Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber

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Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber was a recurring comedy sketch on the American television show Saturday Night Live during the late 1970s. The title character was a barber surgeon played by comedian Steve Martin, a frequent host of the show. The central gag revolved around Theodoric's insistence on using bloodletting as a solution to any complaint or illness by his customers.

In one memorable episode, Theodoric said:

"You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease like your daughter's was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in her stomach."

Also, during the sketch he would propose profound, innovative ideas that had the potential to change the course of history, but he would ultimately dismiss them, as in:

"Wait a minute. Perhaps she's right. Perhaps I've been wrong to blindly follow the medical traditions and superstitions of past centuries. Maybe we barbers should test these assumptions analytically, through experimentation and a "scientific method". Maybe this scientific method could be extended to other fields of learning: the natural sciences, art, architecture, navigation. Perhaps I could lead the way to a new age, an age of rebirth, a Renaissance!...Naaaaaahhh!"

Martin also appeared as Theodoric of York, Medieval Judge, in skits that lampooned both the medieval and modern judicial systems. In these skits, Martin's character Theodoric would summarily pass judgment based on the outcomes of trials by ordeal, such as throwing the accused, weighted, into a river to see if she would drown, in cases of suspected witchcraft. If the accused floated, she was determined to be guilty (because only by using her occult powers could she have risen to the surface), and if she sank and drowned, she was innocent. Upon deciding the accused was guilty, Theodoric would refer to the Book of Common Wisdom (a huge, dusty tome) to decide appropriate punishment. In the case of a man found guilty of adultery, Theodoric could not seem to find an appropriate punishment specified in the Book, so he pondered aloud, putting his hand on his chin and gazing up at the ceiling:

"Hmmm....if the punishment for theft is cutting off his hand, and the punishment for bearing false witness is cutting out his tongue....what shall the punishment for adultery be?"

As with Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber, Martin would end his Medieval Judge skits by proposing modern legal concepts such as trial by a jury of one's peers, provision of defense counsel, innocence until proven guilty, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments, etc., but end by saying... "Naaaaaaaahhh!"

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