By Ed Power11:45PM BST 20 Jul 2014
So this was it, the final performance by the most influential comedy troupe of all time. Forty-odd years since Monty Python’s Flying Circus revolutionized television humour and unleashed a legion of surreal catchphrases John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin departed the stage at London’s O2 Arena to the strains of their darkly hilarious (or is it hilariously dark?) anthem Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
Watching the swan-song was a 15,000 live audience, with many more viewing via cinema simulcasts across the globe and on the digital television channel Gold (aka the station where it feels an Only Fools And Horses repeat is just an ad break away). The Python special had been heartily hyped by Gold, which went so far as to install a fifty foot-long expired tropical bird in central London, in reference to Python’s much loved Dead Parrot sketch.
Starting with a half hour behind-the-scenes broadcast presented by stand-up Dara Ó Briain, Gold’s coverage was brash and boisterous. Emanating turbo-charged avuncularity, O Briain chinwagged with actor Martin Freeman and comedian Eddie Izzard (he’d already seen the comeback six times). It was a nice appetizer though things got a bit farcical as comic after comic squeezed alongside Ó Briain, vying to sing their Python praises in the heaving VIP Lounge.
Such uncomplicated jollity was in contrast to the actual show, which was at moments deeply poignant. Comedy functions best pushing hard against sentimentality yet it was impossible not to experience a tingle of sadness knowing Python would never again tread the boards together (there was also the fact they are all in their 70s and visibly weighed down by the decades).