I’ve been experimenting like a book scientist. I want to revise historical texts to have a comedic effect. Rather than outright mocking, I think it’s more difficult, but also funnier, to imitate someone’s original style/voice/plot trajectory. I’m familiar with the Bible (it's called literature, sweetie, look it up), so I rewrote two famous stories; I turned The Prodigal Son into The Phi Psi Son and The Last Supper into The Last Supper Before Burning Man.
I sent both pieces to a friend who always appreciates a good sacrilegious belly laugh. He got me a copy of The Bible According to Spike Milligan*. An eye for an eye, a biblical parody for a biblical parody.
Spike cleverly teases out jokes from the Old Testament that are there for the taking. He starts with the creation story and adds some flavor. When Adam and Eve first sin and become aware of their bodies, he says, “And the eyes of them were both opened and they knew they were both naked, and Adam said to her, ‘Stand back, I don’t know how big this is going to get’” (Milligan, 5). When God promises Abraham a long lineage, he goes to brag about it to his wife, Sarah. Spike writes, “Abraham went into Sarah and said, ‘The Lord wants me to start a nation.’ And Sarah laughed and said, ‘You couldn’t start a bus’” (Milligan, 11). Stuff like that!
Spike Milligan is British-Irish, and I don’t always understand British humour, like the uncultured wanker I am. So, I imagine I missed out on some juicy references. If you’ve never read the Bible, you’ll also miss out on some inside-baseball jokes, but you’ll get the gist, you’re not a total idiot. You’ve heard about Noah and the flood. You know about the Commandments. Spike has a way of making you laugh even if you don’t fully understand the punch line. But some jokes hit apply-all, like when he takes a jab at God for having wacko names for the males and normal names for the females. John Mulaney makes a similar joke in his new special, Kid Gorgeous, which is incredible. Stop reading this and go watch that right now.
If you’re still here, shame on you (but thanks, you loyal). I think The Bible According to Spike Milligan is smart, funny, and worthy of your time. I do, however, think it is too long. The style becomes redundant as a consequence of the material it’s imitating. The Old Testament has many strong stories, but between them is a lot of mumbo jumbo about king succession and who begat who. I wish Spike had used the best stories of both the Old and New Testaments rather than going in order. As a result, The Bible According to Spike Milligan receives 3 out of 5 camel humps.
*Milligan, Spike. The Bible According to Spike Milligan. New York: Penguin Books, 1994. Print.