That The Pythons by the Pythons is going to be an absolute treat is evident even from the book's blurb. The six men behind Monty Python's Flying Circus--the most influential of all British TV satires--are actually four Englishmen, one Welshman and an interloping American, and it's largely in the words of John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam that we're told about the fractious process through which one of the great glories of British TV and film came into being.
Yes, Graham Chapman is here too, although sadly he died some years ago. The acerbic Chapman would have loved the frequent irreverent references to the fact that now he's dead. But nobody is spared in the hilarious introduction: its unsparing analyses of the post-Python careers of the participants would have most showbusiness types phoning their lawyers. But that's just one of the many joys in this chunky, arm-straining celebration of the glorious and surrealistic humour of the Monty Python team. Bob McCabe, the man who managed to corral the unruly members of the team here, has helped create this marvellous tome. It functions as a history of a well-loved comedy phenomenon, a biography of six extremely talented men and also a really eye-catching object: the book's design utilises the unmistakable animation style, created by Terry Gilliam, that was so much a part of the TV series and films. The iconoclastic attitude to the participants is perfect, but who would have accepted anything less from social critics as deadly as the Python team?
In fact, the revelation here that they were often at each others' throats suggests that inter-Python conflict may have been the catalyst that produced their inimitable humour. The only problem with The Pythons by the Pythons is resisting the temptation to read it at a sitting.