Tickets for the new Monty Python stage show sold out in just 43.5 seconds when the surviving members of the veteran comedy troupe – John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones – announced they were getting back together.
The group, all in their 70s, added four more dates for the show at London’s O2 Arena after their five night stint sold out almost immediately. The sixth member of the group, Graham Chapman, died of cancer in 1989.
Monty Python began life with the highly successful BBC TV series ‘Monty Python's Flying Circus’, which was first broadcast in 1969. The show effectively threw away the rulebook of traditional sketch writing and became a cult classic. It ran for four series, spawned spin-off records, books and films, and inspired hit Broadway musical ‘Spamalot’.
But in the 30 years since their circus last flew, which of the Python s have done best on their own? We take a look.
Terry Gilliam - The quiet one
The success of the show and spin offs meant none of them should have ended up struggling for cash – but some have fared better than others. It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch and it’s arguably the quietest member of the Monty Python team, American-born Terry Gilliam, who has made the most money.
Originally Gilliam wasn’t even listed as a member of Monty Python, but credited as an animator: His cartoons linked the show's sketches together, seamlessly connecting any two completely unrelated ideas. He later appeared in several sketches, albeit without a main role.
Gilliam’s worth an estimated £24.4million, twice as much as the other members of Monty Python. After directing the troupe’s first feature film, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (1975), Gilliam made his name in film directing and was behind surrealist films such as ‘Jabberwocky’ (1977), ‘Time Bandits’ (1981) and ‘Brazil’ (1985). Other films he directed include ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen’ (1988), ‘The Fisher King’ (1991), ‘12 Monkeys’ (1995), and ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (1998).
Michael Palin – Globe-trotting adventurer
Michael Palin is worth an estimated £12million. Post-Python he continued acting, winning a BAFTA for best supporting actor in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ which also starred John Cleese.
However, Palin’s become best known as a travel presenter, fronting a number of shows including ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ and ‘Full Circle’.
He has written several books documenting his experience of each trip and was awarded a CBE in 2000.
Eric Idle – Going for a song
Eric Idle’s worth around £9.1million. He wrote some of Monty Python’s most popular songs, including ‘Look on the Bright Side of Life’ (which he performed at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony) and ‘Eric the Half-a-Bee’.
Post Python, he’s written several books, appeared in numerous television shows and films and toured as a solo artist.
He also wrote the script, lyrics, and some of the music for ‘Spamalot’. His involvement in the stage show has earned him more than £8 million in royalties while the other surviving Pythons have had to make do with just £650,000 each.
John Cleese – Fawlty powers
John Cleese – arguably the most famous Python of all - was left financially crippled by his divorce from third wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger in 2009. At one point his success in everything from ‘Fawlty Towers’, the ‘Shrek’ series to ‘Will and Grace’ and Bond film ‘Die Another Day’. But he was forced to agree a divorce settlement of nearly £12.5million, reducing Cleese's overall wealth to around £10million and possibly leaving Eichelberger richer than him.
The split saw him hand over £8million to in cash and assets plus £612,000 a year for the following seven years, despite the couple having no children. The actor sold a large numbers of paintings and movie memorabilia as well as properties – including a beach house, a 15-acre ranch in California, a flat in New York and a house in London – to help fund the settlement.
Three-times divorced Cleese is now married to Jennifer Wade, a jewellery designer 31 years his junior.
Terry Jones – From screen to script
Less is known about Terry Jones’s finances but he’s admitted the ageing comedians hope to boost their bank balances: “We're getting together and putting on a show – it's real. I'm quite excited about it. I hope it makes us a lot of money. I hope to be able to pay off my mortgage!” he said when the show was announced.
After Python, Jones focused as much on writing as acting – he co-wrote the screenplay for ‘Labyrinth’ (1986) as well as writing and presenting a series of historical series including ‘The Surprising History of Egypt’. Jones was also in the director’s chair for ‘Erik The Viking’ (1989).
He was married to Alison Telfer for 42 years but left her for lover Anna Soderstrom, 41 years his junior, last year.
Graham Chapman - The Lost Python
Graham Chapman, played the lead in Monty Python’s ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘Life Of Brian’, and went on to write shows after Monty Python. But nothing else quite caught the public’s imagination as much as his work with the other Pythons. Sadly, we’ll never know if he could have scaled those heights again as he died of cancer in 1989, aged 48, just a few years after ‘Meaning of Life’ came out.
And now for something completely different...