Monty Python co-founder John Cleese (at lower left in above photo, and below in 2016) makes his Count Basie Theatre debut introducing a Sunday evening screening of the 1975 comedy classic ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’
You know you’ve drifted into uncharted cultural waters when the co-founder of the most cheerfully anarchic comedy institution of all time likens your nation’s new presidential administration to a “pirate ship” — with the man who famously brought you the “Dead Parrot” sketch going on to brand the skipper of that ship as “delusional.”
Having returned in recent years to his British birthplace (where he advocated for Brexit-ing the European Union) after some two decades as a resident of the United States, John Cleese comes to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre for the first time this Sunday, when the self-described “writer, actor and tall person” hosts a special screening of one of his troupe’s finest celluloid moments, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Scheduled for 7 p.m., the event finds the Monty Python co-founder performing a live-on-stage followup to a notoriously tough act: the 1975 feature film that found the surreally stiff-upper-lip sextet (Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and the late Graham Chapman) leaving behind the absurd vignettes of their beloved BBC TV series (and their screen debut, And Now For Something Completely Different) in favor of a madcap extended riff on the legends of King Arthur and his assorted knights.
Reveling in its own low-budget lunacy, confounding expectations at every turn, the comedy classic was eventually adapted by Idle into the highly unlikely Best Musical Tony Award winner Spamalot. More than 40 years later, bits like the Trojan Rabbit and the Knights Who Say “Ni” continue to resonate with lovers of the supremely silly.
At the film’s famously abrupt ending, Cleese (who recently did an extensive North American tour with Idle) will take the stage for a discussion of his life and career — including, presumably, such highlights as Fawlty Towers and A Fish Called Wanda — as well as an audience Q&A for which “absurd and/or ridiculous questions” (i.e., those concerning the air speed of an unladen swallow) are solicited from those in attendance.
Take it here for available tickets ($76 -$126, with a VIP Meet and Greet option available for $251) — then go here for details on more upcoming attractions on the Basie boards, including the annual appearance of the Elvis Birthday Bash (tonight), stage/screen legend Rita Moreno (February 19), and an “Evening of Improv and Comedy” with the creators of Jon Stewart’s new HBO project (February 9).