Furious religious establishment figures decry Life of Brian and John Cleese, who parries them masterfully

In this BBC 4 video, apparently contemporaneous with the 1979 release of Monty Python's classic The Life of Brian, a collection of robed clerics from the Church of England (and possibly others?) tell John Cleese that he's been very, very naughty for helping to make the movie, while Cleese and other Pythons parry them. It's quite a ride.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


    1. AND the perfect functioning example of a stiff upper lip! i swear it never budged, even when he was smiling.

    2. Sorry to hijack your comment pjk but I just wanted people who might not read to the other end to be aware of the link that Michael Reeve has added near the bottom. If anybody (not in UK) has any love for the Pythons I’d implore them to check out ‘Holy Flying Circus’ which was broadcast on BBC last year. One of the best and most inventive ‘things’ (comedy? drama?) I’d seen in a long time and really worth making a special effort for. Fantastic performances from a very gifted cast.

      I’ve seen the interview (above) a few times before, but it’s fascinating to see it in context. It was nothing more than an ambush; Palin in particular was hugely upset and was very close to giving up on the entire thing. Please, please check it out if you have ever enjoyed Monty Python:


  1. “Not a funny building…” Classic! 

    John Cleese noted later that the old guy in the dress was both gay and (probably as a result of guilt, given his profession) a raging alcoholic. 

    Gotta protect those 14-yr olds… exactly how old I was when I first saw it, oddly enough.

  2. When will we outgrow the fairy tales of religious beliefs?  

    This was filmed 30 years ago and in the interim we’ve had the appalling Catholic pastoral pedophiles exposed. Yet the truth has been barely addressed by the church.

    I find this whole thing disgusting.

      1. This isn’t really in reference directly to the video, but to subtitles for english when it is being spoken.  I’ve noticed on various low quality speakers it is difficult to clearly hear words when a heavy accent is present.  For me the hardest seems to be Scottish.  When I’m listening on good speakers or headphones and the source is decent quality I rarely have issues.  I think our brains are trained to pick out specific syllables native to our dialects, and when you can’t hear some syllables (or they become muddled with the rest of the word) it becomes harder to make out the whole word.  Just my opinion and observation.

  3. What an incredibly erudite response to the controversy, and what an intelligent and civilized dialogue.  Regardless of where you stand on the matters discussed, the fact that all parties had this conversation is admirable.  I weep for the contemporary reality of the American ‘public’ sphere, where corporately-sponsored propaganda is so carefully repackaged that something like is impossible to imagine today…

    1. Additionally, Cleese doesn’t really say that he ‘despises Christianity’.  What he really says is that he despises the particular form of Christianity that he grew up with, and that the methods used for the indoctrination of that particular brand of the ideology insulted his intelligence.  Which is, no doubt, true. 

    2. I think Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly have managed a couple of conversations like this (particularly in the unedited versions posted on the web).  But yes, it’s exceedingly rare today to see educated people who fundamentally disagree about something actually engage each other’s arguments on a national stage.

      1. Did you watch the whole interview? The religious fops did no engaging. Muggeridge must have repeated his “tenth rate” comment, a pointless and unsupported canard, half a dozen times. And the queen of denial in purple treats Cleese and Palin like children, while they give hm nothing but respect.

        By the way, has anybody mentioned the commentator yet? That’s Tim Rice who wrote the words to Jesus Christ Superstar.

        1. The lack of engagement by the religious guys only makes it more like Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly!

          Seriously, though, your point is taken and perhaps the British accents simply lulled me into thinking that this is erudite and civilized. But I do think there is some engagement. It’s just that conservative absolutists tend to engage more on their own terms. So while Cleese is making the point that the movie isn’t poking fun at Jesus so much as using the Jesus story to poke fun at other things, the religious guys can’t see past what they perceive as a full frontal (in more ways than one, if you’ve seen the movie) attack on Jesus himself.

          It’s actually remarkably similar to the O’Reilly/Stewart feud over the War on Christmas.

      2. Stewart recently did a 37-minute interview with Republican Senator Marco Rubio that was really interesting, civil, and intelligent (see it here). 

