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March 28, 2012 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Jake Cole of the film blog Not Just Movies discusses the semi-legendary hour-long debate about Monty Python's Life of Brian on the BBC Four program Friday Night, Saturday Morning. The debate features Pythons John Cleese and Michael Palin on one side and opposite them broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark.
posted by shakespeherian (38 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
That surprised me, given the time period, but then I have an American mindset, and I can't even imagine an American audience now being so vocally supportive of "blasphemy."

Yes. We've successfully internalized the censor. And what's worse is when this compels us to censor others, even we agree with them.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:17 AM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


It was BBC Two not BBC Four. It was decades later that the BBC got more than 2 TV channels.
posted by w0mbat at 7:21 AM on March 28, 2012


BBC 1
BBC 2
BBC 3
BBC 4
BBC 5
BBC 6
BBC 7
BBC heaven!
posted by Naberius at 7:28 AM on March 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


w0mbat: It was BBC Two not BBC Four. It was decades later that the BBC got more than 2 TV channels.

Well, to be fair, there's a big BBC Four ident/stamp up in the top left corner, because the whole thing was shown last year after Holy Flying Circus, a one-off BBC Four drama/comedy about how the Python team made Life Of Brian.

Here's the Holy Flying Circus recreation of the debate. The whole thing's worth tracking down, especially for Darren Boyd's scarily accurate recreation of John Cleese, particularly his pinched, snippy, insecure brilliance.
posted by Len at 7:30 AM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


At the risk of lowering the tone out of the gate, the debate cannot be mentioned without a reference to the Not The Nine O'Clock News sketch about the debate.
posted by Jakey at 7:32 AM on March 28, 2012 [16 favorites]


Holy recreation Len, they even pinned down Palin's disconnected from the rest if his body eyebrow movements.
posted by The Whelk at 7:34 AM on March 28, 2012


Tangentially (and I'm surprised there wasn't an FPP about this) -- actress Sue Jones-Davies, who played Judith Iscariot, retired from acting shortly after Life of Brian and entered politics. She became mayor of the small Welsh town Aberystwyth. And then in 2008, a reporter researching some random puff piece mentioned something that surprised her -- her town still had an active ban against screening the very movie she'd been in.

Her last year in office coincided with the 30th anniversary of the film, so one of her last acts as mayor was to repeal the ban, and arrange a special premiere screening in Aberystwyth, complete with Michael Palin and Terry Jones turning up for the red carpet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 AM on March 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


Python fans who like looking back at their history and not just their films or television work should see Monty Python: Almost The Truth (The Lawyer's Cut). Six hours covering the entire history of the group with interviews both current and older. Great stuff. Not sure where it can be seen -- I caught it first run on television.
posted by hippybear at 8:04 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I don't know why but you know how some people turn into complete Beetles trivia databanks, I can do that with Python gossip. Like the blogger, If you can, get the DVD of the first Secret Policeman's Ball ( Pleasure at her Majesty's) which opens with about 30 mins of backstage and rehearsal footage and oh the significant stares of utter contempt!
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 AM on March 28, 2012


Oh man, I don't know why but you know how some people turn into complete Beetles trivia databanks, I can do that with Python gossip.

If you own an iPad, you should download Monty Python's Holy Book Of Days, a complete production diary multimedia experience about the making of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. It's worth every cent of the $5.
posted by hippybear at 8:18 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I already own it)
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on March 28, 2012


Excellent. I'm not the only one duped into buying that piece of crap!
posted by hippybear at 8:24 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for making me spend more money today, hippybear
posted by DigDoug at 8:30 AM on March 28, 2012


My plan to dilute my pain with the pain of others is working.
posted by hippybear at 8:37 AM on March 28, 2012


So the Bishop and Muggeridge believe that you just can't make jokes about Jesus, and back that up with personal insults. Terrifically persuasive.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:39 AM on March 28, 2012


The Bishop and Muggeridge come off very badly. It is also interesting to see Palin - a legendarily nice man - come very close to losing his temper. Not entirely surprising in the face of such condescending, ignorant and controlling behaviour.
posted by lucien_reeve at 8:54 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had no idea that old Britons actually talked like that. The Bishop and Muggeridge speak with accents I've only heard before in Monty Python sketches.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:13 AM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


the Holy Flying Circus is worth it's own post but I wonder how much non-obsessed Python fans would get out of it.
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 AM on March 28, 2012


You speak as if there is such a thing as a non-obsessed Python fan.
posted by hippybear at 9:26 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


How prescient of me.
I just caught Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) just last week. It is available in both Instant and Delayed formats at Netflix.

I think you can ignore the fact that Netflix doesn't include "(The Lawyer's Cut)" in their description - at least the streamed version was clearly shown to be the lawyer's cut with a clever rubber stamp animation that may remind one of a certain american python.
posted by arkham_inmate_0801 at 9:40 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


at least the streamed version was clearly shown to be the lawyer's cut with a clever rubber stamp animation that may remind one of a certain american python.

