On January 21, comedy lost one of its legends. Terry Jones was a member of the comedy troupe Monty Python, perhaps best known for its film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The group also created classics such as Life of Brian, its show Flying Circus and The Meaning of Life. More than an accomplished actor, Jones distinguished himself as a writer, producer and director. He died following a battle with a rare type of dementia.
Losing Jones is truly sad, but in a tweet, fellow troupe member Eric Idle asked his fans to “remember just what joy he brought to all of us.” So, let’s do that. Much of Monty Python is objectively funny. From using coconuts to mimic horse hooves to a mockumentary satirizing The Beatles, everyone can find something to laugh at in Monty Python’s work.
From a political stance, Monty Python leaned toward the left during its most active period in the 1970s. There are some moments, however, that remind us of how our standards of humor and appropriateness have evolved drastically over the past 50 years. Making fun of certain cultures, disabilities and identities (as Monty Python sometimes did) simply would not be acceptable today and for good reason.
Humor does not need to be made at the expense of others. That is a common misconception made by those who believe that political correctness will be the downfall of humor as we know it. John Cleese, a founding member of Monty Python, seems to subscribe to that belief. In an interview, Cleese said, “But the thing about political correctness is that it starts as a good idea and then gets taken ad absurdum. And one of the reasons it gets taken ad absurdum is that a lot of the politically correct people have no sense of humor.”
That is a strange accusation, and Cleese should know it’s not true. There were so many funny moments in Monty Python that, even today, would not be considered politically incorrect. Indeed, there is a space for total hilarity that is not offensive to anyone.
In the modern era, we cannot allow ourselves to cover up our internal prejudices against others in the name of humor. Many studies suggest that humor can certainly be a form of aggressive communication. Beyond that, making aggressive messages humorous makes us even more likely to accept their implications. We must be cognizant of this, especially when it comes to forms of media that reach large audiences. What our humor implies matters.
So, let’s remember Terry Jones and Monty Python at-large fondly but with a discerning lens. Much of its humor was not predicated upon the expense of other groups. Humor is not black nor white. We can accept the legacy of what is funny while condemning what is not. Political correctness does not signal the death of humor. Rather, it is a valuable tool in the crucial quest for equality.
Sam Smith is a junior studying geography at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Sam know by tweeting him @sambobsmith_.