April 25, 2015

After a 40th anniversary screening of the cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the five surviving members of the Monty Python comedy troupe — John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones — reunited live on stage on Friday for a special Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Q&A was moderated by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, a longtime Monty Python fan who quickly embraced the anarchic spirit of the evening. As he asked the panel about their career-long commitment to a "healthy disregard for authority," John Cleese wandered around the stage, grabbed Oliver's question sheet, and stuffed his microphone into his mouth, as the rest of the Monty Python members repeatedly switched seats in an impromptu game of musical chairs.

When the Monty Python members did settle down, they spoke engagingly (and often coarsely) on a wide variety of subjects, including the filming of Holy Grail, their 2014 series of live shows at London's 02 stadium, and the state of comedy in general. "I think we don't talk enough about this awful political correctness," complained Cleese. "I do a lot of… I don't know if they're really racist jokes, but jokes like, 'Why do the French have so many civil wars? Answer: Because they like to win one now and again."

"I used to do these jokes, and then I would say, 'There were these two Mexicans,' and the room would freeze. And I would say, 'Why's everybody gone quiet? We did jokes about Swedes, and Germans, and Canadians, and the French. What's the problem about the Mexicans? Are they not big enough to look after themselves?' I find a lot of that very condescending."

The group also recalled the 1989 funeral of deceased Monty Python member Graham Chapman, during which Cleese delivered a legendarily irreverent eulogy. "Graham's whole ceremony was like that, because we were laughing and then crying, and then laughing and crying. It was as though the emotion was sort of flowing through us, instead of getting blocked, like it usually does in England," said Cleese. "When I was writing it, I got that idea, and I thought, 'No, I can't do that.' And then I thought, 'That's exactly what Graham would like.' Because one thing Graham could not stand was what he called mindless good taste."

John Oliver brought the evening to a close by praising Monty Python one last time. "We've established there's nothing less funny than sincerity, but you're the f----ing greatest," he said, to an enthusiastic standing ovation. Scott Meslow

4:22 p.m.

Former President Donald Trump may have been permanently booted from Twitter, but YouTube will let him have his account back — just not yet quite yet.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki at an event Thursday said the former president, who was suspended from YouTube in January, will be allowed to use his account again once there's no longer an "elevated risk of violence" in the United States.

"We will lift the suspension of the Donald Trump channel when we determine the risk of violence has decreased," Wojcicki said, Politico reports.

YouTube announced it would suspend Trump's account in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying he violated the platform's "policies for inciting violence." The suspension was initially said to be for at least a week, but it was later extended and has now lasted almost two months.

The video platform never said Trump's suspension would be permanent, though, which stands in contrast with Twitter, which booted Trump from the platform forever due to his actions surrounding the riot. Trump was also suspended from Facebook, a decision that's currently being reviewed by the platform's independent oversight board and could potentially be overturned.

Wojcicki didn't offer a specific timeline for when Trump's account could come back online but she said that, after Capitol Police warned of a potential plot to breach the Capitol building on Thursday, it's "pretty clear" that the "elevated violence risk still remains." Brendan Morrow

3:28 p.m.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) takes President Biden's insults as a compliment, actually.

On Wednesday, Biden criticized lawmakers in Texas and Mississippi who opted to fully reopen all state businesses and end mask mandates even as the pandemic rages on, calling the move a "mistake" and deeming it a result of "Neanderthal thinking." The last thing the country needs as the vaccine rollout ramps up, Biden added, is "Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters."

Though Biden didn't mention Tennessee or Blackburn specifically, Fox Business host Stuart Varney asked her to react to his comments on Thursday. She said the comments should be viewed as complimentary, somehow.

"Stuart, we were called 'Neanderthals' when I led the fight against the imposition of a state income tax in Tennessee,” Blackburn said. "Do you know what I did? I started the Neanderthal Caucus!"

"Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers, they're protectors of their family," she continued. "They are resilient. They are resourceful. They tend to their own. So, I think Joe Biden needs to rethink what he is saying."

As The Daily Beast and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) noted, the comments were oddly in the present tense, though Neanderthals are extinct, and Blackburn, ironically, has said she does not believe in evolution. Watch the clip below. Summer Meza

3:13 p.m.

Former President Donald Trump has released a new post-presidency statement, and Democrats might just be glad he did.

The former president, who remains permanently banned from Twitter, released a statement Thursday once again raging against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), blasting him as the "most unpopular politician in the country" while blaming him for Republicans' Senate losses in Georgia — losses for which Trump himself has been blamed by other Republicans.

One of the reasons Republicans lost the two Georgia Senate runoffs in January, Trump argues, was "Mitch McConnell's refusal to go above $600 per person on the stimulus check payments when the two Democrat opponents were touting $2,000 per person in ad after ad."

The statement offered "quite the pre-stimulus political gift to Democrats," wrote National Journal's Josh Kraushaar, while The Washington Post's Dave Weigel noted that Trump "remarkably" used this opportunity to "validate Biden's messaging on the $1,400 checks instead of whacking him and Democrats for curtailing them."

Indeed, Trump writes that "the $2,000 will be approved anyway by the Democrats," while offering no comment on the fact that the new checks are actually for $1,400, nor on Biden's recent compromise that narrows the eligibility. Politico's Gabby Orr observed that Trump "could have put out a statement saying the income phase-outs in the Biden stimulus bill are going to mean he gave checks to more Americans," but "instead he's still targeting his own party with stuff like this."

This was just Trump's latest statement in this vein after he released another one last month describing McConnell as an "unsmiling political hack." He also mentioned McConnell in a recent Conservative Political Action Conference speech, in which he took credit for McConnell's recent re-election. McConnell told Fox News he "didn't watch" the speech and that "we're dealing with the present and the future, not looking back to the past." Brendan Morrow

1:06 p.m.

As if we needed more evidence that the pandemic has been rough on everyone, experts say sinking U.S. birth rates point to widespread societal challenges, and could cause further complications later on.

Data from 29 states showed a 7.3 percent drop in births in December 2020, nine months after the pandemic began in the U.S., CBS News reports. Birth rates have been declining for years, and its not surprising major economic disruption would cause a dip, but preliminary numbers suggest the pandemic has led to an especially notable drop — in the wake of the Great Recession, birth rates fell by 3 percent, CBS notes.

University of Maryland sociologist Phil Cohen told CBS the "scale of this is really large," and argued the decline "means things are not going well for a lot of people."

A column by two Brookings Institution economists in The New York Times outlines some of the struggles that have people postponing or avoiding expanding their families: a weak labor market, job and income loss, school closures, and fewer social activities, to name some. The economists similarly predicted last year that "tremendous economic loss, uncertainty, and insecurity" would lead to a major baby bust. But in addition to the challenges that have caused the bust, the decline could cause issues well into the future.

With 300,000 fewer babies born this year than would otherwise be expected, the Times column says "we can expect consequential changes to our economy and society in the years to come." Notably, a smaller work force will mean "lower economic productivity and fewer workers to contribute to the tax base. It also means a lower ratio of workers to retirees, which stresses Social Security." It could also contribute to the "loneliness epidemic," and as demography professor Dowell Myers told CBS, the birth rate can be seen as a "barometer of despair."

Read more about the drop and what economists suggest should be done at The New York Times. Summer Meza

12:36 p.m.

Who's been trolling Marvel fans? It's been Paul Bettany all along.

The WandaVision star on Thursday admitted he was joking when he repeatedly hyped up a major cameo in the hit Disney+ show, as he was apparently just talking about himself.

During numerous interviews promoting the series, the Vision actor teased that he got to work with "an actor that I really admire and that I've always wanted to work with," adding that "we have these explosive scenes" together. Fans spent weeks trying to figure out who he meant and getting excited for a massive surprise cameo, with one popular guess being X-Men star Patrick Stewart.