        Rubio doesn’t do the typical Republican Dodge but actually explains his positions. His arguments are patently ridiculous in many cases, but they help to explain the Republican viewpoint in an intelligent way that you just don’t see anywhere else. Again – it doesn’t help their case to have their views explained intelligently, but it makes them more understandable anyway.

        However while Jon Stewart does these great interviews occasionally, it’s almost always about pure politics. One of the things I really enjoy about discussions from England like this one (and similar clips with Stephen Fry and many others) is that they approach other issues, often religion. We need interviews like those Stewart does but we need people in the US intelligently shooting down religion too.

    3. I guess you didn’t catch the arrogant condescension from the older guys.

      Just because they weren’t yelling and screaming doesn’t make it an example of erudite British understatement.

      1.  Exactly, sometimes an incredibly harsh put down can be delivered in a perfectly normal tone of voice, sometimes delivering an even more devastating impact as you know the person isn’t wildly just lashing out in anger, they’ve carefully constructed that sentence and really mean it.

      2. I love how the purple guy provides the punchline to John Cleese’s joke at the end:
        Cleese: The sermons that I got (at Clifton College) I felt insulted my intelligence… Why was I given this rubbish, this tenth-rate series of platitudes…Purple guy (wagging his finger): Look John, it’s really bad luck for you, but you see, I used to go to Clifton College very often when you were there. (settles back smugly for some reason)

        I can imagine him cleaning his teeth a few hours later, looking in the mirror and saying “Oh wait. He was talking about me, wasn’t he?”

  4. See what comes across to me from this clip is how petty and nasty and small minded and self righteous the clergy are

  5. The demeaning terms for the film that Mean Mr. Mustard Jacket drops into his sentences are awesomely varied.    “Miserable little film,”  “squalid little number,”  “tenth rate production,” “parable of buffoonery…”  I love it.

  6. I can’t believe no one brought up that there is a “Jesus” in the film – the one far in the distance going on about cheesemakers. Probably it’s mentioned elsewhere in the discussion.

    Bwian is someone else who merely falls into the hands of millenialists.

    1.  I’ve long wondered why they don’t point that out during the discussion, that in the very first scene Christ is introduced, delivering the Sermon on the Mount as it is written in modern bibles, then pulls back to a group who are mis-hearing him. There’s both literal and figurative distance between the two.

      1. That’s the real religious criticism of the movie. The movie presents an unknowable Jesus.

        From wise men who go the wrong way first, to people mishearing “cheesemakers” and the mockery of a legitimate hermeutical idea of a metonym (all makers of dairy products), to the idea that the signs Jesus gave his followers (Baptism and the lords supper) are as relevant and understandable as the silly people taking Bwian’s lost shoe as a debatable ‘sign’

        Its corrosive, I’d argue, to tell a 14 year old that nobody can possibly know anything with certainty about Jesus. 

        Its not 

        “go find it out on your own” 

        “people who tell you anything about Jesus with certainty can’t possibly know anything”

        1. “The movie presents an unknowable Jesus.”  “people who tell you anything about Jesus with certainty can’t possibly know anything””

          That very well might be the most accurate thing anyone could say about Jesus.  We dont know, do we?  Accurate, undeniable information from that era is fuzzy at best.  Not all recorded history is 100% accurate.  Not even history from yesterday.

        2.  “Its corrosive, I’d argue, to tell a 14 year old that nobody can possibly know anything with certainty about Jesus. ”

          By that logic the basic precepts of critical thinking are “corrosive”.

        3. Its corrosive, I’d argue, to tell a 14 year old that nobody can possibly know anything with certainty about Jesus.

          The only records we have that Jesus ever lived at all are the gospels, and it’s very clear from the language of the gospels that they weren’t intended as factual histories.*  We don’t know anything with certainty about Jesus…even that he existed at all.**

          *This doesn’t mean there wasn’t a historical Jesus that inspired the gospels.  It just means that the gospels weren’t intended as a literal history of that man’s life.

