Good Morning Britain has been chastised for failing to include any trans persons in a discussion about a Life of Brian scenario in which a male wishes to be a woman and have a kid.
Monty Python’s John Cleese is working on a theatrical production of the comedy troupe’s 1979 film that parodies Jesus Christ and the New Testament, but he claims one joke in particular has created some friction with the ensemble.
In the film, a guy named Stan expresses a desire to be a lady named Loretta and “have babies,” but Cleese’s character Reg dismisses this as “impossible.”
Cleese revealed during a performance of his one-man show that several actors during a readthrough expressed worry that it may ‘offend people’ if it was left in for the stage production, stating, ‘We love the script, but you can’t do that stuff about Loretta anymore.’
He added: ‘So here you have something there’s never been a complaint about in 40 years, that I’ve heard of, and now all of a sudden we can’t do it because it’ll offend people. What is one supposed to make of that?’
The topic was discussed on Monday’s episode of GMB, with comedians Kate Smurthwaite and Freddie Quinn arguing for and against removing the scene, respectively.
Loose Women star India Willoughby, who has been vocal about the abuse she has suffered as a member of the trans community, shared a clip from the debate and tweeted: ‘Two cis people debating whether it’s ok to tell trans jokes.’
Another person added: ‘Just a crazy thought maybe ask a trans person if it’s okay.’
Freddie responded: ‘We’re two comedians discussing whether or not comedy should be retrospectively censored to prevent possible offence.
‘I’m sure it would have been nice to have a trans comic’s perspective, but don’t get upset with me, I don’t book the guests, I just show up.’
During the argument, Freddie mentioned sequences that made light of speech problems and huge noses, and asked if they should be eliminated to avoid offending others.
He argued: ‘There’s a scene with a guy with a lisp, are we gonna take that out because it’s offensive to people with speech impediments? There’s a scene where there’s a character called Incontentia Buttocks – is that offensive to people with IBS? Where do you stop?’
However, Kate responded: ‘I think that’s the point Freddie. If we are going to make all of those jokes, we are asking what the context is. Obviously lots of people were mortally offended when Life of Brian first came out because they felt their religious beliefs were being challenged.
‘But that was a very deliberate choice, we know that Life of Brian was setting out to say something about religion. I don’t think it was written with the intention of saying something about the trans rights situation. I don’t think that’s how it was written. If John Cleese wants to write something that actively does that, then he’s very welcome to.’
When host Richard Madeley sought to connect the issue to The Dambusters and a Black Labrador with a racial name that was ‘dubbed out’ for more current screenings, the two comedians came to a momentary understanding.
‘You’re going to one extremity here. Obviously you can cut out things that are seen to be explicitly racist nowadays. but when you’re viewing jokes in context, you have to view them in the context of which the joke was written,’ Freddie said.
‘This joke was written in 1979. Now, this was at a time when up until 1980 it was illegal for two men to have a relationship in their own house in Scotland, and even until 1982 in Ireland.
‘This is one of the first times that a transgender person has been represented on screen and their transgenderism is not, in itself, the butt of the joke.’
Good Morning Britain airs weekdays at 6am on ITV1.