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Monty Python crew pledge mix of old and new in comeback

And now for something curiously familiar: It's Monty Python's comeback stage show. The five surviving members of the iconic British comedy troupe have discussed their impending return in public.

As Terry Jones put it when he and the four other Pythons - John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Michael Palin - appeared in London on Thursday, "silliness is always funny."

This set the tone for the somewhat atypical press conference - the five Pythons sat in front of five large, bold-type name labels, all of which were assigned to the wrong people.

The performers promised a mixture of old and new material in their stage return, with director Eric Idle saying they would aim for "comedy, pathos, music and a tiny bit of ancient sex."

John Cleese's 'Ministry of Silly Walks'

Some sketches might not be reproduced owing to age, the quintet confessed.

The British comic legends, best known for the BBC sketch series "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and three feature-length films including "The Life of Brian," will reunite for a show at London's O2 Arena on July 1. Tickets were set to go on sale later in November, to cost between 26 pounds (31 euros/$42) and 95 pounds.

The sixth Python, Graham Chapman, who played the Brian mistaken for a messiah in Galilee, died of cancer in 1989.

Now in their 70s, most members of the quintet met at the University of Cambridge's fabled Footlights dramatic society. Their irreverent brand of humor took British audiences by storm in the 1970s but soon stretched around much of the world.

The success even prompted two 45-minute specials under the new title "Monty Pythons Fliegender Zirkus," produced by regional broadcaster WDR after German comedy icon Alfred Biolek convinced the group to experiment in another language. The second episode, however, was recorded in English with subtitles, owing to mixed performances in German from the troupe.

It's a living

Notorious sketches from the troupe's salad days include an all-philosophers' football match, a pet shop argument over a recently purchased (and deceased) parrot, the bumbling band of "Gumby Men" only capable of shouting, and the zany and sometimes raunchy animations by Gilliam that were used to link the show together.

"The main danger we have is that the audience know the scripts better than we do," Cleese said of the reunion.

Michael Palin, Terence Bayler, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman and Eric idle.

'Always look on the bright side of life'

After several near-breakups, the group completed their final project - a third feature film, "The Meaning of Life" - in 1983. All five continued to enjoy major success: Cleese continued writing and performing in hit comedies; Palin became the darling of British travel documentaries; Idle moved into production and worked on the stage adaptation "Spamalot," based on the Monty Python's first film; and Jones became a historian and TV presenter.

Finally, Gilliam - who initially envisaged the "Flying Circus" as a purely animated sketch show with a few voiceover actors, but changed his mind on seeing the five Cambridge alumni perform together - became an Oscar-nominated film director, behind motion pictures including "The Fisher King," "12 Monkeys" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

msh/ph (AFP, dpa, Reuters)