          **Jesus’ existence is and probably will always be an open question.  There seems to be a great deal of motivated reasoning happening here because looking at the actual evidential basis for claiming Jesus existed it’s not really sufficient to establish the existence of such a person.  Nonetheless there seems to be a huge counterevidential bias towards believing such a person did exist.  I suspect motivated reasoning is at work here, people seem rather emotionally attached to the Jesus myth.  Looking at it from a perspective of pure intellectual curiosity I find the case less than compelling.

    2. Yeah, I thought that. Monty Python seem to have gone out of their way to make this not about Jesus. The very first scene makes it obvious, when the wise men realise they got the wrong stable. And the ex-leper wasn’t healed by Jesus.

      After the sermon on the mount Jesus drops out of the picture and Brian is left with an uprising on his hands.

      1. From WP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_Night,_Saturday_Morning#Monty_Python.27s_Life_of_Brian

        “Palin told McCabe: “It turned out, after the show, that they’d missed the first fifteen minutes of the film, they’d been having a nice lunch.”

      2. I always thought that the movie is about Jesus. By showing how randomly Brian gets picked by a lot of people as their savior, it suggested to me how random it was that Jesus got picked as a savior.

        1. I see the film more as raising the possibility than actually claiming outright that Jesus’ saviorhood was random.  As others noted, Jesus of Nazareth is also a character in the movie and there are many oblique and not-so-oblique references to the gospel narratives in the film.

    3. Hi Jim,

      The full interview is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ni559bHXDg (split over multiple short videos) – but yes you’re right, it wasn’t mentioned.  

      The other thing that wasn’t mentioned was that Muggeridge and Bishop Stockwood turned up late to the movie showing, did not watch the whole thing, missed the ‘parallel of Jesus as another character bits’ and still went on to pan the entire movie.

      Some more data at:

  7. “Mean Mr. Mustard Jacket” is Malcolm Muggeridge. From his wikipedia page:

    “His style was parodied in early live versions of the Pink Floyd track The Great Gig in the Sky, which featured snippets of his speeches, reordered as gibberish.[11] In 1979 he criticised John Cleese and Michael Palin during a television debateconcerned with the perceived blasphemy of the film Life of Brian, despite having arrived late for the showing, thus missing the two scenes in which Jesus and Brian were shown as two separate people at the same time. The comedians expressed disappointment in Muggeridge, whom all in Monty Python had previously respected as a satirist. Cleese expressed that his reputation had “plummeted” in his eyes, while Palin commented that, “He was just being Muggeridge, preferring to have a very strong contrary opinion as opposed to none at all.”

    BTW “Mean Mr. Mustard Jacket” belongs in a lost Beatles song. That’s great.

  8. Just a correction: only one of the two on the left is a clergyman. The gentleman in the mustard jacket is Malcolm Muggeridge, a public intellectual.

    I wonder how much of this exchange was based on a simple misunderstanding,  too. The entire segment from which this exchange is excerpted is on YouTube. It starts with Palin and Cleese saying they’d looked at the life of Jesus for comedic potential, and didn’t find much they could mock – that Jesus was a noble character who was hard to find fault with.
    Where they did see comedic potential was in the milieu, in the kind of year-zero social environment where various prophets were walking around and attracting various followers for all kinds of reasons. That’s what they ended up focusing on: not Jesus, but an undistinguished nebbish in that environment who ends up getting worshipped through a series of accidents.After this introduction, Muggeridge and the Bishop walk in, and say how sorry they are that they couldn’t hear what had gone before – in their waiting room they could only see the vision of Cleese and Palin’s introduction and explanation of the film, and not hear it.

    Almost immediately, Muggeridge launches into Python for mocking Christ. They deny it, but they don’t explain it again, and the whole thing starts off on a bad foot.

    I wonder how the exchange might have gone if Muggeridge and the Bishop had heard the start of the conversation they were walking into? Of such little accidents are historical misunderstandings made, which is funny when you consider that’s pretty much the theme of Life Of Brian.

    1. “Of such little accidents are historical misunderstandings made, which is funny when you consider that’s pretty much the theme of Life Of Brian.”

      Irony at it’s absolute finest.

    1.  And I love atheists trying to add public figures to their cause.

      Merely commenting on the title at the top of the Youtube clip, when in fact Cleese is actually defending the figure of Jesus, and lamenting on the poor quality of religious education he received at school.

