Following a screening of Chaplin’s The Pilgrim (1923) comedians Robin Ince and Lucy Porter and The Rev. Emma Langley, Vicar of Westbury Park will join Andrew Kelly, Director of Bristol Festival of Ideas to explore whether ‘being funny’ is justification for mocking religion, or if there are some things comedy should not touch.
In The Pilgrim a tramp (Chaplin) breaks out of jail and chances upon the deserted robes of a clergyman. Donning the disguise he train-hops his way to a tiny Texas town, where the residents just happen to be awaiting the arrival of their new priest. Welcomed into the community with open arms, through quick wit the runaway convict is able to convince the locals he's a man of God. But, just as he begins wooing the lovely Miss Brown (Edna Purviance), an old cellmate arrives to stir up trouble.
On the back of controversial comments this year on religion by Boris Johnson and Rowan Atkinson, The Pilgrim is a timely look back at a subject that still resonates today. Is the mocking of religion ever acceptable? Or is a belief in the power of laughter to cut through and confront difficult truths, that otherwise might be unpalatable, fair game?