• Monty Python's Personal Best (2006)

    "Monty Python's Personal Best"
    Producer: John Goldstone
    Running Time: 6 x 1:00
    Original Broadcast Date: 22 February 2006 - 8 March 2006 (PBS)

    In this box-set collection (individual episodes were also released separately), each Python selected their favourite sketches (the surviving five made the selection for Chapman’s episode) to include as their own "Personal Best". The parameters of what was selected were not limited to bits which they wrote or in which they appeared. The highly-esteemed "Fish Slapping Dance," for example, is included in five of the six episodes – Palin's (for his death-defying fall into the Thames), Cleese's (for wielding a very large fish), Jones' (for co-writing it with Palin), Gilliam's (for providing the animated intro), and Chapman's ('cause, why not?).

    Three iterations of "The Lumberjack Song" also appear throughout the set: Palin's original rendition from "Monty Pythons' Flying Circus"; the German-language version from "Fliegender Zirkus"; and Idle's performance from "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl."

    Each disk has a newly-filmed introduction, and the five surviving Pythons appear in interviews about Chapman on his edition. 


    "Graham Chapman's Personal Best" – Sketches selected by the five surviving Pythons as a tribute to Chapman. Each offers reminiscences about working with Graham (from Cambridge and their early collaborations on British TV to Python); the surrealism of his contributions; and his death in 1989. 

    "Graham was very complex," said Jones. "I don't think I ever knew him – there were too many layers." There are honest discussions of Chapman's alcoholism and how it affected his humor ("He was a very good stage performer, if he remembered not to drink!" said Idle), and his homosexuality ("He liked to resist stereotypes, he didn’t like to be the stereotype gay," said Idle. "He hated people who were 'queeny'").

    "It was quite a risky ride, being with Graham," said Palin.

    Also featured is some on-set footage from "Life of Brian," where Chapman served as crew doctor.


    Sketches include: Royal Society of Putting Things on Top of Other Things; Colonel; Raymond Luxury Yacht; Agatha Christie Murder Mystery; Sir Edward Ross Interview; Solo Wrestling Match; (Miss) Anne Elk; Fish Slapping Dance; Oscar Wilde Sketch; Vocational Guidance Counselor; Mollusks Documentary; Ken Shabby; Ministry of Silly Walks; Albatross; Pantomime Horse Secret Agent; Dead Parrot; Death of Mary Queen of Scots/Penguin on the Television; Film Producer; Putting Down Budgies; Spam; and Argument Clinic.

    Extras: Chapman's "Second-Best" sketches: Lifeboat Cannibalism; Dennis Moore; Trivia Game by Kim "Howard" Johnson.

    "John Cleese's Personal Best" – "John Cleese Remembers" features the "reclusive 96-year-old" who recollects his sketches, like Silly Walks ("Rubbish, very poor!"), working with Chapman ("Good riddance!"), violence in Python ("People enjoy violence, it's in our genes!"), sexism and racism, and how he'd like to be remembered.


    Sketches include: Happy Valley; "Epilogue" Wrestling Match; Gumby Doctor; Fresh Fruit Defense Class; Exploding "Blue Danube"; Nature Documentary; Competing Documentaries; Confuse-A-Cat; Cheese Shoppe; Raymond Luxury Yacht; Pablo Picasso Painting on a Bicycle; Flying Lessons; Vacuum Baby animation; Famous Deaths; Batley Townswomen's Guild's Re-enactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbor; Fish Slapping Dance; and the 127th Upper-Class Twit of the Year Show.

    : A behind-the-scenes look at the "Real" John Cleese; Trivia Game by Kim "Howard" Johnson.

    "Terry Gilliam's Personal Best" – As the "famous cartoonist" explains in the intro, he was slaving away creating animations for an all-cartoon show ("Long before 'South Park'!") while the other five Pythons were plying the BBC with drink to curry favor and worm their way into his creation ("It was my show! It was all mine!"). 


    Animations include: Third Series "Flying Circus" Opening Titles; Conrad Poohs and His Dancing Teeth; Congratulatory Telegram  Letter; Nutcracker; Lady Tripping Bus; Killer Cars; Ambulances; Operating Theatre; Dancing Venus; Fish Slapping Dance; Royal Navy Recruitment; Victorian Portraits; Forest of Hands; Crelm Toothpaste Ad; Charles Fatless Body Building Ad; Purchase a Past; Police Chase Inside Stomach; An Apology; Gumby; Five Frog Curse; Fairy Tale; Rude Noises; Charwoman; Elephant Fossil; Cannibal in Baby Carriage; Musical Rodin's Kiss; Opera Singer; The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes to the Bathroom; A Lovely Day; Eggs Diamond; Stick-up Man; Rounding Up Suspect; The Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things' travels; Decapitation Shave; Cartoon Religions Ltd.; Falling People; Full Frontal Nudity; Metamorphosis; No-Time Toulouse; Television Is Bad For Your Eyes; The Show So Far; the House-Hunters; Gay Boys in Bondage; "2001" Parody; Fourth Series Opening Titles.