      PS: I’m a recovering Catholic, in case anyone is wondering.

      1. Like it or not, people put a lot of faith (ahem) in public figures they like, and look to them as an example. You’ll note that it’s pretty much career suicide for a politician in the US to come out as not being religious (christian preferably). This won’t change until highly visible people challenge the status quo and make it ok.

        Die-hards learn that somebody they like is atheist and suddenly decide not to like them anymore. Most religious people, though, don’t particularly care and over time they’ll become perfectly comfortable with the idea of atheists in public positions (either in politics or simply in culture). Small steps. Few small steps are as powerful as celebrities and other public figures joining your cause.

        1. Religion in public life is one of the big differences between the UK and the USA. If any of our politicians started talking about religion, people would edge away nervously – it’s generally not seen as something public, and will be one of the last considerations on why to vote for someone for most people. We have no objection to people having religion – it’s just not relevant to their job. It’s one of the things we find hardest to understand about the USA.

          I think this quote from a Douglas Adams (DNA) interview (which dates it) shows the difference in perception quite well:

          AMERICAN ATHEISTS: How often have fans, friends, or coworkers tried to “save” you from Atheism?

          Absolutely never. We just don’t have that kind of fundamentalism in England. Well, maybe that’s not absolutely true. But (and I’m going to be horribly arrogant here) I guess I just tend not to come across such people, just as I tend not to come across people who watch daytime soaps or read the National Enquirer. And how do you usually respond? I wouldn’t bother.

          Have you faced any obstacles in your professional life because of your Atheism (bigotry against Atheists), and how did you handle it? How often does this happen?

          DNA: Not even remotely. It’s an inconceivable idea.


          1.  It’s interesting that in Mexico, a mainly Catholic country, up until fairly recently politicians weren’t also allowed (by a tacit code) to openly profess any given religion. This has to do with the great problems caused by the division between State and Church in the XIXth century.

          2. Religion in public life is one of the big differences between the UK and the USA. If any of our politicians started talking about religion, people would edge away nervously

            Your Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been banging on relentlessly about how the UK must remain a Christian country, the importance of the Church of England, maintaining Christian values, the inalienable right to wear a crucifix to your job, etc. Your claim is not supported by a weekly reading of any major UK media.

          3. (Actually in reply to @Antinous_Moderator:disqus )  – OK, maybe the claim was too strong. I guess there’s a difference in my mind between the general – “people should be allowed to be Christian” – and the more specific “I’m a Christian, I pray in X church, God told me Y”. 

            I’m pretty certain personal faith never significantly featured in the election campaign – not to the extent it appears to in the USA. 

          4. I can’t seem to reply to Antinous’s rebuttal directly, but speaking as an atheist with a leg in both countries, I can assure you that when David Cameron – and more, when Tony Blair – started professing religion, people did indeed start edging away nervously.

            That which the pols do because they think it’s populist does not necessarily map to that which is welcome.

        2.  I guess it’s inevitable to look up for celebrities and notorious figures who share your beliefs —even among a group who profess critical thinking and a distaste for religious authority ;)

          1. It’s easy because people like the Monty Python guys, Stephen Fry, Douglas Adams, and Americans like Adam Savage tend to be my favorite celebrities anyway (for their work) and when they make the same atheist arguments that I make – but much more eloquently – I can’t resist liking them even more :)

          2.  Yes, respecting public figures is exactly the same thing as submitting your will to and subsuming your beliefs into a religious institution.  Great observation.

      2. Cleese may have “defended the figure of Jesus” in other interviews, but I didn’t see him saying anything about Jesus one way or another in that interview, just saying the film wasn’t really about Jesus at all. The complaints about public education were about historical issues like not having been told that we don’t know who actually wrote the Gospels.

        Meanwhile, I didn’t see Over the River trying to say Cleese was definitely an atheist, so what is that comment about? (This article says he was an atheist for a while, but has since become convinced of things like reincarnation and ghosts, though it doesn’t say what he thinks about God or Jesus)

        1.  My comment wasn’t really directed at Over the River, I was pointing at the title in the Youtube clip, a clear indication that someone who supports atheism decided to grap that snippet of a much larger interview in order to support their case.

