HYDE PARK — In 1975, somebody thought it would be a good idea to set members of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" loose in Chicago to promote WTTW.
What came back is a reel of promotional spots with Terry Jones and Graham Chapman with vicious assaults on the family jewels and pleas from a “pervert” for donations to the public television station.
WTTW had been showing “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” for a year, only the second public television station in the country to start showing the program, when Jones and Chapman were released onto the city’s streets.
It was likely disarming for Chicagoans who were not staying up late to watch public television to see Gilliam’s character “Gumby” screaming “Subscribe!” from the middle of a fountain.
But for early fans, it must have been a rare treat. Many of the cast members were in the city quite frequently in 1975 to record promos for the show and for the Chicago premiere of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” where Chapman and Jones handed out coconuts to the audience, according to “Monty Python: A Chronology, 1969-2012.”
And all those weird promos appear to have actually aired. The Museum of Classic Chicago Television has a clip of Gilliam’s “pervert” character urging people to subscribe before a political choreography sketch that was cut from later airings of the show.
John Cleese would return in 1994 to record spots for a donation drive during a 22-hour marathon of the show with the announcer promising a “phenomenal supply of yucks.”
There is more still lurking out there too. At least four of the cast members were in Chicago earlier in 1975 to records promos that still haven’t turned up online.
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