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Monty Python stars meeting up is like tearful lovers reuniting – Michael Palin

He said he is friends with his fellow comedy troupe founders John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle.

Actor and presenter Sir Michael Palin spoke about his Monty Python co-stars
Age UK Camden Actor and presenter Sir Michael Palin spoke about his Monty Python co-stars (Victoria Jones/PA)

Sir Michael Palin has said that seeing his fellow Monty Python stars can be a “rather tearful” experience.

The actor, comedian and travel presenter, 80, last performed shows in 2014 alongside some of his other castmates from the comedy troupe with Monty Python Live (Mostly).

Sir Michael agreed, when asked on BBC Radio 4’s This Cultural Life, that he and his fellow founders, Fawlty Towers star John Cleese, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas director Terry Gilliam and Spamalot creator Eric Idle, remain friends.

He said: “We share so much including income, which has to be sort of worked out, and Python is still selling round the world and not in the way it used to.

“It’s still achieved a success none of us would ever dreamed of (when) writing this very silly, anarchic stuff so yes, we see each other not as often.”

Python stars Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones
Monty Python photocall – London Python stars Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones

He added that he sees Gilliam “often” because he lives close by in London but the others not as much because they live elsewhere.

Sir Michael said: “We’re close when we get together and we talk, there is that thing, you know, it’s like a long affair that took place many years ago and you get together and you’re rather tearful.”

Other Monty Python members Graham Chapman and Terry Jones have died. Chapman’s death came aged 48 after tonsil cancer in 1989 and Jones died in 2020 aged 77 from a rare form of dementia.

In February, Idle claimed on X, formerly Twitter, that the finances of the troupe, founded in 1969, were a “disaster”.

He alleged that the income from their films, and other works, had fallen “disastrously” and suggested that manager Holly Gilliam, daughter of Python co-founder Gilliam, was behind the difficulties of generating profits.

Cleese, posting on X, defended Ms Gilliam saying for the last decade she has been “very efficient, clear-minded, hard-working, and pleasant to have dealings with” and her father and Sir Michael agree with these sentiments.

Idle’s medieval musical Spamalot, which earned a Tony award for best musical after being staged on Broadway and was based on the movie Monty Python And The Holy Grail, became the subject of a legal case and financial settlement.

In 2013, a producer of the 1975 film succeeded in a High Court royalty fight with the comedy team to get some of the musical’s profits.

Sir Michael also said during the interview with This Cultural Life that he “did not always agree” with his fellow troupe members, when they were coming up with ideas.

“There were problems sometimes,” he said, citing disagreements on whether to do the restaurant sketch from Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life.

Michael Palin, Eric Idle and John Cleese
Monty Python rehearsals – London Michael Palin, Eric Idle and John Cleese (Ian West/PA)

Sir Michael said the moment “became one of the great sketches” from that film.

“There are other things we wrote sometimes that John and Graham and Eric didn’t like and vice versa and we set our standards really high,” he added.

The troupe landed on TV with BBC sketch series Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran from 1969 to 1974, before moving on to the films 1975’s Monty Python And The Holy Grail, 1979’s Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and 1983’s Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life.