Grotesque and excremental humour : Monty Python's Meaning of Life
The thesis represents an attempt to bring together theoretical and empirical work on (grotesque/excremental) humour. The first two sections are consequently concerned with the history and theorisation of the grotesque/excremental and with the prevalent ways of analysing the comedic. It was decided that a 'history' of Monty Python would constitute too long a digression, and so only a brief account of Terry Gilliam's links with the grotesque is included. Two further section then deal with some of the research on the comedic which has been done and with audience research methodologies. It is worth noting a shift which took place in the course of work on this thesis, from a concern with highly individuated responses (reflecting the centrality of psychoanalytic explications of the comedic) to an eventual decision to concentrate on a 'readerresponse' approach. The rationale for this shift is discussed in Section 5, and briefly in Section 6. The empirical heart of the research is, then, an analysis of a transcript of six hours of taped interviews/discussions about responses to Monty Python's Meaning of Life. These are supplemented by the results of Humour Appreciation Tests and Mood Adjective Check Lists administered under standard conditions to the respondents watching the film. While there can be no question of 'proof', particularly in a field in which psychoanalytic mechanisms are arguably crucial, results of the empirical study indicate that the humour of Meaning of Life functions to reduce anxiety, and that the mechanism by which this occurs conforms to a Freudian repression model. Over and above this, however, - the work of David Morley and Janice Radway is worth evoking here - the detailed account of audience response also furnishes data for further enquiry about how and why 'real' respondents do or do not find grotesque and excremental humour 'funny'.