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 Monty Python

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Monty Python (sometimes known as The Pythons) is a group of six comedians who created Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British television comedy sketch show that first aired on the BBC on October 5, 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four series. The Python phenomenon developed from the original television series into something much larger in scope and impact, spawning touring stage shows, five films, numerous albums, several books and a stage musical, and launching the members to individual stardom. The group's influence on comedy has often been compared to The Beatles' influence on music.

The television series, broadcast by the BBC from 1969 to 1974, was conceived, written and performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Loosely structured as a sketch show but with an innovative stream-of-consciousness approach (aided by Terry Gilliam's animations), it pushed the boundaries of what was then considered acceptable, both in terms of style and content.

A self-contained comedy team responsible for both writing and performing their work, they changed the way performers entertained audiences. The Pythons' creative control allowed them to experiment with form and content, discarding the established rules of television comedy. Their influence on British comedy of all kinds has been apparent for many years, while in America it has coloured the work of many cult performers from the early editions of Saturday Night Live through to more recent absurdist trends in television comedy. "Pythonesque" has entered the English lexicon as a result.

There are differing accounts of the origins of the Python name although the members agree that its only "significance" was that they thought it sounded funny. In the 1998 documentary Live At Aspen the group implied that "Monty" was selected as a gently-mocking tribute to Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, a legendary British general of World War II; requiring a "slippery-sounding" surname, they settled on "Python". On other occasions Idle has claimed that the name "Monty" was that of a popular and rotund fellow who drank in his local pub; people would often walk in and ask the barman, "Has Monty been in yet?", forcing the name to become stuck in his mind. The name Monty Python was envisaged by the team as being the perfect name for a sleazy entertainment agent.

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