By Michael Roddy
LONDON (Reuters) - An audience of 16,000 cheered for the dead parrot and the Spanish Inquisition, and sang along to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" in London's O2 arena on Tuesday for the premiere of what has been billed as Monty Python's last stand.
For tickets that cost up to 95 pounds ($160), and were sold out in 44 seconds, Python fans saw Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, all in their 70s, perform together for what they have said is probably the last time.
The first of 10 nights of "Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down Five to Go" was pretty much what it said on the tin - a medley of famous sketches performed by the people who created them. The last show, on July 20, will be broadcast worldwide.
The Pythons were aided and abetted by a live orchestra and a chorus line of singing and dancing men and women. Carol Cleveland, the only woman who made regular appearances in the 1960s show, which brought a new style of British humor to a global audience, was there to reprise her popular roles.
Graham Chapman, the sixth Python, who died in 1989, appeared on film clips, along with some of the original television footage of Python sketches shown on a huge video display.
British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, a professed Python fan, made a guest appearance on film while the popular British comedian Stephen Fry was on stage for the Pythons' spoof television game show "Blackmail," in which dark secrets of viewers are revealed unless they mail in large sums of money.
Some of the numbers worked better than others, but there was uproarious laughter for several skits, including one in which Cleese plays a woman scientist being interviewed on television.
The scientist's extended coughing fits delay her telling her profound theory that a brontosaurus is skinny at the neck, wide in the middle, and skinny again at the tail.
The Pythons did their famous lumberjack song, with Palin as a supposedly manly woodcutter who reveals in song that he enjoys dressing up in women's clothing.
They also did the sketch that has provided a catch phrase for the English language: "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition" with three inquisitors who threaten their prey with the torture of having to sit in "the comfy chair."
Palin and Cleese performed what is perhaps the most famous Python sketch, the man trying to return a dead Norwegian blue parrot to a shopkeeper who maintains the bird "is only kipping (sleeping)."
There were a few new numbers, including "I Like Chinese" sung by Idle backed by the singers and dancers, praising the Chinese for buying up America's debt and saying "they will survive us without a doubt".
The show ended as it inevitably had to, with the five Pythons, dressed in white tuxedos, belting out "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
Idle strummed a guitar and Cleese, Gilliam, Palin and Jones chimed in as the audience sang along to the lyrics "life is quite absurd and death's the final word" but you should "always look on the bright side of life".
"They really put on a great show," said Greg Clausen of Los Angeles, who had flown with his wife and son to see the show, and had last seen the Pythons at the Hollywood Bowl 34 years ago.
"They're irreverent and wild and wonderful and it's humor for the soul."
($1 = 0.5877 British Pounds)
(Reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)