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John Cleese: Cancel Culture Is “Disastrous” for Creativity in Comedy

Speaking at FreedomFest in Las Vegas

john cleese cancel culture disastrous comedy film tv news quotes interview
John Cleese, photo by Bruce Baker
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    By now, it’s pretty widely known that John Cleese does not care for “cancel culture.” But in case you somehow missed that memo, the Monty Python star has once again declared his resentment of “wokeness” in entertainment, saying it has a “disastrous” impact on comedy.

    Cleese rambled about the state of comedy while serving as a keynote speaker at the Fox News-backed FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas last week: “If you’re worried about offending people and constantly thinking of that, you are not going to be very creative,” he said, adding that he feels everything is “more politicized” in 2022 than when he first immigrated to the States in the 1960s. “So I think it has a disastrous effect.”

    Cleese’s speech was focused on how to “cultivate creativity” in showbiz and beyond, and he stood firm in his beliefs that “wokeness” — aka basic empathy — has hindered artistry. “There’s always been limitations on what [comedians are] allowed to say,” he said. “But I think it’s particularly worrying at the moment… 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.”

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    Cleese went on: “I would say at the moment, this is a difficult time [for comedians to write jokes freely], 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’s no need to complicate it, you know?”

    The actor added that he thinks wokeness causes the “critical mind” to take over the creative, which he says are “definitely in opposition to each other.” We don’t necessarily expect someone who once defended usage of the N-word to understand nuance.

    Cleese further opines on cancel culture in his recent docu-series John Cleese: Cancel Meon which he interviews figures who’ve been canceled as well as individuals who helped initiate said canceling. As if he needed to dig his own grave any deeper, he also pulled out of a scheduled appearance at Cambridge University last November in solidarity with Andrew Graham-Dixon, who was permanently blacklisted for doing an impression of Adolf Hitler.

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    Cleese is among the likes of fellow comedians Ricky Gervais, Dave Chappelle, and Louis C.K., who have all defended their own bad-taste jokes recently.

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