Belfast Telegraph

Whisper it ... but was Monty Python really all that funny?

By Gail Walker

Still weeks away from airing, luvvies from the comedy docudrama Holy Flying Circus - which will concentrate on the kerfuffle over Monty Python's controversial 1979 film, The Life of Brian - are lining up to say how intimidating it is stepping into the shoes of the comedy "legends", "icons" and "heroes".

Scripted by the writer of The Thick of It and featuring Stephen Fry as God, we can be sure of the general drift of the programme.

But its ironic how Python is - like Christianity was way back when - almost beyond public criticism and is rapidly developing its own myths: the central one (as evidenced by the docudrama) being the "iconic" televised tag match between Cleese, Palin, Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark. It is a now a matter of doctrine that it was a blazing Socratic dialogue where the forces of light defeated the forces of ignorance and superstition rather than the usual 10-minute grapple on a short lived late night BBC2 "hip show". But that's how it's told in the liberal gospels, anyway.

At the risk of being a fatwa-deserving heretic, Python, especially the TV shows, is like being stuck in the bleak, dreary student common room of a minor public school watching "clever" boys amusing themselves enormously by loitering on the fringes of misogyny and bullying. If it wasn't the lads in drag (complete with ridiculous hats, mum coats and bloomers) shrieking away like panto dames, it was Carol Cleveland getting them out a la Benny Hill. Similarly Python's portrayal of working class people with their droning Mr Grumby accents, knotted hankies, rolled up trousers and laughable smallness of their world views are steeped in polite loathing. Beneath the tiresome silliness, Pythonworld always seemed to be a sad smug bag of self-congratulation.

But they attacked everybody, didn't they? Except perhaps white, middle class Oxbridge alumni and media darlings ... obviously.

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