Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 3 August 2020

Cancel culture takes the fun out of life, says comedian John Cleese

The English actor will present a comedy livestream show from London next month

Actor John Cleese will host a comedic livestream and Q&A session from London next month. Delores Johnson / The National 
Actor John Cleese will host a comedic livestream and Q&A session from London next month. Delores Johnson / The National 

John Cleese does not have much time for political correctness or cancel culture, and as for the state of the world? It's completely hopeless, the former Monty Python star says.

Instead Cleese, 80, is promising "a short selection of Peruvian burial ditties" when he presents a comedic livestream and Q&A session from London next month.

Why There is No Hope is described as part lecture, part stand-up comedy. Cleese says it as an experiment in front of the small audience required by social distancing in the coronavirus era.

The British actor is perhaps best known as rude hotel owner Basil Fawlty in the 1970s British TV series Fawlty Towers and the man from the Ministry of Silly Walks in the absurdist sketch series Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Last month, Cleese called the BBC "cowardly and gutless" for temporarily removing an episode of Fawlty Towers from a streaming service owned by the broadcaster over concerns the show made fun of Germans and the Second World War.

The episode also featured a character using a racial slur.

Cancel culture "misunderstands the main purposes of life which is to have fun", Cleese tells Reuters, referring to the trend in which people are ostracised because of behaviour or remarks that are considered objectionable.

John Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs in an episode of 'Fawlty Towers'. Photo by Shutterstock 
John Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs in an episode of 'Fawlty Towers'. Shutterstock

"Everything humorous is critical. If you have someone who is perfectly kind and intelligent and flexible and who always behaves appropriately, they're not funny. Funniness is about people who don't do that, like Trump," he says, referring to the US president.

Cleese says the problem with political correctness is that comedians "have to set the bar according to what we are told by the most touchy, most emotionally unstable and fragile and least stoic people in the country".

As for the Sunday, August 2, livestream to be held at London's Cadogan Hall, Cleese says he expects to perform for about 50 people seated at social distance.

Cleese says he is not bothered about the size of the crowd. "I played to an audience once in New Zealand where I did not get a laugh," he says.

Updated: July 22, 2020 02:33 PM

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