Legendary Monty Python comedian, writer and director Terry Gilliam has been busy promoting his new film "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" — which has been over two decades in the making — but not too busy to dedicate some time to taking more swipes at politically correct outrage culture in the defense of the profession that made him famous.
Last Summer, Gilliam — director of "Time Bandits" (1981), "Brazil" (1985), and "The Fisher King" (1991) — caused a stir when he offered a trolling response to Shane Allen, the controller of BBC Comedy Commissioning, declaring that "Monty Python's Flying Circus" would never fly today. "If you’re going to assemble a team now, it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes," said Allen. "It’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world."
During a press conference at the Karlovy Vary film festival in early July, Giliam, one of those original six "white blokes," said, "It made me cry: the idea that ... no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show," The Guardian reported. "Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented," he added. "This is bullsh**. 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. [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."
In an interview about his film (to be released Friday in select theaters in the U.S. and Canada) with The Wall Street Journal published Monday, Gilliam added some more thoughts to the defiant defense of political incorrectness he made nine months ago. Asked if he believes there's a difference between British and American humor, Gilliam (the lone American among the original six Python greats) offered a succinct response, then struck again at PC outrage culture.
"I always felt the British are very good at laughing at themselves; the Americans are better at laughing at other people," Gilliam told the Journal. "I still think it’s pretty true, but it’s changing because now we can’t laugh at anybody because it causes offense."
At the heart of the perpetual offense phenomenon, he said, is ego. "There’s a kind of egotism out there: 'Oh, they were making fun of me,'" he said. "Never heard of you. I’m making fun of an idea."
Asked about his "angry" response to Allen's "six Oxbridge white blokes" comment, Gilliam said, "I wasn’t particularly angry, I just played angry." He then reiterated his criticism of the white guilt narrative. "The idea is that we’re already excluded because the world has changed," he said. "I said, I’m tired of being, as a white male, blamed for everything that’s wrong in the world. So now I want you to call me Loretta. I’m a black lesbian in transition."
He went on to explain that the reference was to the famous religion-mocking Python film "Life of Brian" (1979), in which one of the male characters says he wants to be called Loretta.
"People now might take offense at that," he said. "And when offense becomes so easy, it takes the fun out of offending!"
Asked if he could get a movie like "Life of Brian" made today, Gilliam said, "I don’t know, but you have to try." Rather than "reacting," he said, he's always believed in trying to push "to see what we can get away with." Now, "it would be a fight," he admitted. (Read the full interview here.)
Gilliam's trolling declaration that he was a "BLT" back in July isn't the first time he waded into politically incorrect waters. A few months earlier, in March 2018, the director warned against the excesses of the #MeToo movement.
"It's like when mob rule takes over, the mob is out there, they are carrying their torches and they are going to burn down Frankenstein’s castle," he said, as reported by The Guardian. "It’s crazy how simplified things are becoming."
Though he blasted Harvey Weinstein as a "monster," Gilliam also suggested some women agreed to pay the "price" for him to open doors professionally. "Harvey opened the door for a few people, a night with Harvey — that’s the price you pay," he said. "I think some people did very well out of meeting with Harvey and others didn’t. The ones who did, knew what they were doing. These are adults; we are talking about adults with a lot of ambition.”
Those comments were met with strong rebukes from some of his fellow American comedic stars, including Sarah Silverman and Judd Apatow.