Michael Palin blasted BBCs silly woke culture after Monty Python branded ‘too white’

The One Show: Michael Palin asks to be called 'Sir Michael'

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The comedian and presenter, 78, is back on TV screens tonight for a repeat of ‘Pole to Pole’ on BBC Four. After shooting to fame with Monty Python in the Sixties and Seventies, Michael went on to star in a series of travel documentaries. ‘Pole to Pole’, first released in 1992, is among Michael’s most ambitious as he goes on a mammoth 23,000-mile journey. The former Python’s travels take him from the North to the South Pole across 17 countries, while using minimal air travel.

He goes on safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara national reserve before continuing on to Ujiji in Tanzania.

The town is where Victorian explorer Henry Stanley is said to have uttered his famous remark: “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” as he met David Livingstone.

Michael also sails down Lake Tanganyika in a dugout canoe, flies a hot air balloon over Kenya, and takes the world’s oldest ferry to Zambia.

While Michael has enjoyed much work for the BBC over the years, he has not spared the corporation from the occasional criticism.

One such incident came in 2018 after BBC comedy commissioner Shane Allen had caused a stir by saying that Monty Python “wouldn’t be six Oxbridge white blokes” if the comedy troupe were cast today.

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He said: “If we’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 and have something to say that’s different and we haven’t seen before.”

Michael hit back at the comments, which were seen as evidence of the BBC attempting to be politically correct.

In an unearthed interview with the Radio Times, the former Python branded the remarks “silly”.

He said: “It’s been 50 years. Talk about beating us up when we’re down.

“He was obviously manoeuvred into saying something silly. What does he mean?

“If you’ve had a good education and you’re white, you’re not able to write comedy?

“What are they going to say? ‘Oh God! The man who wrote that’s an Etonian. But it’s hilarious. It’s no good, he’s an Etonian!’”

Monty Python’s six members were all educated at or associated with the universities of Oxford or Cambridge.

The group made their debut in 1969 with the series ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.

Michael told the Radio Times that many things have changed in comedy since the Pythons’ heyday.

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He said: “Then, a couple of people liked what we did and gave us 13 shows. There were no conditions.

“Nobody said, ‘Can we see a script?’ Now it has to go through half-a-dozen stages.

“They want to know what you’re writing about, how long it will take, how much it will cost.”

He added that new shows have to be “checked for political correctness”, “compliance” and “diversity”.

Michael opened up about the BBC and political correctness further as he spoke to Jeremy Paxman on his podcast, ‘The Lock In’ earlier this year.

He said: “I am worried about the BBC because I believe the BBC to be one of the most important institutions in the country.

“An institution, having travelled the world, it is usually admired wherever I go but I can see times are changing.”

‘Pole to Pole’ airs on BBC Four tonight from 8:40pm-9:30pm.
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