Rowan Atkinson as the new Archbishop of Canterbury

In two comments to this post, I was pointed to a recent sketch by comedian Rowan Atkinson where he plays the new Archbishop of Canterbury giving a fireside chat. It was part of a fundraising TV program called Comic Relief.

I like the bit where he says, “Keep on praying. It doesn’t work but is a good part of a getting-to-sleep routine if you’ve got insomnia.” True, that!

Atkinson seems to enjoy playing clergymen and he nicely captures liberal Church of England priests who don’t want to seem too rigid in their adherence to church doctrine but at the same time don’t want to deviate too much either, to appear to be modern while appeasing the traditionalists, to appear to be chummy and relaxed while still retaining some aloofness and dignity. So they end up in what looks like the dithering middle, making unstable compromises: allowing women to be ordained as priests but not allowing them to become bishops, accepting gays as equals but opposing same-sex marriage, and so on.

Apparently there was a bit of a fuss over this sketch. I am not sure what it was about since it seems quite mild. Some reports say it was language but as far as I can tell, British TV is far less censorious than in the US and the words he used did not seem to me to be that out of line.

I thought that maybe people felt it was too close to the real thing so I became curious to see what the real new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was like and found this interview where he does demonstrate the dithering middle that Atkinson skewers.


  1. says

    I seem to recall from my star trek trivia that DS9 raised some controversy when it used bollocks over in the uk. They seem to take different levels of offense to different words.

  2. invivoMark says

    It’s good to see that Atkinson’s career hasn’t been completely demolished by Mr. Bean.

  3. Acolyte of Sagan says

    From the OP

    Apparently there was a bit of a fuss over this sketch. I am not sure what it was about since it seems quite mild.

    It’s the Christians’ new tactic; they’re playing offended-er than thou with the Muslims.

  4. hexidecima says

    Mr. Atkinson is great. The bit about prayer and sleep had me giggling because I can still do that now. If I use the same prayer I used to say, I go right to sleep.

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