Sunday, 15 November 2009

321: Monty Python - David Unction

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus”
21st December 1969
Graham Chapman as David Unction

3:36 – 4.42

Of itself there’s not much to this early gay cameo in the firsts series of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. It is made ever so slightly more complicated by the directions from the original script:

“Cut to effeminate announcer sitting at continuity desk. Any resemblance to Mel Oxley should be accidental. His name is David Unction.”

Mel Oxley was a real in-vision continuity announcer of the period. So this is intended as a parody of a particular person, besides encapsulating a certain sort of oleaginous showbiz, exuding smarmy false sentiment. A particular brand of desperately up-beat and insincerely ingratiating mannerisms – bright, bright, lots of smiles, etc – has gay connotations. Make of the twinkly sign what you will. Although the “Old Queen” is a more explicit attack on the figure being parodied.

6.00 – 6.24

Here the team ramp up their caricature a bit further. The appearance of an actual muscle-mag is deliberately surprising, and possibly a first in a comedy programme. And now David Unction has become a forthright queen. The “You Fairy” attack from the Viking brings forth a wheedling bitchy manner, flaring nostrils and a snide cry of “Hello sailor!” Is anything very advanced or complicated one with all this? Well, no. It not much more advanced than thinking that presenting a homosexual on screen is enough to be funny of itself.

One final complication in all this is that Chapman, an actual gay man, is playing this character. Of course at this time there is a tendency for gay men to play gay stereotypes on film and stage. Only no one actually will admit they’re gay. And Chapman at this point in his career was no different. You can see him play a theatrical queen in 1968’s “How to Irritate People”. He also played a similarly bitchy, quasi-hysterical camp photographer in the 1970 film “Doctor in Trouble”. A year or so later Chapman would donate funds to the establishment of “Gay News”, and would give a lengthy interview in one of the early issues. It’s notable that Chapman pretty much stopped performing these sort of roles after that.

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