Dateline: May 16, 2000
Currently touring America is the aptly named show "Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python" featuring familiar songs and sketches performed by Idle and back-up singers. Also on stage is the Rutland Sympathy Orchestra under the baton of John Du Prez (a long-time collaborator with Idle), "Sir Dirk McQuickly" of the semi-legendary Rutles, The Bruces (an all-Australian Drinking Quartet) and "Dolly Taylor," the great transvestite Country and Western singer who puts a new female spin on a notorious ditty about the male member from Monty Python's Meaning Of Life. Well performed (special mention must go to a particularly brave saxophone player) and augmented by a large video screen showing clips and links (including, for some reason, Clint Black), it's definitely an evening for nostalgia buffs, and therein lies the problem.
The entire show is loosely based on Idle's sell-out concert at The Getty Museum in Los Angeles last year which he quickly put together featuring old material. He did write a new song for the event, "In The Getty," which he includes in the touring show. The rest is very familiar to Python fans, songs which include "Spam Spam Spam," the "Galaxy" song (from The Meaning Of Life) and "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life." Idle is on solid ground performing these songs which he made famous, as well as doing trademark sketches such as "Nudge Nudge Wink Wink, Say No More." But there is a certain element of comic graverobbing going on when he incorporates Python sketches he wasn't involved in like "The Spanish Inquisition" or "Buying An Argument." Having someone do an impersonation of John Cleese isn't really the same as the real thing, and as good as the performers are, they can't escape the legacy of Cleese, Palin, et al. And there's something just not right about Idle singing "I'm A Lumberjack" or "Eric The Half-a-bee."
It's pretty obvious another Monty Python reunion is not going to be happening any time soon (see comments Michael Palin made in a recent visit to Seattle). In fact, it seems a bit rich that Idle is now touring (or "Exploits") using Python's greatest hits when he was the only cast member not to turn up in person when all the surviving actors got together in Britain last year for the BBC's 30th Anniversary Monty Python Night.
Part of the problem is 80% of the material in the show is lifted right from Monty Python Live At The Hollywood Bowl, their 1981 concert film, which at least featured all the original members. I suppose a good debate would be whether classic Python sketches should be retired gracefully as the original cast members die or move on, or whether like the works of Shakespeare, should they live on to be performed and interpreted by future generations?
The tour will continue through June and July, and is scheduled to make stops in: Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, Columbus, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Detroit. It will also include a night at Carnegie Hall, New York, in June.
Purchase tickets online at the official Python site.