Michael Palin says iconic Monty Python character may not be acceptable today

Lorraine: Michael Palin discusses life without his late wife

Michael Palin says cancel culture can “stifle” creativity whilst discussing the legendary Monty Python character, Gumby.

The comedy sketch series, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, featured a recurring character called Gumby, who is known for having a small moustache and wearing a handkerchief on his head.

In a new interview Michael, 80, discussed the character with Rob Brydon on the latest episode of his Brydon & podcast.

Rob, 58, asked the star: “You mentioned Gumby earlier on and I wanted to talk about that in relation to how acceptable that would be today and your thoughts on him.

“Would someone like Gumby be now considered to be somebody with mental health challenges?”

Read more Monty Python’s Michael Palin says ‘I need her’ as he mourns wife of 57 years

After deliberating, The Two Ronnies writer said: “Yes, I think there certainly would be spotlights from different people and things like that. Whereas when we did it no one really… it was just a silly voice and a brainless character and ‘my brain hurts’ that sort of thing.”

Rob then asked Michael how he felt about the cliche phrase “comedians can’t say anything anymore”.

He replied: “Sometimes I feel, well, rather shackled by a sort of ability to interfere and everything really.

“Through social media and whatever, people can now bring up something and say, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that’.

“Cancel culture – all that sort of thing. And I think it just sort of stifles you a bit. You’re not quite sure where you can go.”

However, Michael said that he believes the most important thing when tackling comedy is whether or not the audience is “with you” whilst performing.

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“If you’re doing Gumby on stage – my brain hurts – and the audience aren’t comfortable then it’s not going to work,” he explained.

The father-of-three then said if there is a ripple of discomfort within the audience then it becomes “harder to make people laugh”.

“I think the thing with Python is that it’s in a bit of a time warp,” he added. “When someone says ‘My brain hurts’ I don’t think people immediately think ‘Oh dear, this is very unpleasant for people who have relatives with brain problems’.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Michael opened up on the loss of his wife, Helen Gibbins, who died earlier this year after suffering kidney failure and chronic pain.

Speaking about his late partner, the actor said: “We were together for a very long time. Married for 57 years and I met her before that.

“So, you form a kind of unit and you don’t realise that until someone is gone. It’s slightly lop-sided. Like something tips over.

“It’s just me. I need my partner there to sort of keep me on the straight and narrow.”

The pair first met at the tender age of 16 and married in 1966. They went on to have three children, Rachel, 48, Thomas, 54, and William, 52.

You can listen to the full interview with Rob Brydon and Michael Palin here.

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