          1.  All well and good, but when do we get around to addressing this nonsense that the Easter Bunny is just a myth, when we all know he is another living, breathing, hopping, egg-dipping incarnation of the the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal alien god of the Bible?  It’s high time this was brunged out!

      3.  I’m an atheist who occasionally defends the figure of Jesus.  So what?  Is that supposed to be some kind of world-shattering contradiction?

  9. Insanely, Life of Brian was banned in some cities in England, such that my parents couldn’t see it until later.  This is why separation of church and state is pretty necessary. 

    1. One of those getting it banned was the Bishop of Bath and Wells in Somerset. Shortly after he came to my school to dedicate a chapel and I got to interview him for the school rag. When asked what was so wrong with Life of Brian he replied that actually he thought it was very good, and very thoughtful and (surprisingly) respectful of the subject matter. BUT (and this is a killer) his parishioners did not understand it and would be offended by it and so he felt compelled to get it banned for the sake of his flock. And this is the point, the church regards its members as sheep who must be herded and protected at all times. I was already of the atheist persuasion at the time but this incident has always stuck with me.

        1. “Never, in all my years, have I encountered such cruel and foul-minded perversity! Have you ever considered a career in the church?”

  10. For those who are horrified to see a Catholic speaking on television 30 years ago, I think  there were no actual Catholics on the show.  The Bishop was Anglican, or what an American would call Episcopalian, and as others pointed out, Malcolm Muggeridge was a lay person.

    Also, I felt the Christians were trying a little too hard to be “hip” and “with it.”  They could have said some much deeper and more thoughtful things, but sadly it was the 1970s.

  11. I agree.  It’s important to protect young, innocent children from being exposed to this kind of fiction, which devalues humanity and belittles the spiritual nature of the universe.  The movie, on the other hand…

    1. great clip.  is it me or does the bishop resemble sam the eagle from the muppets?

      also, did not that interview session seem (as was brought up by the pythons themselves) constantly on the verge of being a python sketch?

  12. Are they sitting on lawn furniture from a trailer park? It looks like bamboo and masking tape.

    The “and possibly others” guy in the strangely greenish gold suit, incidentally, is Malcolm Muggeridge, a Catholic apologist and spy.

    1.  At least he was a spy for M16 during WWII which is not to be confused with his conversion to Catholicism near the end of his life.

  13. As a very religious person, this sort of interview makes me both lol and cringe.
    I have to laugh at the idiocy of these guys, and of course at John Cleese’s wisecracks.
    I have to cringe at the arrogance of these folk who think that they are some sort of ultimate defender of religion, and that it is their holy duty to get out there and represent religion.
    Because then they do represent religion to so many people, and oh my goodness this is why I feel awkward admitting I’m Christian in polite society.
    Thank god for my fantastic (uber-religious) mother, who took me to church and encouraged me to question everything, and also made sure that I watched this movie (at the age of 14!) and taught to me to whistle along to “always look on the bright side of life.”

    1. I have to cringe at the arrogance of these folk who think that they are some sort of ultimate defender of religion, and that it is their holy duty to get out there and represent religion.

      If you are indeed a Christian, then you must know that this sort of thing is part of Christianity, right?  Indoctrine and preach and spread the word of JESUS! and of course multiply, multiply, multiply!  Have you even read the bible?

  14. The religious apologists are worthy of pathos rather than contempt…the Oxbridge elitist liberal-humanist baby-boomer millionaires, however, with their veneer of education and culture (masking racist and classist prejudice) are VILE, their faux-outrage at religion so much self-congradulatory bunk

    1. They were not millionnaires at the time, but on BBC rates. Some Pythons were upper middle-class, some from a working class background, and one was American. I’m not sure a Cambridge University education is just a veneer. The Pythons didn’t portray women very well, but the racist claim doesn’t hold water.

    2. their faux-outrage at religion so much self-congradulatory bunk

      You don’t think there’s real reasons to be outraged at religion?  I think you don’t have enough imagination to get Python.

