Directed By: Ian MacNaughton
Starring: John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman
Trivia: The movie was intended to introduce American audiences to Python's comedy, but ironically, it did far better business in Britain, where viewers had already seen the movie's sketches
Before tossing their hat into the cinematic ring with 1974’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Python troupe made a name for itself by way of the UK sketch comedy television program, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which aired on the BBC from 1969 to 1974. 1971’s And Now For Something Completely Different is a compilation of the Python’s most popular skits from the series’ first two seasons, reshot on film and no longer performed in front of a live studio audience.
Directed by Ian MacNaughton (who oversaw the TV series as well), And Now For Something Completely Different presents such memorable Python routines as “The Funniest Joke in the World”, about a joke so uproariously funny that anyone who hears it dies laughing, and “Nudge, Nudge”, starring Eric Idle as a sexually frustrated bar patron who asks Terry Jones a string of inappropriate questions. Interspersed between the sketches are animated segments produced by Terry Gilliam, the best of which is “American Defense”, a U.S. propaganda film that, after vilifying the Chinese, turns into a commercial for toothpaste.
While it’s only sporadically entertaining to start (aside from the above, I also liked the “Fresh Fruit Self Defense” sequence, as well as the “Expedition to Mt Kilimanjaro” sketch, but the “Marriage Guidance Counselor” skit left me a bit cold), the final half of And Now For Something Completely Different is positively hilarious, kicking off with the Python’s most famous routine, “The Dead Parrot”, where John Cleese tries to return a deceased parrot he recently purchased at Michael Palin’s pet store, and wrapping up with the “Upper Class Twit of the Year” competition, in which Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones, and Palin play well-to-do imbeciles competing for the title of Upper Class Twit of the Year. These two skits, and all those in between them, are comedic gold.