An Englishman, an American and an Indian Walk into a Bar… at the Roundhouse
When the Roundhouse first announced that it would hold an event starring Monty Python legends Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin, there was never any doubt that it would be a success. Indeed, seeing the members of the group that reshaped comedy tell their stories and engage in banter as only they can, made for a superb night of laughter and renewed appreciation of their work.
Aside from celebrating its 50th anniversary as an arts centre and its 10th as a charity, the Roundhouse organised the fundraising event to help young people develop their artistic skills by providing the space, tools and motivation that many youngsters cannot get elsewhere. All proceeds from the night will go towards youth projects and the building of studios where budding artists can express their creativity and work on their talent.
The evening was hosted by actor-writer Sanjeev Bhaskar who has worked with Gilliam in the past and starred in a West End run of the award-winning musical Spamalot. The stage was set up as a bar, complete with bartender, margaritas and crisps. As the three settled with their drinks amidst improvised jokes, Bhaskar initiated a biographical interview that traced the duo’s journey from birth (artistic and actual!), through the Monty Python years and onto their solo careers.
Gilliam and Palin, who have supported the venue for many years, told of their first steps in the business, Gilliam as an illustrator coming from America and Palin as an actor going against his parents’ wishes. They recounted the most salient moments of their Monty Python days and made the audience relive the surreal dimension of their comedy through amusing anecdotes.
The chat was further spiced up with short clips from their films and TV sketches. Seeing those memorable scenes, albeit for the nth time in the case of most fans, did not make them any less effective or absurd: the raucous laughter of the audience proved that their humour is still as fresh as can be.
One of the highlights was the clip of Gilliam’s The Christmas Card, an early cut-out animation brimming with dark humour aired in 1968, in which he stages violent outcomes within otherwise idyllic festive scenes, with hilarious results.
As the images and stories added up, the evening became a sort of live documentary, bringing the audience closer to the Monty Python world at every step, with humour always in the foreground. During the closing Q&A, a member of the room asked: “What piece of advice would you give your 13-year-old selves?”. Palin responded: “Don’t give up just yet!”
Beside the comedy, Gilliam and Palin were the perfect guests considering the aim of the night. They are true ambassadors of the importance of nurturing young talent and investing in innovation, so that audiences may continue to enjoy gems of creativity such as the timeless classics they themselves offered.
An Englishman, an American and an Indian Walk into a Bar… was a one-off event at the Roundhouse on 5th February 2017. For further information visit here.