The first episode of seminal comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus, subtitled ‘Whither Canada?’, was broadcast just before 11pm on Sunday 5 October 1969. The Radio Times celebrated the launch with a spoof board game that set Monty Python in the context of previous satirical and late night shows. In the first programme sketches included ‘famous deaths’ presented by Mozart, the writing of the funniest and deadliest joke in the world, and an interview with Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson.
The writers and performers of Monty Python were assembled by Barry Took. Graham Chapman and John Cleese had previously worked together on At Last the 1948 Show.
Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam had just finished Do Not Adjust Your Set. Whither Canada? also featured Carol Cleveland, who became a regular cast member. The Flying Circus team developed the stream of consciousness form of Spike Milligan’s anarchic and absurd comedy Q5 and by adding Gilliam’s cartoon links, created a loose narrative.
After three series John Cleese left. The fourth and final series was simply known as Monty Python. Graham Chapman died in 1989 but the influence of Monty Python’s Flying Circus has been so great that the word ‘pythonesque’ is now in the dictionary.