Monty Python Argument Clinic


The English comedy-team Monty Python is the funniest thing they ever saw. I knew almost nothing about the group until I finished college in the mid-70s. Public TV kept bringing them back, year after year. College students during the late 60s and 70s might even say the Pythons rescued their sanity from the perils of overwork.

In the Argument-Clinic skit, a poor, bedeviled English Everyman visits a curious office for a particular kind of conversation. In the first bureau, he can listen to abuse. In the second, he can engage in an argument. The abuse bureau is tailor-made for masochists. In the argument clinic, he can reinforce his sense-of-self.

The Pythons must have read E. M. Forster. In Forster's novel Howard's End, Mr Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel take Evie Wilcox and her fiance Mr. Cahill to Sunday dinner at Simpson's Restaurant in the Haymarket. While Mr. Wilcox and Miss Schlegel engage in conversation, Evie and Mr. Cahill have a "Yes-I-did;" "No-you-didn't" conversation.

Many educated white people are so timid, they fear losing their sense-of-self to an assertive partner. So a polite yes-I-did, no-you-didn't conversation helps them maintain their sense-of-self, like watching Mockingbirds dance.