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Monty Python Friday, 1 October, 1999, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Python's long shadow
Flying solo the ex-Python's have much to live up to
Despite carving out tremendously successful solo careers - the former members of Monty Python have never been quite able to escape the enduring popularity of the Flying Circus.

Life of Python
California-based Eric Idle, who recently launched a sci-fi novel, admits the show has cast a long shadow over his post-Python work.

"What do I not miss [about Britain]? Answering endless questions about Monty Python - like nothing happened for 16 years... so please read The Road to Mars and see where I am at now in my life."

Eric Idle and Terry Jones
You've made your bed: Idle and Jones will always be 'ex-Pythons'
"All of us try not to repeat Python in our own individual attempts," Terry Jones says. "Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don't.

"I've generally tried to go for more straight stories, rather than the... bizarre approach of Python," admits the director of Erik the Viking and Wind in the Willows.

It is not just the press attention paid to Monty Python, but also the reaction of fans which has made life hard for some of the team.

"I'm the luckiest one because I'm the least known," Terry Gilliam said in David Morgan's new book, Monty Python Speaks.

"It's an awful job to walk down the street and be John Cleese," reckons the Python animator.

"The funny thing with Python, apart from John... nobody was really recognisable," Terry Jones remembers. "Certainly Mike Palin was never recognised in the street because he was always a character on screen."

"It's only since he's done his around the world things that people have started spotting him."

That said, in his upcoming travel show, Michael Palin's Hemingway Travels, the star is picked out by more than one avid Python fan.

Michael Palin
Python has trailled Palin around the world
"You get recognised in the most strange places," he told BBC News Online. Though in Cuba, it was his role alongside Jamie Lee Curtis in Fierce Creatures which interested the locals.

"Maybe my next show should be 'In the footsteps of Jamie Lee Curtis'."

The intrepid traveller claims not to feel too inhibited by the legacy of Python.

"It's not something that has ever stopped me doing what I'm doing," he said. "In some cases it has helped."

He has been careful not to become involved with the celebrity surrounding Python. "You shouldn't become a prisoner of your own fame.

Fierce Creatures
A fierce reputation to live up to: John Cleese with Jamie Lee Curtis
"I'd rather have a night in reading a book than go to a gala premiere," he admits.

"I don't see why one can't do one's work, have it shown, have it judged and that's that."

With all subsequent projects being compared to the much loved Flying Circus, the Pythons have more to live up to than most.

"I feel a bit of pressure everytime I do something new," says Palin. "There's a huge audience out there expecting something good - and I want to do something good."

He says some doubts creep in and he often asks himself: "Was I better when I was 30? Now I'm 56."

Eric Idle sees only one way to overcome such anxiety: "Comedy is hard work plus skill. You learn by practising and you improve by trying hard - same with anything."

Graham Chapman
This is an ex-comic: Chapman's death foils a Python reunion
Though keen to appear in each other's films, the surviving Pythons are guarded about reviving the Flying Circus without Graham Chapman, who died in 1989.

"Graham insists on remaining dead, which is really selfish of him," Idle has quipped in the past.

Despite being tired of questions about the Flying Circus, Idle - who penned some of the Python's most popular songs - admits that he would not swap his career for that of a rock star.

"It's better to have been a Python. You get more respect."

"Directing is a relief from not directing"
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