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Neil Innes (1944–2019), Monty Python comedian who co-created The Rutles

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He had roles in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "Monty Python’s Life of Brian"

Neil Innes was a comedian, writer, and songwriter best known for collaborating with the Monty Python team. He wrote songs and sketches for their TV show, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” and he wrote and performed songs on some of the comedy troupe’s albums. Innes played several small roles in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — the leader of Sir Robin’s minstrels, a serf crushed by the Trojan Rabbit, the leader of the chanting monks, and more — as well as writing the songs “Knights of the Round Table” and “Brave Sir Robin.” He also had small roles in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” and Python member Terry Gilliam’s “Jabberwocky,” and he had his own show on British TV, “The Innes Book of Records.” Innes was a member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who were featured in the Beatles’ movie “Magical Mystery Tour,” and the Rutles.

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Died: December 29, 2019 (Who else died on December 29?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 75.


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The Rutles: Innes joined Python member Eric Idle in 1975 to create the TV series “Rutland Weekend Television.” The sketch show provided the genesis of the Rutles, a Beatles-parody band. Innes played Ron Nasty, a John Lennon-inspired musician, and reportedly, the real Lennon was delighted by the parody. Innes wrote a catalog of Rutles songs by remembering various Beatles songs and striving for new songs that sounded similar, yielding tracks including “I Must Be in Love,” “Cheese & Onions,” and “Ouch!” Innes starred in the 1978 mockumentary “The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash” and made appearances as Ron Nasty on “Saturday Night Live.”

Innes on writing the Rutles songs: “[T]the big idea I had was I’m not listening to any Beatles songs. So, I did what’s sensible and I didn’t listen to any Beatles songs until I’d written all the songs we needed. And I got through that by thinking of where I was when the Beatles song came out. The only thing I could do was play it in my head, but at the same time put myself in the position I was in when it came out… as far as I could remember.” —From a 2014 interview with Discussions magazine

What people said about him: “Utterly dismayed to hear about Neil Innes. Right out of the blue… A very sweet man, much too nice for his own good. Lovely writer and performer. When he worked with Python on our stage show, I listened every night to “How Sweet to Be an Idiot” on the tannoy. Very sad…” —Monty Python co-founder John Cleese

“Neil Innes has gone. As a Python-obsessed teen I saw him at Darlington Arts Centre & missed by bus home to catch his brilliance. I used to record ‘The Innes Book of Records’ on C-60s & marvel at his talent. I still hum ‘I like Cezanne, says Anne.’ Sweet dreams, sweet idiot.” —“Doctor Who” writer Mark Hatiss

“Neil Innes was given the task of parodying the Beatles, and accidentally created a body of music that was every bit as good. If you haven’t treated yourself to the Rutles, today, the day we lost Neil Innes, is a great day to start.” —Comedian Jay Foreman

Full obituary: The New York Times

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