decades since this breakout role, he is still acting in blockbusters such as The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day, Shrek 2, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. 

As a television actor, Cleese made an indelible mark on the small screen. He began as a staff writer for “The Frost Report,” a watershed production in British comedic history, where he met the men who would become his fellow Pythons. As a member of the Monty Python troupe, Cleese wrote and acted in the first three seasons of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

During the fourth season of “Flying Circus,” Cleese received a minor writing credit while focusing on the development of his character Basil Fawlty in “Fawlty Towers,” a series that won critical acclaim and is considered a classic example of British comedy. Cleese has garnered two Primetime Emmys for his guest appearances on “Third Rock from the Sun” and “Will & Grace,” as well as a nomination for his appearance on “Cheers.”

Cleese was educated at Clifton College in Bristol, England, where he was expelled for a humorous defacing of school grounds. His talent for comedy would win him a membership in the Cambridge Footlights Review while he was attending Downing College at the University of Cambridge in pursuit a degree in law. It was in the Footlights Review that he befriended Graham Chapman, who became his writing partner.

Cleese currently lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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Terry GilliamTerry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam is a celebrated director, comedian and animator known for his distinctive style and for being the only non-British member of the Monty Python troupe. 

Gilliam’s directorial work has spanned three decades, and his most recent works have garnered substantial critical acclaim and box office success. His films, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Twelve Monkeys, are full of disturbing imagery that challenges the viewers’ perceptions of sanity and reality. 

Known for his ability to put mature spins on more childlike productions, Gilliam was J.K. Rowling’s first choice to direct the cinematic interpretations of her Harry Potter book series. Examples of his previous work in this area can be seen in his projects The Brothers Grimm and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

As an animator, Gilliam created the Monty Python animation style, characterized by its odd shapes and moving cutouts from vintage photographs.  This style has been mimicked by artists for television series, advertisements and children’s programming ever since.

Gilliam graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles before moving to England, where he was an animator for “Do Not Adjust Your Set” before joining “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” 

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Eric IdleEric Idle

Eric Idle is a comedian, actor, director and songwriter, but Idle is best known as one of the zany and legendary members of the Monty Python troupe. 

Idle most recently wrote the book and lyrics for the Tony Award-winning Spamalot, based on the Monty Python classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Idle prefers to write alone, unlike the other members of Monty Python, who tend to work in comedic teams.  His solo talents have provided some of the classic Python skits, such as “Nudge Nudge Wink Wink.” 

Idle also composed the majority of the songs featured in the Monty Python television series and films, including “Eric the Half-a-Bee,” “The Philosophers’ Song” and the cult favorite, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Life of Brian.

Idle’s writing talents extend beyond the screen and stage, and he has written several fiction and non-fiction books.  His novels are Hello Sailor, The Road to Mars, and The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book, spin-off of “Rutland Weekend Television.” 

In addition to his roles in the Monty Python productions, Idle has lent his voice and talents to many diverse projects, including Ella Enchanted, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, National Lampoon’s European Vacation and Wind and the Willows.

Idle was enrolled in Royal Wolverhampton boarding school at the age of seven.  Growing up in this environment, Idle developed the wit and intelligence that would win him a place at Cambridge, where he met his fellow Pythons.

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Terry JonesTerry Jones

Terry Jones is a British comedian, writer and director whose goofy sketches and wild imagination made him an invaluable member of the Monty Python troupe.

As an actor on “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” Jones was the Python most often chosen to portray roles as middle-aged women — but as a writer and director his true charms shone through.

Jones’ directorial skills can be seen in all three of the Python feature length films, co-directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and directing Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. Jones went on to direct several motion pictures apart from the Pythons, including Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows.

Jones’ true passion is in writing, and his preferred writing partner as a Python was Michael Palin. Together, they worked on “The Frost Report,” “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Do Not Adjust Your Set” and “Ripping Yarns.” As a solo writer, Jones’ work includes the screenplay for the 1986 movie Labyrinth, starring David Bowie. 

In addition to television and film scripts, Jones has written several books on medieval history and numerous children’s stories. He also has recently published anti-war editorials in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the Observer

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Michael PalinMichael Palin

Michael Palin is a British comedian and television presenter who is most recognized for being one of the members of the Monty Python troupe. In a 2005 poll, The Comedian’s Comedian, Palin was voted one of the world’s Top 50 comedians of all time. 

As a member of Monty Python, Palin wrote and acted in many of the legendary skits and is credited for creating some of its most memorable sketches. One of his original sketches, Spanish Inquisition, has become a part of popular culture in the form of a widely used catchphrase, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

In addition to acting in “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and the many Python feature length films, Palin was the stuttering “Ken Pile” in the 1988 hit, A Fish Called Wanda.  Palin has also had brief stints in the world of serious acting, including a role in the UK Channel 4 serial drama, “G.B.H.”

As a television host, Palin has created a legacy of travel programming that has given rise to the term “the Palin effect,” describing the rise in tourism in areas of the world recently visited by him. For instance, there was a significant increase in the number of British tourists interested in vacationing in the Sahara region in 2003 after his special “Sahara” aired in 2002. His work in travel programming began with taping an episode of the 1980 BBC Television series, “Great Railway Journeys of the World.”

Palin participated in theater while studying History at the University of Oxford; it was there that he met Terry Jones, who would become his writing partner and fellow Monty Python member.

Palin lives with his wife of almost 40 years, Helen Gibbins. 

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John Cleese Terry Jones Graham Chapman Michael Palin Eric Idle Terry Gilliam