Series 2, Episode 24: Mr. Neville Shunt
VOICE OVER John Cleese
NEVILLE SHUNT Terry Gilliam
ART CRITIC John Cleese
MAN Michael Palin
ANOTHER MAN Terry Jones
Voice Over: That was an excerpt from the latest West End hit ‘It all happened on the 11.20 from Hainault to Redhill via Horsham and Reigate, calling at Carshalton Beeches, Malmesbury, Tooting Bec, and Croydon West’. The author is Mr Neville Shunt.
(Shunt sitting among mass of railway junk, at typewriter, typing away madly.)
Shunt: (typing) Chuff, chuff, chuffwoooooch, woooooch! Sssssssss, sssssssss! Diddledum, diddledum, diddledum. Toot, toot. The train now standing at platform eight, tch, tch, tch, diddledum, diddledum. Chuffff chuffffiTff eeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaa Vooooommmmm.
(Cut to an critic. Superimposed caption: ‘GAVIN MILLARRRRRRRRRR’)
Art Critic: Some people have made the mistake of seeing Shunt’s work as a load of rubbish about railway timetables, but clever people like me, who talk loudly in restaurants, see this as a deliberate ambiguity, a plea for understanding in a mechanized world. The points are frozen, the beast is dead. What is the difference? What indeed is the point? The point is frozen, the beast is late out of Paddington. The point is taken. If La Fontaine’s elk would spurn Tom Jones the engine must be our head, the dining car our oesophagus, the guard’s van our left lung, the cattle truck our shins, the first-class compartment the piece of skin at the nape of the neck and the level crossing an electric elk called Simon. The clarity is devastating. But where is the ambiguity? It’s over there in a box. Shunt is saying the 8.15 from Gillingham when in reality he means the 8.13 from Gillingham. The train is the same only the time is altered. Ecce homo, ergo elk. La Fontaine knew his sister and knew her bloody well. The point is taken, the beast is moulting, the fluff gets up your nose. The illusion is complete; it is reality, the reality is illusion and the ambiguity is the only truth. But is the truth, as Hitchcock observes, in the box? No there isn’t room, the ambiguity has put on weight. The point is taken, the elk is dead, the beast stops at Swindon, Chabrol stops at nothing, I’m having treatment and La Fontaine can get knotted.
( Cut to man at desk.)
Man: Gavin Millar…
(Cut to another man.)
Another Man: … rrrrrrr…
(Cut to first man.)
Man: … was not talking to Neville Shunt. From the world of the theatre we turn to the world of dental hygiene. No, no, no, no. From the world of the theatre we mru to the silver screen. We honour one of the silver screen’s outstanding writer-dentists… writer-directors, Martin Curry who is visiting London to have a tooth out, for the pre-molar, er… premiere of his filling, film next Toothday… Tuesday, at the Dental Theatre… Film Theatre. Martin Curry talking to Matthew Palate… Padget.