John Cleese: Monty Python were ‘early targets of cancel culture’

Fawlty Towers star John Cleese has claimed that comedy troupe Monty Python was an early target of “cancel culture”.

The comedy actor is presenting a new show called The Dinosaur Hour which will include an episode on cancel culture, a subject of interest to Cleese.

The 84-year-old was in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, which many argued should be banned when it was released in 1979.

Speaking about censorship in conversation with The Sunday Times, Cleese said: “You could say that we were early targets of cancel culture.

“People don’t like to have their cherished ideas punctured or questioned.

“We all love to live in our own closed systems of thought, to be surrounded by people who think a bit like us.

“This is what happens on the internet, too, where you get these blasted echo chambers.

“It’s why comedy is even more important today as a way of pricking those bubbles, opening them up, letting in fresh air.

“It is good for all of us. The problem is that cutting-edge comedy becomes difficult if a joke that transgresses someone’s idea of good taste means that the comedian is banned for life. It subverts the creative impulse.”

Prince of Wales 60th birthday celebrations
Prince Harry talks to John Cleese backstage at the Wimbledon Theatre (Alastair Grant/PA)

Discussing how his new show came about, Cleese added that the news channel had come to him with “the best offer” he had ever had from a TV company.

“Normally, you have these executives who think they know more about comedy than you do, who tell you what they think is funny”, he said.

“It is like an accountant telling a novelist how to write a plot. But they said, ‘Make 10 programmes and you can do exactly what you want,’ which is remarkable.

“I know that a lot of people have it in for GB News and, to be fair, I don’t agree with the opinions of some of its presenters.

“But I have had carte blanche to say what I want and to be as silly or as serious as I want. We may even do a second series.”

On Saturday, Cleese expressed shock at the news channel’s decision to give a platform to prime minister Boris Johnson, the latest Conservative politician to join the channel.

He reposted an image of Johnson to X, formerly Twitter, and wrote that he could not believe GB News had hired a “serial liar”.

“I can hardly believe that GB News will give this proven, serial liar his own programme,” he wrote.

The Dinosaur House debuts on GB News on Sunday at 9pm.

Located inside 12th century Hedingham Castle in Essex, the 10-part-series will see Cleese speak to a variety of guests including actor Stephen Fry, media personality Caitlyn Jenner and journalist Sir Trevor McDonald.