Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Insufferable comedy nerd that I am, I can't help but be somewhat curious about Holy Flying Circus, a film broadcast last night on BBC4 that concerns itself with the furor that arose around the release of Monty Python's Life of Brian 32 years ago.  Curious in no small part because it's kicked up a bit of controversy-dust itself, albeit of a far more humdrum variety: the Pythons themselves don't think much of it.  Seems the picture takes some liberties with the facts.  Well, I haven't seen it yet (and won't, until it somehow falls off the back of a lorry onto the Internet), so I can't say, but judging from this preview clip, it would seem that all concerned were scrupulous in crafting a cinema-verite-styled narrative that'd put the Maysles brothers to shame:

However it turned out, it pales in comparison to what followed Holy Flying Circus' broadcast last night: the full episode of Friday Night, Saturday Morning that inspired it.  For those of you not versed in Python lore (how does it feel to be attractive to women?), this particular edition of the weekly chat show featured John Cleese and Michael Palin debating the merits of Brian with the Bishop of Southwark and ex-Punch editor-turned-devout-stick-in-the-mud-Catholic Malcolm Muggeridge.  It may surprise you (or maybe not) that the two Pythons make a serious, well-reasoned argument for the film, while Bish and Mugg (who missed the first 15 minutes of the screening, and thus the scenes establishing that Graham Chapman's Brian was intended to be a contemporary of Christ, not the big man himself - not, one can assume, that it would have made much difference to them) spend their time playing to the gallery, making cheap shots a-plenty and eventually driving nicest-man-in-Great-Britain Palin into a barely-suppressed rage (which, in itself, renders it a must-see).  It's odd, considering how all things Pythonic have been ceaselessly repackaged, biographized, documentarizized and just plain exploited (yeah, Eric, I'm looking at you), but the debate, a Holy Gr- er, blessed elusive drinking vessel of Pythonophiles that, unlike other such dream-fetish items as the full run of At Last the 1948 Show or the Graham Chapman sketch-com pilot Out of the Trees, had not been wiped, destroyed or left behind in a toilet stall at Victoria Station, had never been rebroadcast in its entirety until last night.  This is the most complete version out there at the present moment:

...but, again, now that the whole thing's been shown at last, maybe it'll spontaneously appear somewhere over the next few days.  (I'll forbear the expected discussion about whether Brian would have had the same effect had it appeared today for the time being, but I will just note that the host of Friday Night, Saturday Morning was Tim Rice, the guy who wrote the lyrics for a musical that actually was about Jesus, and thus could be said to be a true mockery of the Christians' main man, given that Scripture doesn't go much into His song stylings.  Squint hard enough and you may consider that ironic.)

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