Review: ‘Monty Python’s Tunisian Holiday’
Well as careers go, here’s a good one. Start off writing a fanzine and wind up working with and for Del Close and Monty Python and, specifically, John Cleese. Then you get to write all kinds of books about your labors.
Long-time comics journalist and frequent ComicMix commenter Kim Howard Johnson has a new book out called Monty Python’s Tunisian Holiday. It’s a misnomer; Monty Python was in Tunisia to work. They were making a movie. Monty [[[Python’s Life of Brian]]], to be exact. But few would buy a book called [[[Kim Howard Johnson’s Tunisian Holiday]]] unless it had a lot of sex in it, so the title choice is obvious. So are the contents: it’s Howard’s account of his time with the Pythons in Tunisia filming [[[The Life of Brian]]] and touches on his time on-stage with the group at the famed Hollywood Bowl concerts (Howard’s a professional, trained by no less than Del Close).
This is less of a companion volume to his [[[The First 200 Years of Monty Python]]],[[[ And Now For Something Completely Trivial]]],[[[ Life Before (and After) Monty Python]]], and [[[The First 280 Years of Monty Python]]] than it is Howard’s story chronicling his experiences as both a performer in the movie and a journalist covering the shoot. As such, it’s more of a companion volume to Michael Palin’s recently released autobiography Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (I highly recommend the audiobook version, read by Palin). It’s witty, it’s thorough, and if you’re a Python fan or a movie nut, it’s completely vital.
By the way, Howard’s got prefaces from Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, and his former boss and collaborator ([[[Superman: True Brit]]]), John Cleese. It’s nice to know people.
O.K. Cool, Howard. Great job. Now go do that biography of the Bonzo Dog Band I’ve been wanting so desperately. Ummm… after you finish that [[[Munden’s Bar]]] story you’re doing with…
The hell with the "Munden's Bar" story. Finish the Bonzo book.
Truth be told, the Bonzo book was a tease. I'd love to see Howard write it, and I think he's eminently qualified.By the way, there was a Bonzo Dog Band 40th Anniversary Reunion DVD (http://www.amazon.com/Bonzo-Dog-Band-40th-Anniver…) released two years ago. Obviously Vivian Stanshall couldn't make it, being long dead, but they recruited Adrian Edmondson, Stephen Fry, Phill Jupitus, and Paul Merton to fill in for him.
I saw that.'Twas a strange and lonely thing to be a US Bonzos fan in the 1970s…
That's how I discovered Monty Python. I was disc jockeying an "underground radio" — segue radio; free-form rock; progressive rock — show back in 1970 and I played a lot of the Bonzos. Somebody called in and told me the Bonzos had broken up, but there was this comedy troupe called Monty Python's Flying Circus and I should check 'em out. I did, and became one of the first, and very few, to play the Pythons on commercial radio back in those pre-PBS days. That got me an on-air interview with Chapman and Jones, and a few amazing conversations with Gilliam.And a bond with Kim Howard Johnson.
My brother gave me a boxed set of Do Not Adjust Your Set. This was a BBC children's show that predated Python. It featured Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band with Neil Innes. There are even some cameos by Terry Gilliam! It's not hilarious stuff. But you can see how this show contains the seeds of Python humor. And I think it's essential for rabid Python or Bonzo Dog band fans.
Now I have one more thing on my Amazon wish list. Thanks.
Thanks for the kind words Mike! Those were some mighty good days. And mighty important to me as well. If I hadn't met the Pythons, I might not have met you (I wonder if anyone remembers that Chicagocon where I previewed Brian and first did my slide show?), and if I hadn't met you, I might never have met Del. BTW, I saw Neil a couple of months ago, and I urged him to write the Bonzo book. It's an amazing, terrifying, hilarious story–and that's only the 40th reunion!And thanks for the kind words on MP's Tunisian Holiday. Just mentioning it in the same sentence as Michael Palins's Diaries is high praise indeed. It was peculiar, but fun, to revisit myself and the Pythons 30 years ago, and remembering what I had long forgotten. Except the lack of sex. That part of it has always been crystal clear…