July 6, 2018

ANNALS OF LEFTIST AUTOPHAGY. Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam on the BBC’s Diversity Push: ‘I’m a Black Lesbian.’

Last month, BBC “comedy controller” Shane Allen announced a new slate of shows for the fall with a particular emphasis on the diversity of the programs…Someone asked Allen if that would rule out shows like Monty Python in the future. He replied, “If you’re going to assemble a team now, it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes. It’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world.” That didn’t sit well with director and Monty Python cast member Terry Gilliam. Gilliam was asked what he thought of the comments and said he wanted to henceforth be known as a black lesbian:

Speaking at a press conference at the Karlovy Vary film festival, where he was presenting his new film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Gilliam said: “It made me cry: the idea that … no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show. Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented… this is bullshit. I no longer want to be a white male, I don’t want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world: I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian… My name is Loretta and I’m a BLT, a black lesbian in transition.”
He added: “[Allen’s] statement made me so angry, all of us so angry. Comedy is not assembled, it’s not like putting together a boy band where you put together one of this, one of that everyone is represented.”

Sooner or later, each leftwing “diversocrat,” as Heather Mac Donald has dubbed them, has his Freudian slip, where he admits that, as Howell Raines then-editor of the New York Times once did, that diversity in and of itself is a more important goal than the actual quality of the end product his institution produces. 

Monty Python was the culmination of the British satiric revolution of the 1960s, which began with Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller’s 1961 play Beyond the Fringe, the 1968 play Forty Years On, written by Bennett and starring John Gielgud, and David Frost’s 1963 BBC series, That Was The Week That Was, aka TW3, the Jurassic-era equivalent of today’s Daily Show. With the exception of the American-born Gilliam, most of the Monty Python cast spent their salad days as Frost’s comedy writers. (It’s no coincidence that Frost in turn was occasionally mercilessly satirized on Python.) As Peter Hitchens wrote in his brilliant 1998 book, The Abolition of Britain, combined, these works were a cultural sea change in England:

Beyond the Fringe, Forty Years On and TW3 created a tradition of ‘anti-establishment’ comedy which continued long after its roots were forgotten. There may still have been an ‘establishment ‘of snobbery, church, monarchy, clubland and old-school-tie links in 1961.There was no such thing ten years later, but it suited the comics and all reformers to pretend that there was and to continue to attack this mythical thing. After all, if there were no snobbery, no crusty old aristocrats and cobwebbed judges, what was the moral justification for all this change, change which benefited the reformers personally by making them rich, famous and influential?

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It also made the middle class, especially the educated and well-off middle class, despise themselves and feel a sort of shame for their supposedly elitist prejudices, based upon injustice and undermined by their failure to defend the nation from its enemies in the era of appeasement. Thanks to this, in another paradox, they have often felt unable to defend things within Britain which they value and which help to keep them in existence, from the grammar schools to good manners. They are ashamed of being higher up the scale, though for most middle-class people this is more a matter of merit than birth, and nothing to be ashamed of at all.

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Since the 1960s, when the Left began its conquest of the cultural battlements, it has always been surprised and annoyed by Tory election victories. The 1970 Tory triumph, though entirely predictable, took the cultural establishment by surprise. The 1979 Tory win, though even more predictable, infuriated them. They had won control of broadcasting, of the schools, of the universities, the church, the artistic, musical and architectural establishment? How was it possible that they could not also be the government? Their rage was enormous, and increased with each successive Labour defeat. It was an injustice. How could the people be so foolish? Now, instead of aristocratic snobs misgoverning the country, the establishment was portrayed as a sort of fascistic semi-dictatorship, hacking at the NHS and the welfare state, waging aggressive wars abroad and enriching itself while the poor lived in misery.

This series of falsehoods has now become a weapon ready and waiting for unscrupulous demagogues to harness, and perhaps use against the new ‘establishment’ which has benefited so much from the satire boom and the alternative comedians. Once you have begun to use dishonest mockery as a weapon, you can never be entirely sure that it will not eventually be turned against you, by others who have learned that abuse and jeering pay much easier and swifter dividends than hard fact or serious argument. It could be that the civilized mirth of the sixties leads in a direct line to the crude hyena cackling of the mob. In any case, there is no sign of the humour industry taking the side of traditional morality, patriotism or civility. The best it can do is dignify itself with noisy and public collections for sentimental and prominent charity. Once you step beyond the fringe, you sooner or later find yourself in very wild country indeed.

Just ask the surviving members of Python, who are discovering the hard way that all leftwing revolutions eventually devour their own.

More from Steve Hayward at Power Line: “Liberals and the Death of Comedy.”