MONTY PYTHON RECEIVES THE EMPIRE INSPIRATION AWARD
by Hans ten Cate
Wednesday, 20 August 1997

The Python boys were on hand at the second annual Empire Awards recently (March 5). The affair, sponsored by Miller Draft and hosted by British entertainment magazine, Empire, was held at London's Park Lane Hotel where a sizable collection of British and American entertainers showed up to pay tribute. The Empire Awards are similar to the People's Choice awards in the United States where the movie-going public nominates and chooses the winners.

Among the winners this year... the Monty Python team! Sure, the boys haven't done anything as a Flying Circus in years, but their contributions to filmmaking were nevertheless recognized with the very-special Empire Inspiration Award. This award is "...given to the filmmaker(s) who have most inspired others to take a chance at the world of moviemaking themselves."

Said Empire magazine, "we gave those rather funny chaps formerly known as Monty Python's Flying Circus an Inspiration Award for having revolutionized television, changed the nature of comedy forever, and written, directed and starred, in some of the funniest, most original and groundbreaking movies ever made."

The award was presented by famed rocker Elton John, who, apparently, is a huge Python fan. He described how he and his band used to watch Python videos in the hotel after their show, smoking dope and running around pretending to be the knights who say "Ni!" "And other useless things like 'Get that for me Deirdre'- always a catchphrase," said Elton John, using a familiar Meaning of Life reference.

Receiving the award in person were the two Terrys (Jones and Gilliam) and Michael Palin. Before they got their say, Eric Idle and John Cleese made an appearance on video, since they were in Los Angeles and couldn't attend in person. Some of the speeches were typically Python. This is what they had to say:

ERIC IDLE: (Aside, casually) "Look, I'm not gonna sit here and gloat and say 'Here I am in Hollywood on a lovely sunny day' and they're stuck in miserable old rainy London. Because that's really shallow and insincere and I don't want to come across ... (Suddenly noticing camera) Oh, hi, gosh, how very nice of you it is to give me this wonderful Inspiration Award from Empire magazine for encouraging those jolly funny chaps; Michael and Terry and Terry and, er, the other one, Terry, for helping them to be funny all those years ago. Apparently, we were hilarious - haha - but luckily I can't remember because I've got Alzheimer's disease. Anyway, I better go now because I've got a very important business meeting with the head of a major studio. And he's promised to touch my thighs and he's promised to give me a major part in a film if I touch his thi- if I just write something for him. Okay. Sorry. Bye."

JOHN CLEESE: "Good evening. I'm very touched that Empire magazine has given this lovely award to what is left of the Monty Python group. As you all realize, time has taken its toll on the team. Graham Chapman has been dead for several years now, which is sad. He may have been a silly old queen but we were fond of him. At least, two of us were. And as you've just heard Eric Idle has Alzheimer's now which is a good thing because it helps him to forget that he's only got four months left. And, of course, poor dear Terry Gilliam died last September which was a big, big shock to us all. But I'm delighted that he's being represented at the Awards in London this evening by a cousin of his from Mexico. Buenos dias, Senor Rodriguez, muchas grazias.. .. for coming along tonight. And then, of course, only last Tuesday Terry Jones had the latest in a series of massive heart attacks and I think it's wonderful that he has dragged himself from the operating table to be with you all this evening on what is probably one last evenings on earth. So effectively, there's only Michael Palin and myself left. And I don't know if you've seen Michael Palin's X-ray recently (produces one from medical envelope) but this is not good, not good, I'm afraid. So, those of us who are still with you are pathetically grateful for this Award, for any kind of public attention at all these days, really. So thank you and could we possibly, possibly have another one next year? Only it gives one something to live for. (he touches his heart in concern) Thank you."

John Cleese's acceptance speech, recorded while he was in Los Angeles, had the entire audience in stitches. A (well deserved) standing ovation was then given to the Pythons present at Park Lane. Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones stepped forward to receive the award from Elton John and made the following speeches:

MICHAEL PALIN: "Thank you, especially to John Cleese - the only Python to opt to be cryogenically frozen so far and it obviously worked. This is a pretty disastrous blow for us. Coming in the same week that Swansea Borough Council lifted their ban on The Life Of Brian after 17 years, this has shot our street cred to pieces. But we'd have only accepted this from Empire magazine, I'll tell you that. I thank you very much. Meanwhile, the directors . . . "

TERRY JONES: "It has been a week of wonders really with Swansea Council lifting the ban on The Life Of Brian, now getting all the Monty Python team together to accept an award. The only thing that's left as far as I can see is that if the bloody Government would announce the election! I'd wish they'd get on with it. Anyway, I'd just like to say also thanks to Ann James for keeping us together for so long and to Ian MacNaughton for directing the TV shows. Thanks a lot..."

TERRY GILLIAM: "I think one speech from me is enough (see below), so I think it's time to eat, isn't it?..."

When prompted afterwards about winning the Inspiration Award, Terry Jones responded modestly "I find it hard to see the influence we had on the other things I must say." Terry Gilliam agreed: "I think we all expected the floodgates to open and then really outrageous comedy to follow, but it didn't really happen. It hasn't really hit in the way we thought. Maybe we ruined everybody. We shouldn't get the Inspiration Award at all."


Sources:

  • "Thank Your Readers One and Alll..." in Empire, May 1997, pp. 16-24.
  • "And The Winners Are..." in Empire, April 1997, p. 16.