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Monty Python return with silliness and mass sing-a-long

Monty Python returned to the stage for the first time in over 30 years on Tuesday with a reunion show in London full of silly jokes and smut and ending in a mass sing-a-long by 14,000 fans.

LONDON: Monty Python returned to the stage for the first time in over 30 years on Tuesday with a reunion show in London full of silly jokes and smut and ending in a mass sing-a-long by 14,000 fans.

Opening a 10-night residency at the 02 arena, the five surviving members of the British comedy troupe performed some of their best-loved sketches and songs to an adoring crowd.

John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones, now all in their seventies, went through more than a dozen costume changes for a show featuring live comedy, archive footage and big musical numbers.

Idle, the director, had promised something spectacular, but ultimately it was the old sketches performed with a minimum of fuss -- and perfect comic timing -- that proved the most successful.

There were many in the crowd crying with laughter as Palin and Cleese performed their legendary dead parrot sketch, in which Cleese tries to return the bird to the pet shop insisting that it "is no more".

The pair seamlessly moved into the cheese shop skit where every variety that Cleese asks for is out of stock, and which ended with both men descending into giggles.

"It was brilliant, better than expected," said David Mallinson, 48, who came to London from Manchester to see the first night with his two sons.

"I've got tears in my eyes. The atmosphere was amazing."

His 17-year-old son James added: "The fact that they forgot some of their lines and laughed at their own jokes almost made it better."

The Pythons were credited with creating a new type of comedy with their brilliantly absurd TV show "Flying Circus" in the 1970s and in the later hit films "Life of Brian" and "Holy Grail".

The London show was filled with all the expected silliness, sexual innuendo and fart jokes, but also pot shots at the military, the judiciary and organised religion.

The night ended with a mass sing-a-long of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", the classic hit from "Life of Brian", the story based on the life of Jesus that caused outrage when it was released in 1979.

Some fans had marked the occasion by dressing up as their favourite Python characters, from the knights of the "Holy Grail" movie to the red-cloaked cardinals in the Spanish inquisition sketch.

Richard Hillier, a 39-year-old marketing manager wearing the full cardinal attire, said he loved every minute.

"It was really good, although it was over too quickly. Luckily I've got another two nights booked!" he told AFP.

Many in the audience were not born when the Pythons wrote most of their material, but said the comedy was timeless.

"Everybody loves stuff that's a bit silly," said Dan Stead, an IT worker from the northern city of Leeds who was wearing a white knight's tunic over gold chain mail.

The Pythons once vowed they would never return, and admit that their change of heart is driven primarily by financial reasons.

While they may be a little slower on their feet, they are determined to go out with a bang.

The final show on July 20 will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world and TV rights have been sold for more than 100 countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen.

But Cleese, the oldest of the troupe at 74, insists it will be the last show.

"It's much better to do it once really well, in England where it started, and then just leave it at that," he said.

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