The Sunday Times – Cleverness is no more. This is a dumb Britain, by Jeremy Clarkson

Forty years ago, my dad came into my bedroom and made me get up.

I was nine and sleepy. I was snuggly and warm. I wanted to stay under the covers. But he was insistent. “There is something on television you need to see,” he said. And I remember the next bit vividly: “It’s going to be important.”

So downstairs I went and there, in black and white, were some men talking, while nearby, various sheep fell out of trees. I laughed so much, my teddy bear’s arm came off. And so it was that at the age of nine, I became Monty Python’s first and youngest fan.

So, he goes on to explain how, if you want to get any Python jokes, you have to know Thomas Hardy, you have to know what Descartes said, you have to actually know things generally, whereas nowadays liking Python makes you a “public-school toff” and people “wear their stupidity like a badge of honour”. But I’ll skip that bit and get right to:

It’s also true that today no one ever gets rich by overestimating the intelligence of their audience. Today you make a show assuming the viewers know how to breathe and that’s about it. It’s therefore an inescapable fact that in 2009 Monty Python would not be commissioned.

The only example of intelligent sketch-show comedy in Britain today is Harry & Paul. And what’s happened to that? Well, it’s been shunted from BBC1 to BBC2. And you get the impression it’ll be gone completely unless they stop using Jonathan Miller as a butt for their wit. Today you are not allowed to know about Jonathan Miller because if you do, you are a snob.

That’s why my Monty Python appreciation society is so small and secret. Members speak every morning, each giving one another a word or phrase that has to be placed in context by six that evening. Last month I was given one word: “because”. And I got it. It’s from the Four Yorkshiremen. “We were happy … Because we were poor.”

The Pythons were laughing at that idea then. We’re not laughing any more.

Jeremy’s actually making a very good and serious point! And isn’t it a sad one?