Monty Python is a British comedy troupe, featuring some very well-educated clowns.
Deadpan Snarker John Cleese, Straight Man Graham Chapman and musician Eric Idle met at Cambridge University where they were members of The Footlights, a celebrated performing society. Panto-style actor Terry Jones and his writing partner, Nice Guy Michael Palin, had been similarly occupied at Oxford at about the same time. Cleese met cartoonist/animator Terry Gilliam -- the one American in the group, then working for the humor magazine Help!? -- during the US tour of "The Footlights Revue".
All save Gilliam were recruited as television writers straight out of college. In the amorphous melting pot that was British radio and TV comedy in the late 1960's -- where alliances drawn from the same talent-pool were constantly formed for short-lived projects and then dissolved -- meetings in various combinations ensued for our heroes, and considerable mutual respect was earned. In 1967 Idle, Palin, Jones and Gilliam wrote and starred in the UK children's TV series, Do Not Adjust Your Set. At the same time Cleese and Chapman joined together with Tim Brooke-Taylor et al. to produce At Last The 1948 Show, and in 1968 the two provided additional material for the unruly satire The Magic Christian.
The following year, Cleese and Chapman were offered a show of their own. Who would join them in the new troupe was initially unclear; Brooke-Taylor, later of The Goodies, was seriously considered (Cleese and the three Goodies had been mainstays of much-loved radio comedy sketch-show I'm Sorry Ill Read That Again), as was jobbing comic actor David Jason. But Cleese really wanted to work with Palin, and Palin's three cohorts were ready to move on to more ambitious fare as well, so in the end it all fell into place naturally.