An academic conference which could easily have been introduced with the words, ‘And now for something completely different’ was held in London last summer. Jesus and Brian: What have the Pythons done for us? drew a lot of biblical scholars together who wanted to discuss the life of Jesus in light of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
The film wasn’t a huge hit with the church when it was released in 1979, due to its themes of religious satire. John Cleese and Michael Palin were hauled over the coals by churchmen in a TV chat show and Life of Brian was banned from being shown on the BBC and ITV and from many towns in the UK.
This time around, academics from around the world were delighted to be discussing their favourite subjects in the light of what was for many of them their favourite film. Among lectures on the blasphemy laws, whether the costumes in the film were accurate, politics at the time of Jesus, and a history of laughing at the crucifixion, the conference highlight proved to be an interview with John Cleese and Terry Jones. This was conducted by Richard Burridge, the Dean of King’s College London, where the conference was held.
John Cleese’s enthusiasm for the Jesus and Brian conference was obvious, and he joked that probably the best thing the Pythons had done was that they had been responsible for the conference. For a taster of the interview, see the short clip above, where John Cleese reflects on the issues he thinks most important in life. He says:
Society now is so insane, so trivial and stupid, and the values are so crap, that nothing of any importance seems to get paid attention to. I read someone the other day and he said, there’s only one question that really matters and that is, is there an afterlife? And I thought, yes, that’s what I think, that’s the question that interests me. What do you hear about that on television?