Monty Python's First Farewell Tour (1973)
"Monty Python's First Farewell Tour"
3-week tour of the UK, 30 shows in 13 cities
27 April – 24 May, 1973
Having cut their teeth in cabaret revues during their university days, the Pythons eagerly trod the boards again at the Lanchester Arts Festival, at Warwick University in Coventry – three sold-out midnight shows on 31 January-2 February 1971. These first Python stage performances became a template for later live shows, as the enthusiasm of the audiences in Coventry stirred interest from promoters to take the Pythons out on tour.
David Sherlock, Graham Chapman's partner, said of the earliest stage performances in "The Pythons Autobiography": "It was the first time they realized that people knew every word … if anyone forgets their lines there's a whole front row who can prompt you immediately."
On With The Show
In Spring 1973 the Pythons embarked on a three-week "First Farewell Tour," taking in Southampton, Brighton, Cardiff, Oxford, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Sunderland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Norwich. [Revenge for those regions outside London that didn't get the BBC's first broadcasts of the series!] The tour was put together by Tony Smith (manager for the rock group Genesis) and impresario Harvey Goldsmith.
Opening night – which included such standbys as "Llamas," "Argument Clinic," "Flower Arrangement," "Nudge Nudge," "Ken Shabby," "Pet Shop," "Custard Pie Lecture," "Solo Wrestling" and "Eric the Half-a-Bee," which was soon cut – suffered from sound problems and a disquieting audience during "Silly Walks."
As John Cleese recalled in "The Pythons Autobiography”, "When we did the first stage show in Southampton, I did the 'Ministry of Silly Walks' and it was a complete flop. The audience watched, it was profoundly embarrassing and when I got off the stage I said to the others, 'See? It's not funny!' Well, we did a deal. They said, 'Do it tomorrow in Brighton, and if it doesn’t work you can cut it.' And I did it the next night in Brighton and of course everyone laughed, and it's been in the show ever since."
The production also had to contend with a drunken Graham Chapman, who was on the road to full-fledged alcoholism as a means to settle his nervousness over performing. Over the course of the tour, Chapman missed entrances or lines, leaving the other Pythons to flail or cover for him.
The book "Monty Python Live!" also recounts how Chapman and Jones engaged in a duel of makeup, over whose Pepperpot could appear with the most ridiculous lipstick, as a challenge to get the other to "corpse" on stage. "It all spiraled out of control," said Jones of the lipstick competition. The winner? Chapman, whose lipstick eventually circled his entire face.
The tour was a financial success, and – according to Tony Smith – "very refreshing – I didn't have to get any hotel rooms repaired."
About a week after the final show in Norwich, the group flew to Canada – where the TV series was being broadcast on the CBC – to bring "First Farewell Tour" to fans in the Provinces.
by David Morgan, 2014