The five remaining members of Monty Python and I are sitting in a silver Mercedes. We’re driving away from the press conference where they have just announced their reunion. Opposite me are Eric Idle and the two Terrys, Gilliam and Jones. I’m squashed up next to Michael Palin and John Cleese.
It’s been “an awful long time”, says Gilliam, since they’ve been together in the same vehicle. Do they feel like rock stars on tour? “We don’t know what that would be like,” says Cleese. “I do,” Palin says. “It’s just having people wanting to tear your clothes off, John.” Cleese is having none of it: “This is very tame in comparison…”
Night, “where we’re not being pursued by anybody. We’re very old and we just long to go to bed and have a sleep.” But they’re clearly having a good time. “Better than being home alone,” as Gilliam puts it.
The Pythons’ announcement, that next summer they will perform together on stage for the first time in 24 years, was filmed by 27 camera crews and transmitted live around the world, generating a wave of both excitement and nostalgia. Gilliam’s wife of 40 years, Maggie, was watching the press conference from the departure lounge of an airport in France, in tears. She was moved, jokes Gilliam, by the sight of “five old farts… about to step into the abyss”. Idle’s wife, Tania, tuned in from their home in Los Angeles. “She was enjoying it,” he says. “She thought we looked good.” Gilliam smiles, “You’ve got a better wife than I do, then.”
“How many of us are married to Catholics?” asks Cleese. Only he is, as it turns out. “Your latest one’s a Catholic?” asks Idle. “The last few years I’ve had a lot of Catholic girlfriends,” Cleese replies. “About four in a row.” He married Jennifer Wade, his fourth wife, last year in the West Indies. “By an umpire,” jokes Idle. “I declare this marriage LBW,” Palin joins in. “Leg Before Wife,” says Gilliam.