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The film Monty Python and the Holy Grail has a scene involving Tim the enchanter, played by John Cleese. The dialogue is as follows:

Arthur: “By what name are you known ?”

Tim: “There are some who call me...Tim”

Arthur: “Greetings, Tim, the enchanter.”

Evidently, there is a rumor among fans that Cleese forgot the original name when they filmed this scene, and instead he ad-libbed with the name "Tim". From IMDB:

Some believe the Enchanter's name is Tim because John Cleese forgot the character's original name, and ad-libbed the line, "There are some who call me...Tim". However, Cleese disputes this. During a 2018 live tour, he said there was no improvisation in the final movie.

Is this rumor true, that "Tim" was an ad-libbed name? Where did this rumor come from?

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    This question is offensive. It undermines Cleese's great sense of comedic timing. – Jason P Sallinger Jan 27 at 22:16
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    Haven't you answered your own question? Why would you not take John Cleese's word for it? – bornfromanegg Jan 28 at 16:00
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    Knowing Monty Python, I would be very surprised if this were ad-libbed. They don't really do that. – user91988 Jan 28 at 20:34
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    Not an answer, but long ago (90s?) I saw a documentary on Robin Williams that included other funny people talking about Robin Williams. Cleese was awestruck at Williams' improv skills, and said he (Cleese) had absolutely no confidence in his own improvisations. It had a wondrous 'how does he do it??" tone that, combined with Cleese's legendary perfectionism, made me never suspect improv in any of Cleese's performances. I'm not sure he'd ever give himself permission. – Jason Jan 29 at 2:40
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    Indeed, I remember watching an interview with John Cleese in the early 2000's and he was being very critical of one scene in "Fawlty Towers" where he had to wait something like half a second too long for a moose head to fall on him, probably some 20+ years prior. Looking at it now, I can sort of see an odd pause, but never would've picked up on it otherwise. Basically, if John Cleese didn't want a pause before "Tim" there wouldn't have been a pause before "Tim". – pwcnorthrop Jan 30 at 16:23
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tl;dr; For all intents and purposes, the rumour that John Cleese ad-libbed the name of 'Tim the Enchanter' is completely false.

I found something that purports to be a working copy of the script used in the production of the film, complete with on-the-fly revisions.

This is the 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' screenplay as it appeared on March 20, 1974. It's a 'working' version of the script., NOT the final script that was filmed. In reading this, you'll be able to see the creative process at work. Many of the scenes were altered from the way they were originally written and others disappeared entirely. Other bits, including some of the funniest and most quoted lines from the film were written into this version of the script, and others were added in later on during filming. I've color-coded the changes so you can follow them more easily.
 source: Holy Grail Working Script Part 3

That predates the theatrical release of the film (April 13, 1975) by at least a year. This version of the script has color-coded Cleese's line as BLACK: Regular text. The way the script was originally written.

ARTHUR: By what name are you known?

TIM: There are some who call me Tim?

ARTHUR: Greetings Tim the Enchanter!
 unabridged source: Holy Grail Working Script Part 3

If this version of the script's provenance is correct then not only is the line spoken exactly as it later appeared in the released film but the character attribution for the spoken line is Tim.

This evidence coupled with John Cleese's own dismissal of the rumour would seem to prove the rumour false. John Cleese has shown over the years to be a consummate professional and one of the best examples of a straight man in modern comedy. He has exhibited time and again that he can weather the most hilarious situations with a complete deadpan expression while delivering his own lines on cue and per direction. I can see how he might forget a line of dialogue irregularly but would he ever forget which character he was portraying or whose costume and makeup he was wearing?

enter image description here          John Cleese as Tim the Enchanter

I think not. IMHO, John Cleese would never come on set so unprepared.

I have no idea how the rumour got started nor how any internet rumour gets started.

My best guess would be Cleese's comic delivery of the line in question and the subsequent hesitation of the other party. Per the implied stage direction in the script¹, he ends it with a quizzical upnote as if he was asking a question, not stating fact. The comedic effect is putting Arthur and his followers ill at ease; they don't know whether to answer in the affirmative or accept his response. Some fan-boy might have obsessed on the lilted delivery and started a rumour that Cleese was in fact asking who he was supposed to be playing.


¹ The ? at the end of Tim's dialog line (which is notably missing in the OP's version of the script) is the scriptwriters' way of directing the dialogue line to be delivered as a question rather than a statement.

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    "Some fan-boy might have [...] started a rumour" - yeah, I've noticed such rumours in Youtube comments before: fans saying things like "look at his face, you can see that's the actor's real-life reaction and not just the character". Um, no, that's called good acting. – Rand al'Thor Jan 28 at 10:25
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    @Randal'Thor I was at a con once where some panelists were doing a truth-or-lies game. One of them started telling a story, and I caught a bunch of tells that he was using improv techniques to build an entertaining story. Turns out that no, the story was totally true. I asked him about it afterwards, and he essentially said that he deliberately did that stuff to mislead audience members who knew about improv. – Mason Wheeler Jan 28 at 18:39
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    The Pythons liked using contemporary names that sounded funny. In discussing The Life of Brian, they said that certain names like Brian, Trevor, and Kevin were inherently funny just because of the way they sound. Having the enchanter being called Tim is another example of this. It's a funny name for this character, and it would have been chosen very deliberately! – CJ Dennis Jan 28 at 22:47
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    @CJDennis - Indeed, "Brian", "Trevor", etc. are very woody names. – BruceWayne Jan 29 at 18:47
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    @BruceWayne - Actually, that's Kim, as in Kim Sang-woo. – Jeeped Jan 29 at 18:50

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