    Extras: Interview with Gilliam about his start on British television, and the process of creating cut-out animation; Trivia Game by Kim "Howard" Johnson.

    "Eric Idle's Personal Best" – Reporting from the "Bollywood Howl," a reporter (Idle) tells the story of the Pythons ("who will be remembered in the anals of comedy"). Interview subjects include Eric Idle's mother (played by Idle).


    "The Lumberjack Song" (in German); "Sit on My Face"; the Refreshment Room at Bletchley; Ian McKellan recites Ewan McTeagle; World Forum; Nudge Nudge; Silly Olympiad; Greek vs. German Philosophers Football Match; Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror; Hairdressers climb Mt. Everest; Travel Agency; "Never Be Rude to an Arab"; Face the Press; Hermits; Storytime; How to Do It; Close Order Swanning About; Bruces; Queen Victoria Handicap; The Money Programme; Escape Artist Pianist; Camp Judges; Climbing the Uxbridge Road; Whicker's World; Lumberjack Song.

    Extras: Idle's "Second-Bests": Multiple-murderer's trial; Sam Peckinpah's "Salad Days"; Timmy William's Coffee Time; Trivia Game by Kim "Howard" Johnson.

    "Terry Jones' Personal Best" – The "creator" of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," Terry Jones, explains how he let some of his less-successful friends and hangers-on come join his solo show (including Terry Gilliam, who served as a cupboard). Jones even reveals that "Monty Python" is actually an anagram of "Terry Jones."

    Also, did you know that creative geniuses need so much sleep that the REALLY creative geniuses never even get out of bed? Now you do!


    Sketches include: The Funniest Joke in the World; Ratcatcher; Killer Sheep; News for Parrots; Kitchen Sink Playwright; Construction site with Figures from English Literature; Bicycle Repairman; Olympic Hide-and-Seek; Mrs. Niggerbaiter; "The Bishop"; Housing Problem Documentary; Poets; Fish Slapping Dance; The Cycling Tour; The Spanish Inquisition; Barber Sketch; Lumberjack Song; Up the Pavement; RAF Banter; Trivializing the War; and Court-Martial Sketch: "Anything Goes."

    Extras: Jones' "second-best" sketches include: Hell's Grannies; Jumping the English Channel; The Nude Organist; Njorl's Saga; Trivia Game by Kim "Howard" Johnson.

    "Michael Palin's Personal Best" – Palin ("a slapper for many years") welcomes viewers to Teddington Lock on the Thames for lessons in the art of Fish Slapping.


    Sketches include: "It's …"; French Sheep Lecture; Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook; An Interview With a Duck, a Cat, and a Lizard; Policeman; Johann Gambolputty; Chemist Sketch; Interviews With Children; The Pirahna Brothers; Undertakers Race; "Blackmail"; The Semaphore Version of "Wuthering Heights"; A Man With a Tape Recorder Up His Nose; Army Commander's Office; Architects Sketch; A Scotsman on a Horse; Mosquito Hunters; Conrad Poohs and His Dancing Teeth; Wife-Swapping; Postal Box Dedication; Cheese Shop; Fish Slapping Dance.

    Extras: Palin's Personal "Second-Bests": Beethoven and the Mynah Bird; A Man With Three Buttocks; The Most Awful Family in Britain; Trivia Game by Kim "Howard" Johnson.

    The Making of

    According to Idle, the selections of sketches were all made independently, and not always amicably. "There was a definite pecking order," Idle told the Toronto Star. "Cleese got first go, and then I got in second … Because you figured that if you're not in quick, somebody else would and all the best stuff would have gone."

    Series producer John Goldstone described the process as "complicated." "Terry Jones, for instance, by the time we got to him, he wanted a whole lot of sketches that everybody had already chosen," Goldstone told the Toronto Star. "So we had to negotiate. In fact, he had a very long list, so it wasn't in the end that difficult. But I think everybody chose 'Fish Slapping.'"

    "They’re all just a bunch of stupid cartoons," Gilliam said of his own, all-animation disk to Empire Online. "It’s wasted life, that’s what that DVD's really about! I could have been anything!" 

    Not factoring in the newly-shot interviews or repeated bits, six hours of clips culled from the 45 episodes of "Flying Circus" mean that about 16.5 hours didn't make the cut.

    By David Morgan, 2014

More TV shows from Monty Python

Monty Python's Flying Circus, Series 3
Monty Python - The Meaning of Live (2014)
Monty Python's Flying Circus, Series 2
Parrot Sketch Not Included - 20 Years of Monty Python (1989)

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