by Alaisdar Glennie
During his Monty Python days he poked fun at everyone from the Establishment to Christianity.
But thanks to the threat of ‘heavily armed’ fanatics, Michael Palin has admitted there is one comedy taboo he is too scared to break – Islam.
The 70-year-old said religious sensitivities have increased so much since his comedy days it would now be impossible to make 1979 film Life of Brian – which satirized the life of Jesus – let alone laugh at Muslims.
He said: ‘Religion is more difficult to talk about. I don’t think we could do Life of Brian any more. A parody of Islam would be even harder.
‘We all saw what happened to Salman Rushdie and none of us want to get into all that. It’s a pity but that’s the way it is. There are people out there without a sense of humor and they’re heavily armed.’
In 1989, Mr Rushdie was forced into hiding after the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for him to be killed in revenge for his novel The Satanic Verses.
Ahead of a series of live reunion shows in July, Mr Palin admitted much of his Monty Python material would now seem dated to modern audiences.
But he denied the comedy troupe – which also included John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and the late Graham Chapman – deliberately targeted people with its comedy.
He said: ‘There’s probably a lot of political incorrectness in Python but we can’t rewrite it. I suppose attitudes have changed – a lot of British comedy at that time was ladies’ clothes falling off but in a rather sweet farcical way. Now what you can watch on television is incredibly explicit about sex.
‘When we were writing you couldn’t even talk about homosexuality at all.
‘Python has always been about dealing with things you’re not meant to deal with. It’s like being at school – as soon as the teacher said ‘it’s not funny’ you started laughing.’
He added: We didn’t target people and say “We’re going to have a go at this or that”. We were just writing what would make the six of us laugh.”
‘There are lots of laughs to be got from the way life is. The English love embarrassment. We are the ‘sorry’ society.
‘Someone punches you in the face and you will say “I’m terribly sorry my face was there. Is your hand all right?”
‘But each generation of comedians is looking for something new. It was only very recently before Python that somebody openly made a joke about the Prime Minister.
There was an establishment which still had to be respected. Now we can talk about anything … and in an odd way it’s made us more depressed.’
Mr Palin was guest editor the Today program on BBC Radio 4.
He interviewed Mr Cleese for the show, but admitted the pair rarely meet and poked fun at the fact the Fawlty Towers star is constantly struggling to pay the costs of his divorce to third wife Alyce Eichelberger.
He told The Times: ‘I can never keep up with him. He’s always terribly rude about my travels – whenever he talks about them he yawns – but he’s always jetting around trying to make money for his alimony.’
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