Legendary British actor John Cleese has never been shy about his feelings on cancel culture, telling Reuters last year that he thinks it “misunderstands the main purposes of life which is to have fun.”
“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,” the 81-year-old said, adding, “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.”
The Monty Python alum has also blasted legislative speech suppression saying in October that a proposed Scottish hate speech law would hamper creativity.
“It’s disastrous to the creative process because the creative process above anything else is a matter of spontaneity,” said Cleese. “I mean, if you’re gonna come [up] with something really interesting artistically, it’s gonna come out of your unconscious, and if you’re having to, what’s the word, edit everything you say before you say it, then nothing is gonna happen creatively — and also things that are rather lovely and funny in ordinary conversation, they’re not gonna happen either, because everybody’s thinking ‘Ooh, somebody might offend.’”.
Now the comedian is putting his money where his mouth is, releasing a documentary series on what cancel culture is and how it impacts its victims.
Cleese promised in a statement covered in Variety that “Cancel Me,” which will air on the U.K.’s Channel 4, will answer the question of why “a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said.”
“I’m delighted to have a chance to find out, on camera, about all the aspects of so-called political correctness,” Cleese shared. “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.”
Cleese explained that he wants to bring the reasoning behind cancel culture “out in the open” so that the public will be better able to discern what “they agree with, what they don’t agree with, and what they still can’t make their mind up about.”
Danny Horan, an executive at Channel 4, said at the Edinburgh TV Festival that the network chose Cleese because he’s known for his strong views on cancel culture and the network felt it was time to address the issue.
“I think there’s a lot of things to address in that series that he is very keen to understand what happened and why it’s happened,” Horan said. “And of course, you know, he was a comedian for the last few decades who had a lot of comedy [some of which now] feels outdated so he’s questioning some of that as well. So I think it’d be really interesting. It’s an area that he’s exploring.”