John Cleese discusses upcoming documentary on cancel culture

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On Monday’s episode of The One Show, actor John Clesse joined hosts Michelle Ackerley and Jermaine Jenas, alongside fellow guest Andre Rieu. As well as promoting his latest film, Clifford The Big Red Dog, John also opened up on cancel culture, which is set to be the focus of his upcoming documentary.

During the episode, Jermaine shifted to focus on the 82-year-old’s upcoming project, which according to the press release will explore “why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said.”

John explained: “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,” he explained.

Speaking on its evolution, John stated: “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.

He added: “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.

After doing similar actions on the Monty Python show, the actor stated he was: “blacklisting myself before someone else does”.

Union president Keir Bradwell labelled John’s withdrawal as a “huge shame”.

While he took to Twitter to announce his cancellation: “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.

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

John added: “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.”

John was due to make an appearance as part of his documentary and would’ve spoken to some students about cancel culture.

Kier stated blacklisting art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon was simply a recommendation for future presidents.

He added: “We very much hope that we will be able to host him at some point, he’s the kind of speaker that would thrive with our audience and in our room.”

Speaking on The One Show, the actor spoke more on cancel culture in comedy: “It depends because do you tease people meanly or with affection?”

Pointing to Jermaine, he added: “You know in any dressing room of a sport, people are joshing, pulling each other’s legs, playing tricks on each other and that part of affection.

“It’s completely harmless, it’s a bonding mechanism, so I’m trying to figure out what’s the good side and what is the not good side of it,” he continued.

John concluded: “There does seem to be a lot of the time that some of the ‘woke’ are very literal-minded and don’t seem to understand irony.”

The One Show airs every day at 7 pm on BBC One.

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