Hot on the vertiginous goose-stepping heels of Gepopo…
In my series on stammering I’ve already covered Michael Palin’s authentic depiction in A fish called Wanda.
But he was already on the case of various types of imp-p-pediment with Monty P-Python, as in the iconic Pontius Pilate scene (taking the pith) in The life of Brian:
Michael Palin also does a great turn as the benign schoolmaster:
Returning to s-s-stammering, still more disturbing are the cameos from the mad jailers (this time played by Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle)—hideously well-observed, right down to the stamp of the foot to force the word out. In the first scene here, they taunt the ever-well-meaning Palin; and the second (from 2.07) is the coup de grace, with the jailers nonchalantly reverting to fluency once alone together—reminiscent of Larson’s cows:
Some stammerers may find that tough going, but I’d suggest it’s all part of chipping away at the iceberg of fear.
One of the benefits of group speech therapy sessions, however excruciating, is to watch one’s disfluent speech played back on video, so as to observe all the ways in which we sabotage the whole vocal apparatus—extreme tension of the lips and throat, holding the breath, futile movements of eyes, hands, and body, and so on. Disfluency takes many forms. Sufferers are often so trapped in desperate attempts to avoid stammering, and their audiences so trapped in embarrassment, that neither may have a clear idea of what exactly it is that is preventing them from uttering the word. The crucial first stage is monitoring.
And a further technique is for the sufferer to imitate such features deliberately—choosing a consonant on which to tense the mouth and lips, repeating it quickly or slowly with varying degrees of tension, even reproducing the way we backtrack and then start over, deciding how many repetititititions to do. Varying the severity of the block like this can create the precious experience of having control over one’s speech for a change. And then (maybe) one can insert “easy stammers”, and if not actually refrain from stammering, at least be aware of some options.
It’s easy for you to say that, SSSteve…
Anyway, far beyond its niche exploration of speech impediments, The life of Brian is brilliant! More insights, on the uncritical veneration of sages, here.
8 thoughts on “Pontius Pilate, and the mad jailers”
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I have had a stutter since childhood. It comes and goes. What are they anyways? It is a tic? Why is fluency out of my control?
There’s plenty of great advice available, online, courses etc.! Yeah, one kinda gets used to it, but it’s interesting to find that we can modify our behaviour! Good luck!
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