One of the really big features I did for The National Lampoon was the spoof on the Monty Python television show. It was about an 8 page spread with lots of funny bits illustrated by me imitating the style of the Python animator Terry Gilliam, the only American in the troupe. To hold the 6 or 8 pages of the spread together, I thought of the idea of a long python snake running along the bottom third of the pages continuing on through the whole feature. In keeping with the idea of imitating Gilliam’s style, I decided to do the snake with an airbrush. The only problem was that I had never used an airbrush before and didn’t have one. So, I borrowed the tool from an illustrator friend who loaned me an old one she had. As I proceeded through the long rendition of the python, the faulty, old airbrush would occasionally spit and sputter creating little blobs in my otherwise nice clean “Gilliam-like” smooth airbrush style. So, everywhere a little blob or spot appeared I’d paint in a bush or shrub to cover the mistake. Needless to say, there were a lot of little bushes and shrubs in my picture.
The rest of the pages were decorated with merciless crtiques of Gilliam’s cut-and -paste, crude, rough style. I portrayed the Queen employing Scotch taped photos of her along with fatuous British-types in an exaggerated, blotchy, messy parody of his hurried, short-hand animation style. I remember putting in the line “when in doubt, draw the queen”.
It came to pass, a short time after this parody was published that Mike Gross, the art director, left the Lampoon to start his own graphic design studio. One of the projects he tackled was a book on the Python folks. When that project was over, the Pythons had come to New York and were doing a stage show at Town Hall. Gilliam, who was always absent from the TV version of the show because he had all he could do with creating the visual parodies that peppered the show, was for the first time performing along with his colleagues in the sketches that TV viewers were familiar with.
Mike decided to have a party to celebrate the completion of the book plus their show in New York. The party was held in a loft; hotdogs, were supplied by a Sabrett wagon, complete with umbrella, parked in a corner of the loft. Besides the Python people, the guests included Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Peter Boyle and others.
I had terrors of running into Terry Gilliam, who I had made so much fun of in the Lampoon spread that I decided that I would avoid him at all costs. It wasn’t to be, however, because I was standing right in front of the elevator when it decided to disgorge, along with others, Harvey Kurtzman with Gilliam in tow. I tried to hide but Kurtzman, who knew me (I don’t remember how he knew me) blurted out, “Randy, I want you to meet Terry Gilliam.” I was dead.
Gilliam shook my hand and said, “Hey, man, I love that parody you did on me in the Lampoon!” While my wife discussed acting with Belushi, I discussed cartooning with Gilliam. At one point he asked if I had kids. I told him I had two boys. He then invited my wife and I and the boys to come to see the Python show at the Town Hall. He asked me to see him after the show and he’d take us all back stage to show us all the Python gear.
A million years later when Terry had become the famous director of Fisher King, Time Bandits and my all-time favorite, Brazil, an actor friend of ours was playing one of the doctors in Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. I asked my friend to say hello to Terry for me the next time he was on the set with him. Later on, I ran into this actor and asked if he had done so. He said, “Randy, I am VERY impressed. I told Terry you said hello and he said that you were his favorite cartoonist!”
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