Shortly after the film was released, Cleese and Palin engaged in a what would become a notorious debate on the BBC2 discussion programme Friday Night, Saturday Morning, in which Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark, put the case against the film.
Muggeridge and the Bishop had arrived 15 minutes late to see a screening of the picture prior to the debate, missing the establishing scenes demonstrating that Brian and Jesus were two different characters, and hence contended that it was a send-up of Christ himself. Both Pythons later felt that there had been a strange role reversal in the manner of the debate, with two young upstart comedians attempting to make serious, well-researched points, while the establishment figures engaged in cheap jibes and point scoring. They also expressed disappointment in Muggeridge, whom all in Python had previously respected as a satirist.
Cleese expressed that his reputation had "plummeted" in his eyes, while Palin commented that, "He was just being Muggeridge, preferring to have a very strong contrary opinion as opposed to none at all". Muggeridge's verdict on the film was that it was "Such a tenth-rate film that it couldn't possibly destroy anyone's genuine faith".