Sunday, February 05, 2006

....and it's good night from him

Mr Bean: Good evening. It's wonderful to be back with you again, isn't it Rowan?

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Indeed it is. And in a packed programme tonight, I'll be talking to a lady who likes Nicholas Parsons...

Mr Bean: ...and I'll be talking to parson who was arrested under the Religious Hatred bill for making lewd jokes about members of the clergy.

Archbishop: After that, I'll explore the limits of free speech in a multi-faith society.

Mr Bean: ...and I'll bang on and on about old "Not the Nine O'Clock News" gags involving the Ayotallah's contact lenses, which weren't very funny at the time.

Archbishop: Then I'll be interviewing a man who thinks that even if you despise what someone says, you should defend to the death their right to say it.

Mr Bean. ...and I'll be interviewing a man who thinks that even Voltaire would have regarded Nick Griffin as a special case.

Archbishop: But first, the news. There were widespread demonstrations throughout the Muslim world after a Danish newspaper printed a series of religiously offensive cartoons. Police say that it's hard to work out the difference between caricaturing the Prophet at a time of heightened racial tension and shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.

Mr Bean: One Muslim protester, photographed holding a banner with the slogan "Freedom Can Go To Hell" on it, said that this violation of the West's most sacred taboo was intended "ironically".

Archbishop: Across Europe, newspapers showed solidarity with Denmark by printing cartoons about pedophilia and essays by holocaust deniers.

Mr Bean: In order to show how strongly it believed in freedom of speech, the Daily Mail printed a double-page spread of nude male models with erect genitalia, and asked readers to select the biggest prick in the paper.

Archbishop: The readers unanimously voted for Nick Griffin.

Mr Bean: Nick Griffin had just been cleared by the high court of being a racist, on the grounds that he was very careful to use the word "Muslim" instead of "Paki" in his invective. One comedian argued that if you closed this legal loop hole, you'd also end up criminalising most religious jokes.

Archbishop: Which begs the question, which would give you the bigger laugh: Rowan playing silly vicars in bad Hugh Grant movies, or Nick Griffin banged up in a cell with a couple of big strong black convicts for company?

Mr. Bean: Tony Blair's flagship Religious Hatred bill -- that would have prevented comedians telling religious jokes, such as one that I made 20 years ago involving the Ayatollah's contact lenses....

Archbishop: ....get on with it, Rowan....

Mr Bean: ...was defeated by one vote in the House of Commons, not because free-speech advocates won the argument, but because the Prime Minister went home early. As the late, great Bob Monkhouse said "That was when I realised that God writes better jokes than I do."

Archbishop: And now a sketch about the President of the United States and the former President of Iraq. I play the crazed fundamentalist who approves of torture and sponsors terrorism.

Mr Bean: And I play Saddam Hussein.