Almanac Comedy: My Favourite Comedies #5 – #4





#5 – Life of Brian (1979)


This film has topped many lists as the funniest movie of all time and rightly so. Monty Python (John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam) made three feature films in the 70’s and 80’s, The Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. Holy Grail and Meaning of Life were very successful but nothing to the scale and notoriety that The Life of Brian attained.


The group came together in the late 60’s from rival Universities, Oxford and Cambridge where they each had performed reviews and had become writers for BBC comedy programs. The only exception was Terry Gilliam, an American artist and cartoonist who added his enormous visual talents to the team.


Holy Grail gave the Pythons confidence to take on their next venture but a couple of days prior to leaving England for Tunisia to film Life of Brian, the investors pulled out citing pressure from the religious aspects of the film. Up stepped former Beatle George Harrison and under the guise of his film company Handmade Films, pulled three million pounds from his car ashtray and saved the day!


The Life of Brian is simply the story of Brian Cohen who is mistaken for Jesus Christ by the three wise men on the night JC is born. The wise men quickly dump Brian when they discover the Holy One in the stable next door, and Brian becomes an idealistic young man who falls in love with Judith, a young rebel from the Peoples Front of Judea (PFJ), who hates the Romans.


In between the uproariously funny journey Brian takes in the next 90 minutes, there are subtle examinations of subjects such as guerrilla organisations, unions, gender transitions and the hypocrisy and stupidity that can affect religion. It was never intended to hurt Jesus or people of religion, in fact it’s just a wonderful satire on the way Jesus’ own teaching has been twisted to persecute others.


Anyway here are some clips from Monty Python and the Life Of Brian. Firstly it’s been well documented that John Cleese and Michael Palin clashed a fair bit over their time together, but the chemistry when they worked together produced some of the finest comic moments in history.









Another favourite skit featuring Michael Palin is the ‘Constitutional Peasant’ from Holy Grail, this time sparring with Graham Chapman.





The opening to Life of Brian is the sermon on the mount scene and sets the tone for what’s to come. This bit featuring Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Eric Idle.





Michael Palin managed to find himself in so many memorable character roles in Life of Brian. These are just a couple.







Life of Brian stands the test of time and Lynda and I usually watch it on Xmas Day after tolerating the three months prior of mass consumerism and commercialisation of Xmas in the media. One of the best British films ever made.





#4 – This is Spinal Tap (1984)


This cult film is still the best ‘mockumentary’ ever made. It spawned a genre, and despite there being some quality versions like The Office, nothing beats the original. This film takes every cliché from 60’s and 70’s rock ‘n roll and regurgitates it in the most hilarious of ways.


It’s directed by Rob Reiner, the son of comic legend Carl Reiner and an actor in his own right in the 70’s sitcom All in the Family, in which he played ‘Meathead’ the long suffering son-in-law of bigot Archie Bunker. This was his first film and has led to a brilliant career making movies the calibre of The Princess Bride, Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men.


Reiner plays Marty Di Bergi, a documentary filmmaker who follows Spinal Tap, a heavy metal band from England, on their 1982 tour of America. You can tell something is up in the first scene when Di Bergi is introducing the doco, and he crosses his arms only to have them drop uncomfortably and slowly down by his side.


The tour is a disaster and goes from bad to worse when the two main men, David St Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel break up after the arrival of St Hubbin’s girlfriend Jeanine who assumes the role of manager. Very much a John/Paul/Yoko scenario. The band’s real manager, cricket bat wielding Ian Faith (Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant often carried a bat) also left when Jeanine arrived. The band find themselves playing second fiddle to a puppet show and even allow their bass player Derek Smalls to reprise his experimental jazz fusion which is appalling.


Every scene is a gem but one of my favourites is when Jeanine disastrously books them into an Air Force Officers dance night. They are greeted by an Air Force Officer played by the wonderfully deadpan Fred Willard and when they get up and play, well its downhill from there.





If you haven’t seen Spinal Tap before, the only way to describe it is through some clips, so here goes. Here Nigel explains how he gets that extra ‘oomph’ from his amplifier.





Early days of the tour and Nigel has issues with the band’s rider in the dressing room.





Nigel’s tender musical trilogy.





The boys give sculptor Polly played by Angelica Huston, a napkin with a design for Stonehenge which will become a giant backdrop for their new song to be played for the first time live. Problem being the boys use inches, not feet on the diagram. “There was a Stonehenge monument that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf”.





This is Spinal Tap launched the careers of Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. Guest and McKean went on the make other mockumentaries such as Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman and Harry Shearer has spent the last 30+ years doing various voices for the Simpsons. The movie also has plenty of fantastic cameos from Fran Drescher, Patrick Macnee, Billy Crystal and Paul Shaffer to name a few.



Part 1: #27 – #20 can be read HERE


Part 2: #15 – #19 can be read HERE


Part 3: #12 – #14 can be read HERE


Part 4: #11 can be read HERE


Part 5: #9 – #10 can be read HERE


Part 6: #8 can be read  HERE


Part 7: #6 – #7 can be read HERE



Read more from Ian Wilson HERE



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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.


  1. Difficult to argue with those two, Ian.

  2. I regularly watch “The Life of Brian” and quote it ad nauseum to anybody within listening distance!
    If only our cricketers watched this instead of listening to the 17 (yes 17!) boffins on the side lines!!

  3. Thanks Smokie and Bob. Yes the less said about our entitled cricketers the better Bob!

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