Morecambe and Wise found Monty Python ‘boring’ and ‘irritating’
Monty Python were not the messiahs of comedy, they were very boring boys.
The damning verdict on John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam was made in 1973 by Morecambe and Wise, newly discovered film footage reveals. They were not only boring but “unprofessional” and that was “irritating”, the comedy duo said.
The fascinating addition to British comedy history has emerged from an interview the pair gave to the University of East Anglia student TV station Nexus while backstage at Norwich Theatre Royal.
At the time, Morecambe and Wise, and Monty Python were BBC One stablemates, but there was little sign of comradeship in the interview.
Asked what he thought of Monty Python, Eric Morecambe joked that he liked the opening and the finish. “It’s the bit in the middle I don’t like.”
Ernie Wise added: “At times there’s five or six minutes of utter boredom. And then there’s three minutes of very funny and then another eight minutes of boredom.”
Morecambe, in a towelled robe and holding a large cigar, said: “The way I feel about it is that it’s, what they give you, for want of a better expression, is university comedy. Or college comedy or whatever you want to call it. And that’s what they give you. And I’m afraid a lot of it is very unprofessional. And this irritates me being a professional.
“But what does make me laugh, really makes me laugh. And what doesn’t make me laugh, bores me stiff.”
The footage has been shown to Palin, who admitted he was a “little hurt” but “intrigued”.
It was discovered during the making of a BBC Norfolk documentary about the county’s “forgotten” TV station, Nexus.
Palin told the BBC it was unusual for comedians to comment so directly on each other at the time. “People in the same sort of business were very careful about what they said about somebody else,” he said.
“It was quite nice that they just relaxed. And it’s most interesting what they say, because I think it’s what they meant. It didn’t seem particularly savage – but on the other hand, it was very clear what they felt.”
Morecambe and Wise are still seen as Britain’s greatest double act and at the time were approaching the peak of their popularity. Their BBC One shows were attracting audiences of about 20 million.
Monty Python were the comedy newcomers, first broadcast at 10.55pm on a Sunday night in October. Not many expected the show to catch on.