‘Particularly worrying’ John Cleese admits mounting concerns over cancel culture

John Cleese discusses upcoming documentary on cancel culture

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John Cleese has slammed cancel culture and “woke” attitudes in a new interview, claiming it has made things much harder for budding comics. The Monty Python star said we live in “particularly worrying” times as people in the public eye fear public pile-ons. 

John, 82, was the keynote speaker at the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas, when he was reportedly asked if comedians have the freedom to be funny in 2022.

The star responded with an emphatic “no”. 

“I think it’s particularly worrying at the moment because you can only create in an atmosphere of freedom, where you’re not checking everything you say critically before you move on,” he explained, according to Fox News. 

“What you have to be able to do is to build without knowing where you’re going because you’ve never been there before. 

“That’s what creativity is—you have to be allowed to build, and a lot of comedians now are sitting there and when they think of something, they say something like, ‘Can I get away with it? 

“I don’t think so. So and so got into trouble, and he said that, oh, she said that.’ You see what I mean? And that’s the death of creativity.”

John continued: “So I would say at the moment, this is a difficult time, particularly for young comedians, but you see, my audience is much older, and they’re simply not interested in most of the woke attitudes.

“I mean, they just think that you should try and be kind to people and that there’s no need to complicate it, you know?”

John regularly takes aim at cancel culture, including once during an appearance on The One Show.

Speaking to hosts Michelle Ackerley and Jermaine Jenas, he said: “There was a poll in Britain asking do you know what cancel culture is, 58% of the people didn’t.

“I think it’s not clear what it is and I think it originated in America in the ’50s and was very much to do with feeling dignity for black people who had been treated badly for so long.

“Now it’s morphed into something else which has got a very good side of it, which is let’s be kind to people, but it’s also got a rather puritanical side to it.

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You can’t make jokes, and I think they don’t understand that all humour is critical, you can’t make fun of someone who’s perfect – it’s all about faults.”

The actor who is well known for his role in classic comedies Fawlty Towers and Monty Python found himself in hot water after defending the shows after it was removed from UKTV for racist content.

In Fawlty Towers, his character Basil Fawlty made comments about the Second World War to a German family.

Despite the episode airing in 1975, similar content recently prompted John to cancel an appearance at Cambridge University after a speaker was banned for a Hitler impression.

John stated he was “blacklisting himself before someone else does”.

“I was looking forward to talking to students at the Cambridge Union this Friday, but I hear that someone there has been blacklisted for doing an impersonation of Hitler,” he tweeted. 

“I regret that I did the same on a Monty Python show, so I am blacklisting myself before someone else does.

“I apologise to anyone at Cambridge who was hoping to talk with me, but perhaps some of you can find a venue where woke rules do not apply.”

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