Everett Collection
Josh Wolk
June 25, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Any plans for a reported Monty Python 30th-anniversary tour look deader than a parrot. While the remaining fivesome (Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989) seemed enthusiastic about creating a touring stage show when they reunited at Aspen’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in March of last year, it didn’t take long for the old Argument Clinic to reopen and plans to dissolve, according to the new Python oral history, ”Monty Python Speaks!”(Spike Books). ”We got on well (at Aspen), and that’s why we thought it would be fun to do (the 30th-anniversary tour),” says John Cleese. ”But then the very next day Terry Gilliam said to Michael Palin and Terry Jones that he didn’t really want to do it, which is not what he said in the room. And then some weeks, months later, Michael decided he didn’t really want to do six or eight weeks, he really only wanted to do two. So trying to get everybody’s needs together has proved very difficult.”

Gilliam seems to be the biggest obstacle to any group project, and he harbors no nostalgic memories of their reunion. ”That Aspen thing, it was like aspic,” he says. ”We were up there, I thought we were almost mummified!… We’re just talking like (imitating old fogey), ‘Well, in my day when we used to do comedy…’ And the audience was so happy, they loved it so much. We didn’t have to do anything; we were feeding them, they were inhaling us. I don’t know if you can do that night after night, week after week, city after city, and have any self-respect left! Any soul left, anything…. I can’t personally think of anything worse than getting up there and reciting that old stuff again.”

Palin’s reservations center around continuing the group without Chapman. ”I never wanted to see the three remaining Beatles play,” he says. ”How could the Beatles be the same without Lennon? So you have to admit the same would happen with Python; we’d be different.” He’s wary of them reuniting just for the money, but on the other hand he does feel that the five living members still have their comedy potential. ”It’s like, the fire is not burning brightly, but the embers are still there; you just blow on them and the flames will come up again, ” he says. ”There is something there that could be used. And I think it’s a very interesting debate as to whether we SHOULD use it or not.”

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