John Cleese slams BBC Asia for "deception, dishonesty and tone" of interview

John Cleese slams BBC Asia for "deception, dishonesty and tone" of interview
(Photo by John Phillips Invision/AP, File)

English actor and comedian John Cleese agreed to sit for an interview with BBC Asia to promote upcoming appearances in Singapore and Bangkok. Instead of talking about his stand-up show, “Why There Is No Hope”, Cleese said that journalist Karishma Vaswani was only interested in his thoughts about cancel culture. After cutting the interview short, he decided to lodge a formal complaint to the BBC.

According to a series of tweets from Cleese, the interview went sideways from the start.

I looked at Karishma Vaswani’s Twitter page but her tweets are protected. I don’t know if that is a result of this story by Cleese or if her account was always private. A BBC spokeswoman said that it was a “fair and appropriate interview” and it adhered to editorial guidelines.

The BBC hit back at Cleese’s remarks, with a spokesperson telling ‘This was a fair and appropriate interview which touched on topics that John Cleese has previously been vocal about as well as themes within his new tour.

‘Our presenter is an excellent and experienced journalist who conducted the interview entirely within our editorial guidelines.’

The interviewer included Dave Chappelle in her questions and Cleese ended the interview at that point. Cleese said that she tried to portray him as ‘old-fashioned, uncaring and basically harmful’. In other words, Cleese isn’t woke enough. If she did her homework before speaking with him, she would have known that. Cleese has never been woke and has no desire to be woke. He goes against the culture of the liberal entertainment industry and is often called out for it. Cleese is best known for his Monty Python days. His former co-star Terry Gilliam has supported Chappelle.

Cleese advocates for free speech, especially in entertainment. Last month he blackballed himself from the Cambridge Union debating society after a historian who impersonated Adolf Hitler during a society debate was banned. Cleese, you’ll remember if you are a fan, famously impersonated the Nazi dictator in a Monty Python sketch and also in Fawlty Towers.

His comments came after Keir Bradwell, the student president of the 200-year-old Cambridge Union, emailed members to inform them he was setting up a list of banned speakers.

Mr Bradwell later announced a U-turn on the idea.

He said: ‘Obviously announcing a U-turn looks silly. I was just a 21-year-old who tried to make the situation better. There is no policy to ban anyone for what they are going to say – it’s a free speech institution.’

He also told The Daily Telegraph: ‘If there is dichotomy between free speech and offence, I would defend free speech. I don’t want to create an impression that the union is against free speech.’

Perhaps the young man hasn’t learned that free speech will always offend someone. Wokeism demands that no one ever is offended and that’s a farce. It assumes groupthink from everyone and that’s an impossible goal. John Cleese no longer performs skits as Adolf Hitler. Yet, he would be on Bradwell’s banned list for skits from decades ago. That is one of the problems of cancel culture. It assumes that a person is stuck in the past as far as their personal behavior goes. But you’ll notice that Bradwell wouldn’t include his own behavior as worthy of canceling – he was “just a 21-year-old who tried to make a situation better.”

Earlier this year, the BBC temporarily removed an episode of Fawlty Towers from its UKTV streaming services for use of ‘outdated language’. The episode ‘The Germans’, first aired in 1975. Cleese’s character, Basil Fawlty, offends German guests by mentioning World War II while he tells the staff to not mention the war. Fawlty was suffering from a concussion as he goose-stepped in front of the Germans and used his finger as a mustache. The skit also included references to the n-word and the BBC said that was the reason for its removal.

During the episode, Fawlty has a conversation with Major Gowen, who tells an anecdote about a cricket match, in which he uses racist terms such as the n-word.

However Cleese branded the channel ‘stupid’ for not realising the show was mocking the Major’s use of the n-word and added: ‘We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them.’

I’ll end with this bit of silliness from Cleese. May he continue to entertain us for many more years.

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David Strom 3:31 PM on February 02, 2023