Legendary Monty Python comedian John Cleese announced Monday that he’s currently working on a documentary for Channel 4 which focused on cancel culture and the effects this woke trend has had on comedy.
As per The Guardian’s report, in the documentary, titled Cancel Me, the comedian is expected to meet with a wide variety of his colleagues from the entertainment industry who claim to have been “cancelled for their actions or statements,” as well as “activists who have led opposition to various public figures.”
In an official statement, Cleese stated, “I’m delighted to have a chance to find out, on camera, about all the aspects of so-called political correctness.”
“There’s so much I really don’t understand, like: how the impeccable idea of ‘Let’s all be kind to people’ has been developed in some cases ad absurdum,” he continued. “I want to bring the various reasonings right out in the open so that people can be clearer in their minds what they agree with, what they don’t agree with, and what they still can’t make their mind up about.”
Cleese is no stranger to the phenomenon that is cancel culture. In June of 2020, for example, the comedian was critical of the BBC after the British broadcaster took down an episode of Fawlty Tower, a show that Cleese co-created and starred in back in the mid-to-late ’70s, because it contained “racial slurs.”
At the time, the actor/comedian took his frustration to social media, writing, “I would have hoped that someone at the BBC would understand that there are two ways of making fun of human behaviour.”
“One is to attack it directly,” Cleese asserted. “The other is to have someone who is patently a figure of fun, speak up on behalf of that behaviour.”
Namedropping fictional racist character Alf Garnett, Cleese continued, “we laughed at Alf’s reactionary views. Thus we discredited them, by laughing at him.”
“Of course, there were people – very stupid people – who said ‘Thank God someone is saying these things at last’,” the actor explained. “We laughed at these people too Now they’re taking decisions about BBC comedy.”
The Fawlty Towers episode that the BBC deemed necessary to remove was “The Germans”, in which Major Gowen, played by Ballard Berkeley, utters racial slurs as he tells an anecdote to Basil Fawlty, played by Cleese.
Eventually, the “controversial” Fawlty Towers episode was brought back, though with the specific line of dialogue in question cut from the broadcast version by UKTV.
The episode also saw Cleese’s character Basil doing an impersonation of German dictator Adolf Hitler, which was also heavily criticised by the media and social justice warriors when the episode was rebroadcast in 2013.
After the episode was taken down, John Cleese told Australian newspaper The Age, “If you put nonsense words into the mouth of someone you want to make fun of, you’re not broadcasting their views, you’re making fun of them.”
He then added, “The Major was an old fossil left over from decades before. We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them. If they can’t see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say?”
“Fawlty Towers has given a large number of people a great deal of happiness, why would you want to stop that,” Cleese concluded. “It reminds me of the definition of a Scottish Presbyterian as someone who has a nasty, sneaking feeling that someone, somewhere, is having a good time.”
Cleese also found himself the target of a cancel culture mob after saying that London was not an English city any more.
This observation, coupled with the fact that Cleese supported the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Brexit), stirred the pot amongst social justice warriors and woke media outlets, who in turn labeled the Monty Python star as xenophobic.
“Some years ago I opined that London was not really an English city any more,” wrote the actor on Twitter in 2019. “Since then, virtually all my friends from abroad have confirmed my observation. So there must be some truth in [my statement].”
Doubling down on his stance, the renowned comedian then wrote, “I think it’s legitimate to prefer one culture to another For example, I prefer cultures that do not tolerate female genital mutilation.”
Cleese added, “Will this be considered racist by all those who hover, eagerly hoping that someone will offend them – on someone else’s behalf, naturally,” making a fairly valid point which, unsurprisingly, led to yet another meltdown amongst his critics on social media and in mainstream media outlets.
What do you make of Cleese’s attempt to tackle cancel culture and its effect in comedy? Be sure to let us know in the comments section down below or on social media!