July 24, 2014

State screens special Monty Python reunion show

The British holy grail of comedy troupes has reunited for a limited run of shows in London and the State Theatre in Modesto is one of about 420 venues around the world that will broadcast “Monty Python Live (mostly).”

The British holy grail of comedy troupes has reunited for a limited run of shows in London, but Valley residents won’t have to pop over the pond to see it.

The State Theatre is one of about 420 venues around the world that will broadcast the much-touted “Monty Python Live (mostly)” shows via live and recorded broadcasts.

The Aug. 6 and 8 screenings at the State will be recorded because of the time difference between the West Coast and London. The State Theatre’s Executive Director Sue Richardson said she expects the two shows to be a huge draw for the downtown Modesto venue.

“I think this is the kind of programming that we’re known for. It’s a bit off-center, so to speak, and it speaks to our demographic,” Richardson said in an email interview. “Most of us were Monty Python fans back in the day, so this is an exciting opportunity to see the surviving members live, mostly, one last time. And it may very well be the last time, ever.”

The troupe’s first live performance earlier this month at the O2 Arena in London sold out in less than a minute when tickets went on sale late last year.

All of the surviving Monty Python members – Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones – appear in the new show, scheduled for only 10 performances. Graham Chapman died in 1989.

Monty Python is the collective name of the creators of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” a British television comedy sketch show that first aired on the BBC in October 1969 and ran until 1974. The Python phenomenon developed from the original television series into touring stage shows and five films, including the hits “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975), “Life of Brian” (1979) and “The Meaning of Life” (1983).

The last time they performed together was in 1998 at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Colorado. The new show features the irreverent Monty Python stars performing sketch comedy, songs and other forms of the troupe’s trademark silly humor.

Richardson said the State was able to secure screenings thanks to an early heads-up about the event.

“One of our most loyal patrons, Brent Burhans, brought the reunion to my attention about five months ago. The minute he mentioned it, I knew it was something we should screen here and went to work looking for the distributor,” she said. “I really had to do some digging since O2 is in London, and a distributor I’d never worked with. I came up with an email address and was lucky enough to be among the first to request the broadcast. Also, we’re set up with a satellite and all of the things O2 required of the participating venues.”

London’s O2 Arena seats approximately 20,000 people, an audience capacity that the Pythons haven’t seen in a long time. In the early ’80s, the troupe performed at the Hollywood Bowl, which seats more than 17,000.

While the State often creates a party around special shows and screenings, only a special martini – aptly dubbed The Holy Grail – will mark the events this time. “It’s a night of utter ridiculousness, so you really can’t top that. I mean, how do you outdo Monty Python? You don’t, so we’re not even going to try,” Richardson said.

Richardson has seen footage from the live shows and said it should be a true treat for Python lovers.

“If you’re a fan, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the reunion,” she said. “Classic Python stuff plus wrinkles and gray hair. I mean, it’s been a few years since Python’s heyday, but they’re still masters of the absurd and, from what I’ve seen, as silly as ever.”

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

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