But then the penultimate WandaVision episode last week revealed another Vision also played by Bettany, leading fans to ask if they just got pranked because the actor he was talking about was actually, well, Paul Bettany. While appearing on Good Morning America on Thursday, Bettany said that's, indeed, what happened.

"You know when you think something's gonna be funny, and you say it, and then you absolutely panic about it?" Bettany said. "Which is what I did, because fans started guessing who it might be, and they were guessing people like Benedict Cumberbatch or Patrick Stewart, and I was thinking, 'God, that's a good idea!' And they're gonna be so disappointed when they find out it's me."

Then again, could it be that it's actually this interview that's a fake-out? Michael Strahan wondered whether "you could be trolling us right now" with the admission, and when he asked Bettany if the finale truly does have a surprise cameo, he wouldn't say. But fans perhaps shouldn't get their hopes up, and when asked recently whether Bettany was joking, WandaVision director Matt Shakman told HuffPost, "I'm gonna let Paul Bettany answer that question. He dug himself this hole. He can get out of it." Brendan Morrow

10:59 a.m.

Don't bet on former President Donald Trump traveling to campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — and not because of any sudden change of heart.

A new report from The Washington Post discusses the Alaska Republican's influence during President Biden's administration, as well as the fact that Trump is "vowing publicly and privately to work to oust her" as she seeks a fourth Senate term in 2022. Murkowski was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, and she's reportedly "higher on his list of enemies" than other lawmakers, coming in just under Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)

At the same time, the Post reports that while Trump "does want to spend money against" Murkowski, some "people in his circle doubt, though, that he will be as much of a potent force in the race because traveling to campaign against her would require such a long flight, which Trump generally avoids."

There's also the fact that, the Post says, Trump's advisers "recognize the complexity of winning in Alaska," which uses ranked-choice voting, though the report adds that it's likely Murkowski will face pro-Trump opposition in the race in some form.

Trump recently went after Murkowski during his first speech since leaving office at the Conservative Political Action Conference, naming her while he slammed a series of Republican "grandstanders" and called on supporters to "get rid of them all." Murkowski has defended her vote to impeach Trump, saying she couldn't "be afraid of" the political repercussions and that if Alaska voters decide that "because I did not support my party that I can no longer serve them in the United States Senate, then so be it." Brendan Morrow

9:42 a.m.

A suspect charged in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building is speaking from jail in a new interview — and offering a unique defense positioning himself as simply a savior of baked goods.

Jacob Chansley, the Capitol riot suspect who refers to himself as the "QAnon Shaman" and was photographed during the insurrection wearing fur and horns, spoke with 60 Minutes in an interview broadcast Thursday, in which he claimed his "actions were not an attack on this country" as he faces up to 20 years in prison for them.

"I sang a song, and that's a part of shamanism," he said. "...I also stopped people from stealing and vandalizing that sacred space, the Senate, okay. I actually stopped somebody from stealing muffins out of the break room."

Chansley neglected to mention the fact that, during the deadly insurrection, he allegedly left a threatening note for former Vice President Mike Pence warning, "It's only a matter of time, justice is coming." He was charged with "knowingly entering or remaining in" a restricted building and "violent entry and disorderly conduct," and prosecutors noted he carried around "a spear, approximately 6 feet in length," during the riot. Prosecutors have also said he "incited fellow Trump supporters rioting inside the Capitol building and disobeyed police orders," The Wall Street Journal reports.

Despite this, Chansley, who said he regrets "entering that building," bemoaned the fact that former President Donald Trump never pardoned him or any of the other Capitol rioters, telling 60 Minutes this "wounded me so deeply" and "disappointed me so greatly." Still, Chansley added that even though he didn't get the pardon he wanted, he still doesn't regret his loyalty to Trump. Brendan Morrow

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