Sheffield showbiz legend Michael Palin returns to the stage tonight as the remaining members of Monty Python perform together live for the first time since 1980.
The cult comedy act – Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones – have signed up for a string of farewell gigs with special guests including scientist Professor Stephen Hawking.
Idle, who has done most to create the show – which features an extended cast of dancers, a full orchestra and special effects – promised fans it would be ‘really filthy’ and the ‘rudest we’ve done’.
Jones, aged 72, said: “My four-and-a-half-year-old daughter is coming to the last show and I dread to think what she will think of it.”
And 71-year-old Palin, who was born in Ranmoor and attended Birkdale School in Broomhill, joked they would be taking sex pill Viagra before each show to get them through it.
They said Prof Hawking will appear in the show, at London’s O2, with Prof Brian Cox.
Idle, 71, said: “He’s a big Python fan so he was asked if he would and he said within one minute ‘yes’.”
Cleese, 74, said the show, which includes numerous set changes and special effects, costs about £4.5 million to stage.
He said: “It’s much more complicated and spectacular than certainly I realised when we sat down for the read through for the first time.”
Monty Python’s Flying Circus was made for TV between 1969 and 1974 and generations of fans can recite lines and whole sketches.
Sixth Python Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989, aged 48, and tonight’s show is called One Down Five To Go.
Yesterday’s press conference, at London’s Palladium Theatre, began with a promotional clip for the concerts featuring Rolling Stones Sir Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts discussing the concerts, with 70-year-old Sir Mick asking why the audience wanted to watch a ‘bunch of wrinkly old men trying to relive their youth’.
But Idle said fans wanted to see the classic sketches which made their name, saying: “It would be odd to try to write better things than our best at this age.”
He said he was not worried about jokes written decades ago being appreciated by a modern audience, because they had not dated.
He said: “It’s mainly timeless actually, because we were very fortunate and followed the satire movement in England and everything was topical so when we came along we tried to knock that.”
One Down Five To Go is on at the O2 Arena for 10 dates, starting tonight.
The final show, on Sunday, July 20, will be broadcast live in thousands of cinemas around the world, including Odeon and The Showroom in Sheffield city centre and Vue at Meadowhall shopping centre.