The film is a "Pythonesque" dramatization of the 1979 televised debate on the talk show Friday Night, Saturday Morning between John Cleese and Michael Palin, members of British comedy troupe Monty Python, and Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the then Bishop of Southwark.
The film looks at the build-up to the debate, the controversy around the film Life of Brian, and dramatizes segments from the televised discussion. The film begins with the Pythons returning from filming Life of Brian in Tunisia. At a meeting in the offices of their film distributor they discuss allowing the film to be released in America first. Cleese voices his support for the idea, and says that he loves Americans. We then see American reporters at a screening of the movie where a near riot is taking place due to the alleged "blasphemous" nature of the film. The Pythons review a disheartening statement made by a religious leader, implying that the film causes violence. Cleese misinterprets this (possibly deliberately) and goes off on a tangent about little kids carrying out copycat crucifixions on their friends. Terry Gilliam quickly rips up some magazines and creates an animation about the team writing the film in hell with Satan as their head writer. Their distributor, Barry, suggests a low profile approach for the UK release so as not to cause too much upset. "Let's not project an advert onto the side of Westminster Abbey or make Life of Brian Christmas crackers".