Commentary Magazine


Topic: Canterbury

Why Punch Is No More…

Pete, your post put me in mind of a story Malcolm Muggeridge tells in The End of Christendom, of an evening at the theater with then Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey.  Muggeridge, you may remember, was, among other things, the editor of Britain’s venerable humor magazine Punch for several years. Well, during a performance of Godspell, the good Archbishop saw fit to leap out of his seat at a climactic moment and yell, “Long live God!”

Which, to Muggeridge:

was like shouting “Carry on eternity” or “Keep going infinity.” The incident made a deep impression on my mind because it illustrated the basic difficulty I met with when I was editor of Punch: that the eminent so often say and do things which are infinitely more ridiculous than anything you can invent for them. That might not sound to you like a terrible difficulty but it is, believe me, the main headache of the editor of an ostensibly humorous paper. You go to great trouble to invent a ridiculous Archbishop of Canterbury and give him ridiculous lines to say and then suddenly he rises in his seat at the theater and shouts out “Long live God.” And you’re defeated, you’re broken.

Needless to say, Keith Olbermann is not “eminent,” as was Dr. Ramsey, merely immanent, much like a hallucination. Perhaps for not too much longer, given that his expectorations threaten the livelihood of many a satirist.

Pete, your post put me in mind of a story Malcolm Muggeridge tells in The End of Christendom, of an evening at the theater with then Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey.  Muggeridge, you may remember, was, among other things, the editor of Britain’s venerable humor magazine Punch for several years. Well, during a performance of Godspell, the good Archbishop saw fit to leap out of his seat at a climactic moment and yell, “Long live God!”

Which, to Muggeridge:

was like shouting “Carry on eternity” or “Keep going infinity.” The incident made a deep impression on my mind because it illustrated the basic difficulty I met with when I was editor of Punch: that the eminent so often say and do things which are infinitely more ridiculous than anything you can invent for them. That might not sound to you like a terrible difficulty but it is, believe me, the main headache of the editor of an ostensibly humorous paper. You go to great trouble to invent a ridiculous Archbishop of Canterbury and give him ridiculous lines to say and then suddenly he rises in his seat at the theater and shouts out “Long live God.” And you’re defeated, you’re broken.

Needless to say, Keith Olbermann is not “eminent,” as was Dr. Ramsey, merely immanent, much like a hallucination. Perhaps for not too much longer, given that his expectorations threaten the livelihood of many a satirist.

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