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I came across the following image today(I'm just posting it as a link because the image is fairly large):

http://themetapicture.com/why-monty-python-was-so-great/

The image says that in Monty Python's Life of Brian, during "Biggus Dickus" scene, the guards were extras who weren't told what was going to happen, and that they wouldn't be paid if they laughed.

Naturally, I looked the scene up on Youtube, and there are multiple comments claiming the same thing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K8_jgiNqUc


In my opinion, the scene is better if you believe that the guard actors were really told not to laugh, but I am somewhat doubtful for the following reasons

  • This claim smells like the sort of rumor that people might hear and spread without vetting it much.
  • Throughout the scene, for the most part, the guards are containing their laughter, but at the very end, the guards are laughing animatedly as though they were no longer trying to contain themselves. One would expect, that if they were really told not to laugh throughout the scene, they would continue to try to not laugh.

Is there any official information on this rumor?

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    It seems the original source for the picture is 9gag.com/gag/aqZy7WY/monty-pythons-life-of-brian – ike Nov 12 '14 at 4:00
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    The person responsible for posting the answer to this question have been sacked. – user5341 Nov 12 '14 at 14:25
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    As it stands, the question does not seem to be about scientific skepticism. I think the question should be migrated to movies.stackexchange.com. – prash Nov 13 '14 at 20:04
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    Might be a good question on Movies site but is hardly about scientific skepticism – matt_black Nov 13 '14 at 22:37
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    Should be migrated to movies.SE – Mindwin Jun 20 '16 at 14:11
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No

From Wikipedia with the original source being The Python Years. Michael Palin (2006)

In the Monty Python film Life of Brian, there is a scene where Michael Palin (as Pontius Pilate) talks about a friend with the name Biggus Dickus, which causes several extras to crack up. In character and in a long, drawn out fashion, he confronts the extras and dares them to laugh while repeating the name. Palin himself nearly corpses, most obviously when he asks the guard if he finds it 'wisible' when he says the name Biggus Dickus. The extras completely lose composure when he mentions Biggus Dickus' wife's name is Incontinentia Buttocks. Ad-libbing like this was intentional to create an authentic reaction from the extras.

This is from Michael Palins diary and doesn't make any reference to withholding pay from actors and just says the scene had some improvisation in it.

This quote is taken verbatim from an answer to a similar question on Movie's stack exchange, it tells a similar story of the scene being improvised and again makes no reference to the withholding payment for laughing

I have a physical copy of Monty Python's Encyclopythonia; which contains some interviews with the Python members.

It's not that the guards weren't aware of the script. They were. However, when the scene was being shot, one of the actors couldn't help but laugh because of Michael Palin's character. It was just that funny.

Instead of ending the scene, Palin stayed in character and approached the guard; resulting in the scene you are referring to.

However, that does not prove that the guard's reactions (after their initial unintended outburst) were genuine. They could have picked up on the fact that Palin was improvising, and they continued the scene based on how Palin was steering the conversation.

Monty Python is well known for its improvisation. In improv, when you are dealing with more than one actor; all actors need to understand what they are acting out, and will therefore "build a sketch together" on the fly.

Presumably, only the initial laugh was genuine. The rest is simply a continuation of the scene in an improvised manner.

All evidence points to the fact the scene was improvised to an extent by Michael Palin and the extras Chris Langham, Andrew MacLachlan and Bernard McKenna. I could not find a single piece of evidence that even slightly points to the guards being threaten to not be paid.

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