189: “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” Premieres on Television


On this date in 1969, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” premiered on BBC 1 in the United Kingdom.

Here are a few facts you may not have known about the show and its creators.

The six members of the troupe worked together on several British television shows before creating their own show in 1969. Five of them worked on “The Frost Report” with David Frost. For their work on “The Frost Report,” John Cleese and Graham Chapman were offered a show by the BBC. Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam were offered a show by independent broadcaster ITV to begin in 1970. Cleese invited Palin to join Chapman and him on their BBC project. Palin suggested bringing along Idle, Jones and Gilliam.

What would become “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” was built around the idea that a sketch doesn’t necessarily require a punchline; sometimes the setup is funny enough on its own. However, they needed a way to transition from sketch to sketch and chose to use animations by Terry Gilliam to do this. They also used characters who would break the fourth wall to move the show along. One example is Graham Chapman’s “Colonel,” whose job was to make sure things didn’t get too silly.

The show also popularized techniques such as the cold open, which is when the program begins before the credits or opening titles.

The show lasted four seasons with 45 episodes in total.

The last episode aired on December 5, 1974.

The person responsible for “Monty Python” being introduced to American audiences was, naturally, Dean Martin.

During the summer hiatus from “The Dean Martin Show” in 1972, Martin produced a replacement program called “ComedyWorld,” which featured clips from international comedy programs. Sketches including “Bicycle Repairman” and “The Dull Life of a Stockbroker” aired on this show. Thanks to this, the owner of the American rights to BBC programming was able to convert the entire series to be able to show it in North America.

The show would go on to be one of the staples of public television stations in the 1970s and 1980s.

The troupe went on to make five movies, including a filmed version of their live show at the Hollywood Bowl. In 1989, Graham Chapman died of cancer.

The rest of the Pythons reunited in 2014 for a stage show called “Monty Python Live (mostly): One Down, Five to Go.” Tickets for the first night sold out in 45 seconds.

Our question, which of the Pythons was not British?

Today is World Teachers’ Day. It’s also Constitution Day in Vanuatu and Republic day in Portugal. In the United States it’s National Do Something Nice Day and National Child Health Day. It’s the birthday of Former U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, scientist Robert Goddard, former Czech president Vaclav Havel and actor/comedian Bernie Mac.


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One response to “189: “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” Premieres on Television”

  1. MPFC (first?) appearance on the Dean Martin Comedy World was the World’s Funniest Joke where if you read it you literally died laughing. The skit was set in WWII in England. The Joke was then weaponized to be used against the Germans. I will never forget how my father and I laughed so hard there was tears in our eyes. I told my high school friends about the skit ( they laughed) and looked forward to seeing MPFC. When Detroit Public TV aired it months later we gathered together to watch. We were hooked and couldn’t wait for the next episode. Good times.

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