IIPC Debate #89
Tue March 28, 4-6 pm, Janus Hall (Kaivokatu 12, Turku)
Dr Rami Mähkä (University of Turku): “A Killer Joke: Nazism and World War Two in Monty Python’s Comedy”
The paper discusses World War Two in Monty Python’s comedy, with the focus on the British experience. The Pythons were born during or immediately after World War Two, and their generation were more or less forced to live in a country that often seemed locked into reminiscing about the war. The 1960s saw the younger generations becoming increasingly bored with the subject, and many comedy works express this frustration in many ways. In most cases, the war was “trivialised”, to the point that it appears as a “killer joke”, as in an early Flying Circus sketch. However, a clear distinction was made regarding the enemy, especially Nazi Germany, which was comedically handled, too. The treatment of Nazism in Monty Python’s comedy can be divided into three categories: parody and satire on Nazi Germany and Nazism; references to the British fascism and ultra nationalism; using Nazism as a reference point or allegory as a satirical attack (using “the Nazi Card”). In order to understand these themes in Monty Python’s works, the paper highlights how comedy functions: on the one hand, it refers above all to itself – comedy – but on the other, because of its self-referential nature, comedy can address matters in an unusually direct manner.
Rami Mähkä is a cultural historian who studied Monty Python’s historical comedy in his PhD thesis (Something Completely Historical: Monty Python, History and Comedy, Cultural History, University of Turku, 2016). His main research interests are history culture and popular culture, especially film and television and British popular culture of the 1960s to 1980s.