This year sees the release online of various Monty Python games. As well as being very funny, the games will be available free and online. Neil Davey had a chat with Monty Python’s Terry Jones to find out more.
Neil Davey (Dealspwn): This interview very nearly didn’t happen. As part of the research I was playing Camelot Smashalot – think Angry Birds meets the Holy Grail, with French Taunters instead of pigs – and I lost track of the time.
Terry Jones: I’ve not played it actually... I’m not much of a games player. It’s no use asking me. But I do think they’ve done a good job and some of the games are very funny.
Neil Davey: They’re certainly true to the spirit of Python...
Terry Jones: Yes, they’re in-keeping with the Pythonic vision of the world. Whatever that is...
Neil Davey: Indeed. The delights of lobbing a pig or a chicken at a French soldier cannot be underestimated. How did it come about?
Terry Jones: It was a desire to earn money! Our business manager warned us that the DVD market was collapsing and we had to look around for new areas, and so the “app” seems to be a growth area. I don’t really understand it but... I feel guilty about it, it’s addictive, and we’re luring young people into playing games.
Neil Davey: Did you ever suspect how iconic the characters and sketches and dialogue would turn out to be?
Terry Jones: No, absolutely not. The whole story of Python seems, in retrospect, so much more successful than it did at the time. When we made the show, there was no indication that the BBC would give us a second series, in fact they were rather against it, and I don’t know what persuaded them to give it another go. When the first shows went on... if you listen to the very first show – which was the second one that went out , the one with the flying sheep – there’s not much audience laughter. That’s because they recruited an audience of pensioners who thought they were going to see a circus. They were a bit puzzled by what was going on. It wasn’t until about the fifth show that we got feedback, and it was mainly from kids.
Neil Davey: Is it easy to let go of your characters and settings, and let the games team turn them into something – ahem – completely different?
Terry Jones: It is now. At the time, when we were struggling to make Python work and we were establishing ourselves, even after the movies we were very controlling of the images and what use was made of the films and shows. But now it’s quite a long time ago. And we need the money... I think at the time, we wanted people to see Python as Python, now we feel it’s established itself, so it’s easier to let go.
Neil Davey: And you’re bringing Python, potentially, to a whole new generation.
Terry Jones: I guess so, I don’t know if it will work that way, but hopefully it will. It’s a mystery why but Python does seem to work for young kids nowadays.
Neil Davey: What’s next?
Terry Jones: I’ve got a movie, a screenplay I wrote a few years ago, called Absolutely Anything. It’s about a man who gets magical powers and can suddenly do anything. We gave it up in 2003 when Bruce Almighty came out, but it’s a funny script, so it’s set up now with John Oliver, the British guy on the Daily Show, who’s going to play the lead, and Robin Williams who’s going to voice the dog. Because there’s a talking dog, and he slightly takes over the film.
I’ve also got an opera. I did the libretto for an opera with Anne Dudley for the Royal Opera House. They commissioned Anne to write the music, we’d just met and she asked if I’d write the libretto. It’s based on a story I wrote for a book coming out next year called Animal Tales. It’s about a wonderful doctor. His patients all love him and he has a brilliant cure rate but the medical council want him to stop practicing because, er, he’s a dog.
Neil Davey: And will there be more games? Pin The Sandal on the Messiah perhaps? Or, more likely given the above, something involving a dog?
Terry Jones: I don’t know. Hopefully. If it makes money...! There’s certainly the material. The thing about the TV show is that there were so many ideas in each show. There are a lot more ideas per show than most half hours.
Big thanks to Terry for the interview. The Monty Python games will go live this year at http://www.ministryofsillygames.com/ and you can check out the first ten levels of Camelot Smashalot below.