October 5, 1969. The first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus is aired on BBC television in the United Kingdom. The sketch-writing team was made up of Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman, all students of either Oxford or Cambridge universities, as well as US-born Terry Gilliam, who provided the animations. The Python’s surrealist brand of comedy was, like one of its famous captions suggested, ‘something completely different’ to what TV viewers had been used to; indeed the style was so unique it spawned a new word in English dictionaries: Pythonesque. The team produced 45 episodes of the show, as well as two produced in German, which included sketches devoid of punchlines like the ‘Dead Parrot’, ‘The Lumberjack Song’ and the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’. Following the huge international success of the Flying Circus, the Monty Python team went on to make equally popular films such as ‘The Holy Grail’, ‘The Meaning of Life’ and ‘The Life of Brian’. The Pythons’ influence on comedy has often been compared by media critics to the influence on popular music of The Beatles.
Also on October 5: Portugal is declared a republic (1910); US president Harry Truman makes the first televised White House address (1947); Chilean dictator Agosto Pinochet loses a referendum on extending his rule (1988).
Born on October 5: Louis Lumière (1864), Vaclav Havel (1936), Bob Geldof (1951), Guy Pearce (1967), Kate Winslet (1975).