  15. The puzzling thing about this interview (at least in its full form) is Stockwood and Muggeridge’s insistence that Brian is intended to be Jesus – when it’s quite clear to anyone who has seen the film that Brian is a completely different person to Jesus. As others have pointed out, Jesus appears near the start of the film giving the sermon on the mount.

    According to Palin (in his published diaries for the period) Stockwood and Muggeridge had arrived late to the screening and hadn’t seen that scene. Which explains their confusion (although not, of course, their intransigence on the issues).

    1. Stockbridge and Muggeridge missed the start of the movie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_Night,_Saturday_Morning#Monty_Python.27s_Life_of_Brian

    2. “Stockwood and Muggeridge’s insistence that Brian is intended to be Brian” – I wonder where they got that idea from?

      (I know it’s a typo, but it’s such a wonderful one it deserved celebrating!)

  16. I note that even in 1979 the clerics had and played their “muslim” card: “Waaa, you’re making fun of us, but you’d never make fun of the muslims, no….”  (Which in a certain crazy sense is both a dare and a plea to make fun of muslims.)  They won’t understand that Christianity is fair game because it’s the majoritarian religion that has only recently  loosened its grip on western society. You’d think after 2000 years christians would stop playing martyrs.

  17. To me, the best bit starts at 7:12, when John Cleese explains that the film targets closed systems of thought – a much bigger and more worthy target than iron age mythologies which somehow persist in the modern era.  Some of the sharpest satire is clearly directed at tedious leftist radicals consumed by ego and pointless doctrinal disputes. 

    1. a much bigger and more worthy target than iron age mythologies which somehow persist in the modern era.

      Erm, don’t these “iron age mythologies” RELY on a closed system of thought?! That’s pretty much what religion *is*. Just look at the Republican Texas Party Platform, which wishes to stop teaching Critical Thinking Skills in public schools.

      I don’t think you really understand what he meant by “closed systems of thought.” Your obvious bias is showing, though.

      1. There are no sharp delineations between the bronze and iron ages.  Iron casting started in one or a few small areas and spread, but nowhere did it completely replace much cheaper and easier to cast bronze.  Nonetheless, if you want to set an approximate changeover in the part of the world we now call Palestine it would have happened somewhere between 1000 BC and 500 BC.  So iron age.

    1. Damn, you beat me to it!  Too bad the clip doesn’t include when the bishop walks into the waiting area and Terry Gilliam exclaims:  “Now that’s one big motherfucking bishop!”, one of the funniest lines I’ve heard all year.

      Anyway, here’s a runner up post, Python’s “The Bishop”.

  18. I’m really enjoying the irony that I apparently had to dredge up this movie at 14 but still understood it a lot better than those two guys.

    Of course, I suppose I did have to work it out for myself…

  19. I’d already seen the full “debate”, up to the “You’ll get your thirty pieces of silver” comment.

    On second viewing tonight, a subtle detail popped up immediately for me, unrelated to the topic at hand:  Palin mentions how they’d done “three series”.  It was four series, the final one only six episodes and without Cleese.  But then, a short series is STILL a series;  heck, Fawlty Towers is officially two series of six episodes each.

    Overall, Series 4 was unsatisfying and overly loud in spots, lacking the balance that Cleese brought.  But it still had some stellar moments here and there, on par with their previous work.  Now here’s Palin, implicitly repudiating the whole thing in public, and I find that astonishing.

    1. Comparing Series 1-3 to the movies, it’s also clear to me that Series 4, for all its flaws, was a necessary prototype for what came after.

  20. I enjoyed that there was fatwah envy, even back then. “My well, if you’d made a film about Mohammed you’d have raised a hullaballoo!”

    1. Textbook example of privilege not recognizing itself. It’s not bullying when you pick on the *strong*.

  21. Seems to me Cleese’s comment on when / where / by who / what language the gospels were written in strikes the dagger to the heart – he leads the audience to the jump-off point of intellectual engagement (which is to say wtf I thought this was the Bibble not just some random hastily remembered notes – if JC was that important why didn’t they write it down immediately?) – and the clergyman, recognising this, simply waffles to try and close of that path.

