Madness in Monty Python's
I mean, some people think I'm mad. The villagers say I'm mad, the
tourists say I'm mad. Well, I am mad.
—Kevin, a village idiot (“The Idiot in Society,” Monty Python's
Flying Circus, Episode 20, “The Attila the Hun Episode”)
Some might say that “madness” is synonymous with Monty Python. After all, what makes the Pythons so funny is the extremes to which they take characters and situations. Everyday occurrences become ridiculous, bordering on the insane. But, how do the Pythons really see madness? How do they portray the mad? Can we learn anything from them about madness?
The Pythons' most comprehensive portrayal of madness is their sketch entitled, “The Idiot in Society” (Monty Python's Flying Circus, Episode 20, “The Attila the Hun Episode”). In it, the Pythons explore the role and character of the “village idiot,” a term that can be traced back to the Middle Ages. “What is called the Village idiot',” the philosopher and historian Michel Foucault (1926–1984) writes, “did not get married, did not participate in games, and was fed and supported by others.”1 In fact, the village idiot was considered quite mad.
1 Michel Foucault, The Essential Foucault: Selections from the Essential Works of
Foucault, 1954–1984, edited by Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose (New York: The
New Press, 2003), p. 375.