Stop that, it’s silly: Michael Palin hits back at criticism of ‘too white’ Monty Python

A piece published on the website of Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them), the political party of which I’m the chairman, in August 2018:

piece by Matthew Moore, Media Correspondent, in today’s Times:

Michael Palin has criticised the BBC’s obsession with political correctness and hit back at the executive who claimed that the Monty Python troupe were too white and Oxbridge for modern television.

The former Python star dismissed recent comments from Shane Allen, the corporation’s controller of comedy, as “silly” and said that jokes should be judged on whether or not they are funny, rather than the background of the person who wrote them.

Palin, 75, also accused the comedy chief of “beating us up when we’re down”, noting that nearly half a century had passed since Monty Python’s Flying Circuswas first shown by the national broadcaster.

The row erupted in June, when Mr Allen said that viewers had heard enough of the “metropolitan, educated experience”. He added: “If we’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.”

Monty Python members responded immediately. The Python co-founder John Cleese said that Mr Allen’s job title should be changed to head of social engineering, while Terry Gilliam said that the remarks made him cry.

Asked for his views, Palin told the Radio Times: “He was obviously manoeuvred into saying something silly. What does he mean? If you’ve had a good education and you’re white you’re not able to write comedy?”

Imagining a conversation between BBC executives, he said: “What are they going to say? ‘Oh God! The man who wrote that’s an Etonian.’ ‘But it’s hilarious.’ ‘It’s no good, he’s an Etonian!’ ”

Palin claimed that the BBC never really wanted Monty Python and broadcast the show late at night “when they thought nobody was watching”.

He said that making programmes for the BBC had become tediously bureaucratic. “They want to know what you’re writing about, how long it will take, how much it will cost.

“It has to be checked for political correctness, ‘compliance’, ‘diversity’,” he told the magazine. “It’s much more controlled.”

Palin plays the role of the author William Makepeace Thackeray in an ITV adaptation of his classic novel Vanity Fair that starts this weekend.

He has also spent two weeks in North Korea for a Channel 5 travel documentary series.

Terry Jones, 76, his fellow Python, had dementia diagnosed last year after struggling to remember his lines during a reunion live tour.

“He’s the one I see most,” Palin said of Jones. “He can’t communicate his thoughts any more. It’s sad. I’m very fond of him and I enjoy going there and hanging out. Occasionally things click and we can understand each other.”

You can subscribe to The Times here.

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