THE other day I watched John Cleese – the head of the comedy institution known as Monty Python – announce on Newsnight that he was leaving Britain, because of the “awfulness” of Brexit and the British press.

Cleese harrumphed away about “friendly races” and “I only lived here two weeks last year”, sounding sadly like one of the bumptious blimps he used to satirise. The backdrop on Newsnight was a tidily animated tumble of various Pythonesque symbols: random legs, flying fish, antique pointing hands, coconuts, an old TV.

All too comfortable. Or maybe a bit pitiful. Much of the original Monty Python was about taking such TV talk show moments – those mainstream framings that attempt to make reality stable and sensible – and tearing them to pieces. (The closest we got on Newsnight was Cleese clumsily knocking his pin mike off, with the interviewer, Emily Maitlis, scrambling to fix it.)

But as I watched, a realisation started burning its way to the surface. Monty Python shines a weirdly illustrative light on the coming Brexitannic era. I took myself to Netflix this week, and watched their first series. From Python’s beginnings in 1969, the continuities with the present are startling – and the prophesies sometimes even more so.

I mean, let’s just begin with Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. Watching these two must be odd for the remaining Pythons, They would seem to be carbon copies of the kinds of stiff-necked (or bumblingly eccentric) members of the ruling class the satirists thought they were delegitimating in the 1960s and 70s (with sketches such as “Upper Class Twit of the Year”). Is this a sign that Brexit heralds a reversion to the power structures of 40 years ago? Wait: it may be subtler and stranger than that.

The Pythons were educated in the same Oxbridge circumstances as their targets. So much of the early humour involves showing off their own intellectual assets, while at the same time subverting them with popular culture.

Take the Philosophers’ Football Match (with Marx on the left wing, Nietzsche on the right, Wittgenstein all over the place). Or their endless pisstakes of pretentious arts shows. Or Terry Gilliam’s cut-out animations, with Botticellis dismembering themselves and doing crazy dances.

The creepy thing to consider is whether our current Anglo-American overlords are actually self-consciously Pythonesque in their strategies, rather than being the dumb targets of satire.

When Rees-Mogg said the current Brexit is “the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Phillip II at Le Goulet in 1200”, it could easily have been a line in a Python sketch (spoken by someone in a suit of armour, holding a rubber chicken).

Yet the true horror may not be that Mogg is being authentic, and that the upper class has returned with a vengeance. It’s more that he’s consciously cultivating an eccentricity that cuts through the modern media maelstrom.

That is, he is as concerned with his affect – the emotional impact he makes, his sheer memorability – as his effect. As Mogg is third in the polls among Tory Party members for potential leader, it shows that something must be working.

Boris Johnson has parlayed the same self-satirical routine for decades (what Python sketch could beat him sticking his mayoral legs out of his flying fox harness, waving a paper Union Jack?).

However, Johnson’s schtick currently seems to be palling, as ministerial office has revealed his laziness and limitations (a well-timed Cicero or Churchill quote doesn’t get you out of geopolitical trouble). But there is an elite-right strategy dimly visible here. As Trump stomps around the world stage, dropping wise-guy logic bombs everywhere, sucking all the media attention to whatever issue he decides to frame, you come to a queasy conclusion. These figures are learning from the satirists – much more than they might fear their tongues.

The theory seems to be: If you can crowd the electorate’s mental reality with as many bewildering and taboo-breaking stances as possible, you can exhaust them enough so that they’ll respond gratefully to the one clear offer you make.

This policy was trialled early in the Vladimir Putin administration by his advisor Vladislav Surkov. Surkov was educated as a theatre director, with a particular love of surrealism. This he decided to apply to the art of political propaganda itself.

As the Russian writer Peter Pomerantsev puts it, under Surkov’s control, “the stage was always changing: a dictatorship in the morning, a democracy at lunch, an oligarchy by suppertime. While backstage, oil companies are expropriated, journalists killed, billions siphoned away”.

Surkov was “at the centre of the show, sponsoring nationalist skinheads one moment, backing human rights groups the next”, continues Pomerantsev. “It’s a strategy of power based on keeping any opposition there may be constantly confused, a ceaseless shape-shifting that is unstoppable because it’s indefinable”.

This strategy also sounds, to be honest, like a standard Python episode. There’s a sketch in series one, episode five, where a management training interviewee’s sense of normality is completely ripped apart by Cleese’s artful mix of nonsense and authority. It’s more like a harsh psychological experiment than a comedy moment. But it also anticipates the daily surrealism of our current affairs.

So never mind Norwegian blues pining for the fjords. Should we be pining for a new wave of Monty Pythons? But given the deliberate reality-bending already deployed by these oligarchs, how extreme would they have to be?

Chris Morris (with The Day Today and Brass Eye), our own Frankie Boyle, and Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror are probably the only attempts that have gotten anywhere near the requisite intensity. And after Brooker’s pig-meets- prime-minister episode was outdone by David Cameron’s own porcine explorations, the writer was moved to redefine his work as “a documentary series”.

But until we figure out how to disconnect from this brain-seizing spectacle (Scots: there is a democratic device for this in your toolbox), we can still grimly enjoy the Pythons’ capacity for prophecy. If you google “Python” and “Brexit”, the mashed-up video remakes are endless.

Particularly popular is the scene from their movie Life of Brian, where the Judean People’s Front (or is it The People’s Front of Judea?) ask “whatever has the EU” (substituting for Rome) “ever done for us?”. Cue the list of 57% of its trade, environmental and workplace regulations, massive infrastructure investment …

There’s also many droll online comparisons with Monty Python and the Holy Grail. An EU official compares Brexiteers to the movie’s Black Knight – “who, after being defeated terribly and having all his limbs cut off, says to his opponent ‘let’s call it a draw’.”

You can even find an entire mini-film called Teresa May and the Holy Grail. Her face is digitally mapped on to King Arthur’s, saying desperately: “Nothing has changed! Nothing has changed!”

All fun and games, as the phrase has it — until someone loses an eye. And that may be, metaphorically at least, the right strategy. There is a Cleese character in the Kilimanjaro explorer sketch (series one, episode nine), who has to put his hand over one eye to stop seeing double. Indy-minded Scots may have to do the same.

By which I mean that we block out the Brexitannic spectacle (or Trump’s Caligularity) and train our remaining eye on the Scottish prize.

It’ll be less absorbing, perhaps, but the reality distortion game is huge these days: it’s not just Monty Python and the satirists who are flying circuses around.

Scots should start to address the issue of how we define, and thus act, on our own desired reality. Because that’s what everyone else is up to.

You can watch the first series of Monty Python on Netflix