    But damage done.

    Jeez, Bob Marley got better publicity.

    1. One answer is to say “who says they didn’t wright it down immediately, and what is there evidence”

      Much of it is only circumstantial. Nothing, I know of, that rules out the idea that there was an immediate text. 

      1. Why do Christians have so much trouble with the concept of burden of evidence?

        If you are claiming that there is a text dating to within a few years of the death of Jesus it is incumbent on you to advance evidence for the truth of such a claim.  It is not incumbent on skeptics to prove such things don’t exist. (As a point of logic, it would simply be impossible for them to do so; hence, burden of evidence.)

        If you disagree then please prove there is no document dating to 500 BC demonstrating that Ba’al is the one lord and master of all mankind.

  22. This film was huge in my house. My family just got a VCR and our extremely religious relatives were visiting from Europe. My dad wanted to show off the delights of his  wondrous machine so I was instructed to go to the video store and pick out some films that they would enjoy. 

    So I picked out, Life Of Brian, Heaven Help Us and 48 Hours.
    The priest from our church also came over for “movie night”.  Did I mention it was also Easter weekend?I remember, Kids in the Hall was on when the adults stopped a half hour into the first movie to kick all the children out or play in our rooms.It was the episode where the characters are teenagers and about to have sex, and the female goes to the bathroom to get ready.The boy gets nervous looking around in the dark room and notices the eyes looking at him from the corner and he faints. She re-enters the room with the boy passed out on all fours and the dog, that was in the corner, is humping him from behind.Right then and there, that image spoke to me on what religion was like in my life.

  23. Surely if a 14-year old has never heard of Jesus, they’re not going to have any more of a concept of him after watching the film – they’ll have a concept of Brian…

  24.  There was a story that one place it was banned was Aberystwyth in Wales, and it still was 30-odd years later, and that the ban was only lifted once Sue Jones-Davis, who played Brian’s activist girlfriend Judith Iscariot, became mayor of the town and did something about it.

    This  is a story I too had ingested somewhere and believed until about five minutes ago, when I looked into it a bit more and found, via Sue Jones-Davis’ Wikipedia page,  that in fact the ban was some kind of a myth and the film was shown in cinemas normally.

  25. Here’s my *Life of Brian” story:  I was a teen in high school in Montgomery, Alabama, when the movie came out, to much controversy.  At church, our minister warned families not to let their children see it.  The force and volume of anti-Brian sentiment was incredible from folks who of course hadn’t seen the film, or considered it for themselves.

    Instead, we were encouraged to go see another film, which was released about the same time, and coincidentally playing in town:  The movie was simply entitled “Jesus”, and is an innocuous retelling of the gospel of Luke.

    Thing was, “Jesus” was playing at a twin theatre, and unfortunately, the movie in the second  slot was a movie starring Benji as an electronic dog. The marquee read:  


    But mark ye the sequel.  The robotic dog movie ran its course, while Jesus still played to strong houses.  The second slot now featured a new movie, starring Richard Gere as an American soldier in Britain in WWII  The marquee read:


    If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin.

  26. These two old men illustrate exactly why I generally despise the English. While seeming to communicate valid, utterly cogent arguments they are actually spewing hateful, vitriolic and disdainful rhetoric. This attitude and sense of self-righteousness is what justified the atrocities they committed throughout the world for going on 500 years.

    However, it is bright, resourceful chaps like Messrs. Palin and Cleese that make me admire them at the same time. Even non-Christians like myself find themselves continually questioning their beliefs. It is remarkable to hear two young men able to play the games of the old sophomores with such grace. Turnabout is fair play.

  27. I feel the need to somewhat redact my first comment. “Despise” is obviously a loaded word and it does not accurately or fully express my views.

    I feel strongly about all of the colonization and social programming efforts of all Western European colonial powers. In part because I am an American (I know, guys sorry for coopting the term. I’m a USA’er). The English just do a really good job of illustrating my frustration.

    Plus they systematically attempted to destroy nearly all of my ancesors.

  28. I’m curious as to what ol’ purple robes thought of the movie “Being There”.  

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