Monty Python's Terry Gilliam on the BBC's diversity push: 'I'm a black lesbian'

Last month, BBC “comedy controller” Shane Allen announced a new slate of shows for the fall with a particular emphasis on the diversity of the programs. From the Guardian:

The BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning, Shane Allen, said he aimed to “grow the stars of tomorrow” and promote “more and more diversity”…

He said the time had passed when having “quite a male-dominated selection process” led to “a lot of male, middle-aged middle-class comedy”.

Someone asked Allen if that would rule out shows like Monty Python in the future. He replied, “If you’re going to assemble a team now, it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes. It’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world.” That didn’t sit well with director and Monty Python cast member Terry Gilliam. Gilliam was asked what he thought of the comments and said he wanted to henceforth be known as a black lesbian:

Speaking at a press conference at the Karlovy Vary film festival, where he was presenting his new film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Gilliam said: “It made me cry: the idea that … no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show. Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented… this is bullshit. 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.”

He added: “[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.”

The latter part is clearly coming from genuine frustration, i.e. “comedy is not assembled.” Monty Python was a group of college friends who had worked together on various comedy specials in the 1960s. So the idea of bean-counting comedians by race and gender probably does rankle Gilliam a bit.

Still, it’s a bit shocking to hear someone offer such a blatantly un-PC reaction. You’re not supposed to mock “comedy controllers” when they push for “more and more diversity.” Last month, actor John Cleese also responded to Shane Allen’s comments on Twitter:

He was also more blunt about what he thought of Allen:

Cleese also retweeted this one:

This is far from the first time a prominent comic has mocked PC sensibilities. Last September, Mel Brooks said, “we have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy.” Back in 2015, Jerry Seinfeld said he refused to do comedy tours on college campuses because the students were too politically correct:

“I hear that all the time,” Seinfeld said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd. “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’”

Seinfeld says teens and college-aged kids don’t understand what it means to throw around certain politically-correct terms. “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudice,’” he said. “They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

So this has been going on for a while. Comedians are the canaries in this particular coal mine and they’ve been saying for a while now that comedy and PC-scolds don’t mix.