The Monty Python legend will look at “why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said”
John Cleese is set to star in a television series for Channel 4 looking at the topic of “cancel culture” and wokeness.
The Fawlty Towers and British comedy legend will interview “cancelled” subjects as part of the documentary, while examining “all aspects of political correctness”, admitting that “there’s so much I don’t understand.”
John Cleese: Cancel Me will also see the 81-year-old speak to those who have campaigned against comedians and programmes, and will ask if it is possible to create comedy without causing offence.
In a statement released on Monday, Cleese said: “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.
“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 an outspoken critic of so-called ‘cancel culture’. In June 2020, he was critical of UKTV after they removed a line from an episode of Fawlty Towers that saw one of the characters use the N-word.
I'm learning that many – sorry, multiple – things that I learned growing up are completely wrong
For instance " Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me :
Now…" Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can be incredibly harmful "
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) July 8, 2020
In the classic episode, The Germans, the character of Major Gowen uses the racist slur in an anecdote about the West Indies cricket team.
Speaking to 60 Minutes Australia, Cleese said: “They completely missed the point. It was a stupid decision in the first place. It was as though they thought that if you put certain words in people’s mouths, that meant it had to be true.
“Comedy’s not about perfect people. It’s about all of our imperfections and it’s not about things going right. It’s all about things going wrong.
“It’s this pathetic idea that people can’t stand up for themselves and can’t hear different opinions. It seems to me extraordinarily condescending.”
Speaking about cancel culture in September 2020, Cleese admitted that political correctness “started out as a good idea” but then became a “sort of indulgence.”
He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “[Political correctness] stuff started out as a good idea, which is, ‘Let’s not be mean to people’, and I’m in favour of that despite my age.
“The main thing is to try to be kind. But that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset … I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society.
“From the point of creativity, if you have to keep thinking which words you can use and which you can’t, then that will stifle creativity. The main thing is to realise that words depend on their context. Very literal-minded people think a word is a word but it isn’t.”