Post by Nullibicity
I don't think I've ever heard the cancer version. Actually, I think the
gangrene version is better, both because the edit is so blatant (I first
thought it was supposed to be like that) and "gangrene" is a funnier
word than "cancer."
The "cancer" version has most certainly been aired and is possibly part of
one of the Python stage shows, German episodes, or something - I can't
definitively recall, but I know I've heard it. Coincidentally, it's Graham
who overdubbed the word "cancer" with "gangrene" on television. When I
first saw the episode in the late '70s I assumed the overdubbing was a good
old "nudge nudge" joke in the best British tradition and that in fact the
foolish man HAD died of syphillis, gonhorrea or something similar.
The powers that be (were?) at the BBC were very nervous about many aspects
of Python and flailed the censorship quill many times. Examples of this are
outlined in Robert Hewison's brilliant book "Monty Python: The Case
Against". On this particular occasion, as I recall, someone in upper
management deemed that the concept of cancer was too serious to be heard
uttered in a comedy. The reason the Python's used the word in the first
place was simply a matter of - why SHOULDN'T we put it in? After all, these
were 6 young men whose very existence in the public eye was built on a
degree of subversion.
There is only one recorded case of self-censorship by the Pythons
themselves. It was a Terry Gilliam cartoon filmed for an early episode, in
which a telephone linesman is seen hammering away at a telegraph pole...
which, as we zoom out, we see is really one of the three crosses of Calvary.
Given what the boys achieved later on with Life Of Brian it's rather amazing
that they, particularly Cleese, were so nervous about this cartoon. But
there we are.