Monty Python's Flying Circus

5 October 1969

Image: Monty Python's Flying Circus cast, November 1969

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.

Monty Python's Flying Circus - an audio slideshow

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.

Further reading

  • Monty Python at 50‘Sick’, ‘tripe’ and ‘a delicious sense of the ridiculous’, Monty Python shocked and delighted BBC audiences in equal measure. To celebrate 50 years of Python in 2019, BBC History digs deep inside BBC Archives and lifts the lid on how the series was commissioned, aspiring writers use Monty Python for new comic creations, and our gallery unearths some rarely seen images to mark a very special birthday.

October anniversaries