“Cunk on Earth” is a love letter to those who hate history. Allow us to explain what we mean by “hate” here. When talking about the events of the past, we often view them in a grandiose manner. We do not deny that the journey of our ancestors is awe-inspiring, but there is a sentiment attached to it that doesn’t allow for critique or commentary by the common man. But there is a perspective to be considered: nothing is really that sacred. After all, as far as humans have come through time, the human condition has remained unchanged. The way people think about or deal with emotions and situations has remained constant. When Philomena called Jesus the “first victim of cancel culture,” the supposed blasphemy aside, it showed how things really haven’t changed despite the centuries between then and now. Comedy has a way of presenting the most bitter truths, and it is effective as long as it makes us think. Maybe that is why the minds of people who tell jokes are seldom funny. It’s a crazy place that is constantly connecting dots and gawking at the absurdity of the things around. Bringing that lens to history was indeed a novel decision.
But that wasn’t our first opinion of the series. We thought it was a mockumentary led by someone who hated their job and was explaining it to the more simple-minded. It took us two episodes to recognize and soak up the brilliance, and that happened when we decided to switch our perspective. To be honest, we are a bit of a history buff ourselves. Whenever we travel, we make it a point to check out the museums in the town or city—there’s always one, isn’t there? But it didn’t take us long to understand that the artifacts in these museums did not greatly differ from each other, which indicates a shared culture across geographies but can get a little tiring to view in an otherwise packed itinerary. That reminded us of our father’s words when he said that he was not interested in looking at pots, pans, and toilets just because they were old. As offended as we were back then, growing up, we have often craved to have an alternate view of history, one where we don’t have to take everything so seriously just because it happened in the past. After all, they were people just like us, except that they lived with a lot less technology.
A lot of the inventions came up due to the simplest thoughts. Of course, we will call it an audiobook if the writing on a tablet is read out loud instead of being circulated in print, which wasn’t possible at that time. Isn’t that the same thought behind the audiobooks of today—to make literature accessible to people who don’t have the time, capacity, or inclination to read? So why not make that comparison? One of our favorite parts was probably when Philomena pointed out the way art has changed over the years. Her comparison of the two paintings of “The Last Supper,” by discussing the addition of perspective in art, was like voicing out our innermost thoughts, the ones without regard for the propriety of history. It helps to think of every great artist of their time as a part of a journey instead of being something aspirational. Perhaps the cleverest bit was when Philomena compared philosophy with the process of expelling waste from the body. Allow us to defend this humor. The latter, while disgusting, is a common process for every human being. Philosophy, in its essence, is just explaining the common sense in elaborate words because not everyone is bestowed with it. One is removed from the body, whereas another is added to the mind. Both processes work in tandem to create a healthy mind and body, so it wouldn’t be unfair to compare them. It’s a hill we are ready to die on.
We come from the school of thought that everything can be made fun of. Please look up the bite-sized systematic explanation of the nuances of this philosophy if your first instinct was strong disagreement. Either way, highlighting the difference between the messages of religious institutions and the way they chose to spread it, actually mourning Laika and her sacrifice, pointing out the absurdity of war and the hypocrisy of “free-thinkers,” while tearing down supposed nobility to expose the sense of entitlement and the savior complex of those in power, required thoughts, guts, and a great amount of intelligence to present it the way it was done in “Cunk on Earth,” This is blasphemy we need more of, and it is of the kind that can actually make people reconsider life. It isn’t a show meant for binge-watching, even though it has that quality. It is maybe meant as the kind of lighthearted viewing we seek when eating our lunch or dinner—the kind that makes us chuckle in the middle of a busy workday but sits and ruminates in our brains for a long time. We cannot help wondering what Philomena Cunk would say about the broken piece of ancient rock we spot in the next museum we visit. The world will be a better place if we are all a bit more like her.
“Cunk On Earth” is a 2023 Mockumentary series streaming on Netflix.