With animations and theme song tailor-made for each episode. It's a brilliant touch.

posted by hippybear at 10:05 AM on March 28, 2012


This is why I love everything that Monty Python did: it was all underlaid with intense intelligence that peeked through the curtain periodically, but always informed the humor. You have to be intelligent to get the most of their humor, and you quickly realize they are more intelligent than you.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:11 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've watched/listened to/read uncounted hours worth of Python-related material during the last 30 years, and Almost the Truth was absolutely riveting. Highly recommended, especially since you can go watch it RIGHT NOW if you have Netflix streaming.
posted by Huck500 at 12:26 PM on March 28, 2012


you quickly realize they are more intelligent than you.

eponysterical
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:50 PM on March 28, 2012


I actually understated the Bishop and Muggeridge position. They seem to have believed that you can't make jokes about a fictional character who finds himself in a situation that's even superficially like one Jesus is famous for. Or Socrates, either. Muggeridge in particular goes very far afield in his estimation of the Jesus effect, discarding the contributions to human progress of entire cultures.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:54 PM on March 28, 2012


you quickly realize they are more intelligent than you.

eponysterical
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:50 PM on March 28 [+] [!]


I'm sure you can imagine the burden of going through life with such a handle.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:56 PM on March 28, 2012


Yeah the part where he goes on about how you wouldn't make fun of Socrates was where I decided that he simply doesn't get why things are funny, regardless of subject.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:56 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was fascinating, though a little painful to see the bishop's rambling and constant childish jabs. I feel like I've seen that before in Christian vs. comedian debates, where they're trying get laughs too, but only know how to do that by insulting. Maybe that's the root of their problem with the film; they can't see how you can find something funny without belittling it.

Also, wasn't Socrates the goal scorer in the philosophy football sketch?
posted by lucidium at 3:40 PM on March 28, 2012


Yeah the part where he goes on about how you wouldn't make fun of Socrates was where I decided that he simply doesn't get why things are funny, regardless of subject.

I finally had the chance to watch the whole interview, and I'm not sure what struck me more - wondering whether this interview predated this Steve Martin sketch, or that the Bishop felt so smug getting in his totally offensive barb "you'll get your thirty pieces of silver," even though his doing so was precisely what he considered so offensive about Life of Brian -- trivializing Jesus's story to make a joke.
posted by Mchelly at 5:57 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like that he said the 30 pieces line twice to make sure everyone heard it.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:02 PM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


LOOKIT MY CROSS
posted by The Whelk at 6:07 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kieth Gerson: Muggeridge in particular goes very far afield in his estimation of the Jesus effect, discarding the contributions to human progress of entire cultures.

I grew up in this kind of Church of England culture (albeit in Canada). In retrospect, the whole upper-class good citizen routine that Muggeridge projects conceals a huge amount of hypocrisy and frank racism. And he's just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by sneebler at 6:12 PM on March 28, 2012


The host of the show is Tim Rice, hence the extended reference to "Jesus Christ Superstar" (which he wrote) at the start. And those opening credits!
posted by John Shaft at 6:30 PM on March 28, 2012


i'm a bit late to this post, i followed it from the deleted double.

it seemed the brunt of the bishop's argument was, "don't you know you're making mother theresa sad by insulting jesus?"
and the apologists' was, "all of these great works of art were created because of him, so it must be true".

for the first argument, would you feel bad about making someone else feel sad because you don't believe in something they believe in? i don't think you would.
for the second argument, which john cleese tries to broach, what about other religions that created great art and architecture? which painting or building proves a religion? and which doesn't. they're pretty spurious arguments that only someone not thinking critically would accept at face value. which is obviously what monty python was trying to communicate.
posted by camdan at 9:12 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


they're pretty spurious arguments that only someone not thinking critically would accept at face value.

Yes, that's the power of religion. It teaches you to accept things uncritically.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:48 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


i just read the bio on those two religious folks. both had been socialists, and the Bishop was gay. Muggeridge was a noted satirist, had lived in Moscow for a time, had worked for MI6 in WWII, and was an agnostic before he got serious about religion later in life. i think there's something ironic that the two serious religious conservatives would have had quite radical backgrounds by today's standards.
posted by camdan at 10:40 PM on April 9, 2012


upon further thought, i think this was staged. the bishop was gay, both were socialists. Mugggeridge was nearly a communist for awhile. i think they weren't true believers, and they came on the show intentionally to play devil's (jesus'?) advocate against a perfectly rational opponent.
posted by camdan at 6:38 PM on April 10, 2012


Eh, Cleese and plain are kind of still angry and annoyed at them in the later documentary, called the Bishop a closet case and reported about the nasty headmaster attacks they used. It's kind of a long time and lots of bile to keep up a stage. Them being Monsterous hypocrites just seems easier.to swallow.
posted by The Whelk at 6:43 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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