Writers of 'Father Ted' must have truly understood the life of a priest
Heading out to work last Tuesday I caught Pauline McLynn AKA Mrs Doyle being interviewed by John Murray.
It's 20 years since 'Father Ted' was first aired on Channel 4.
I'm no expert when it comes to comedy and I have no recollection as a child being any sort of a fan of funny people. Of course there have been the occasional programmes that have made me laugh. In recent years two particular shows stand out. I can sit down and watch them over and over and every time I end up roaring laughing. I laugh so much watching 'Only Fools and Horses' and 'Father Ted' that my ears get sore from laughing.
Comedy pokes fun, exaggerates and says crazy things about people, all the time hinting there is an element of truth in what's being said. In 'Only Fools and Horses' Del Boy is a ridiculous small-time hoodlum. Trigger has many aspects of the street cleaner but both of them are of course over the top. And it's that mix of reality and exaggeration that makes both shows so funny.
From the first time I saw 'Father Ted' I decided that whoever wrote it had some sort of inside track into the lives of priests. Of course it's over the top, well nearly. It's brilliant and it has a universal audience. I have often gone into homes and observed 10-year-olds scarper off to watch TV the minute 'Father Ted' appears. And it's translated into multiple languages.
How many priests must dream about kicking their bishop or provincial up the proverbial? Fr Ted's fixation with wanting to be popular, whatever the cost. And that crazy behaviour mixed with a certain element of pomposity. Fr Ted has to be the boss and his curate Dougal plays along most of the time. Though when it comes to trivial issues such as the existence of God he is somewhat flaky. It turns out that his theology leaves much to be desired. But Fr Ted, who comes across as the decent chap, the sound parish priest, behind all his braggadocio, is also skating on extremely thin theological ice.How often have you sat down in a church and heard hints of Fr Ted or Dougal?
And how could anyone ignore Fr Jack? 'Feck, drink, women.' He even uses the spare parachute to make sure he can hold on to the trolley-full of drink as the plane heads for a nose dive ever before it arrives at its shrine destination. And all those filthy clothes and empty bottles that are part of Fr Jack's daily life.
Bishop Brennan arrives, strutting his stuff, in his purple attire. He does not know what to do with his two priests. He sees them as two right clowns. He expects the two of them to treat him with 'due dignity' and is infuriated when Dougal refuses to give him his proper title. The formal mask falls long enough for him to use foul language to Dougal. It's an interesting insight into the relationship between a bishop and his priests.
All the time Mrs Doyle is on hand to be the subservient housekeeper. And yet she's a canny old dear who know her men far better than they know themselves.
It's a brilliant show. All the time with the slightest traces of reality to it and it's just that that makes it so funny. I've a sneaky feeling that the writers of Father Ted knew something about the life of the Irish priest.
It's a great laugh. Wouldn't it be shocking if we couldn't laugh at ourselves? 'Careful now"'