Author: David Morgan
Publisher: Avon Books, Inc.
Rather a must have for anyone who really wants to know about Monty Python, this book is actually the result of a number of interviews with the Pythons (Minus Graham Chapman, who died before the book was written), as well as friends, family members, producers, directors, Douglas Adams, and various other people.
The book is, overall, quite fascinating, because it gives a clear view of what sort of cultural formations in BBC at the time lead not only to the formation of Monty Python, but it's continuation for multiple seasons, and it's progression as a form of comedy.
Morgan delves, in his intereviews, into the distince comedy styles of the various teams (John Cleese and Chapman, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam) as well as how they interacted over-all as individuals, as actors and directors, etc.
It becomes clear, for instance, that most Cleese/Chapman sketches were made up of individuals shouting at each other across desks in offices, whereas Palin/Jones sketches were more apt to be outdoors events involving Vikings and old women mud-wrestling, and Idle just liked clever word play.
However, individual identities also become clear... Cleese was the most concerned about how proper or indecent their sketches might be, Idle was a great mind for music, and for money matters as the team went more into movies and merchandise. Palin was good at charming his way into things and generally being diplomatic, Jones was good at bullying his way through whatever he liked, usually nose to nose with Cleese...and Gilliam just popped in with cartoons which he knew nobody would understand until they actually saw them.
And as for Chapman...in writing, he apparently would only do about 5% of the work, but it was brilliant. There's a bit (which I won't attempt to reproduce here) about Cleese coming in one day and shouting about trying to return a broken toaster, and Chapman saying "well, that could be amusing, but it would be so much better if it were a parrot". You get the idea. Also, he turned out to be the perfect straight man for the movies, which nobody realized they needed until they got to them. Don't listen to me, read the book.
It also goes into how they got out of the "formal sketch" style of comedy and decided to go more for a merging, continuous style instead, as well as the end of Graham Chapman, the splitting of the team, the various movies, etc.
All in all, more information than you ever thought you'd have on Monty Python, and all quite useful.