Live review: John Cleese and Eric Idle: Together Again At Last ... For The Very First Time

By Janet McAllister

1 comment
British comedians Eric Idle and John Cleese.
British comedians Eric Idle and John Cleese.

This is the show that all the palagi uncles go to. I went with my Uncle Derek, and we unexpectedly ran into my Dad and my Uncle Ken. They all seemed to be enjoying the Monty Python nostalgia. Especially the Fish Dance.

To be sure, the evening starts slowly, with a Holy Grail fart joke, a video montage, and an amusing cheeky reference to Michael Palin. Then they arrive: John Cleese's stovepipe legs are more incongruous than ever paired with a pot belly; Eric Idle has a scruffy beard.

It's a little artificial, as the "evening of famous reminiscences" format often is. They pretend they've never before heard each other's jokes, and give us some history we could mostly read on Wikipedia. Still, there are intriguing snippets: Cleese claims to be the reason Marty Feldman got out of the writer's room and onto the set.

But things warm up when they perform live: the undertakers sketch, revealing "nasty" truths about what happens to bodies after death, is especially funny. The memory school sketch is amusing because of course the surreal Python image association aide-memoires actually work.

In the second half, the duo take turns flying solo before answering written audience questions (and at least one planted question about Terry Gilliam). Being a version of yourself in front of a live audience is very different from acting on screen. Raspy-voiced, Cleese gives an interesting analysis of why gonorrhea is funnier than a head cold, but he never quite seems at ease. He comes across as a bit of an over-privileged old boor with his misogynistic jokes and (non) complaints about hotel rubbish bins and the decline of "racial humour".

Musician Idle is much warmer, more cheerful, endearing and accessible ("all my songs are filthy, I do apologise"), even when singing a song ("world premiere!") about how he hates people who take selfies with him. There is a risqué sing-along and a witty ditty using Latin words about "Eric the half a bee". Humour history for avuncular fans.

What: John Cleese and Eric Idle: Together Again At Last ... For The Very First Time
Where: Civic Theatre, Queen Street
When: Tonight, Thursday March 24

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