John Cleese Takes On The Woke Crowd in Typical Cleese Fashion
Cleese fights wokeness by cancelling himself
John Cleese is at war with the woke, and it's wonderful. No comedian is better at "Oh snap!" comebacks than John Cleese, and none are as experienced in the art of tackling authoritarian puritans than as he is.
So, here is how the latest row all started. John Cleese was supposed to speak at the Cambridge Union debating society in the UK (which ironically bills itself as "Defending Free Debate since 1815"), but, then art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon was banned because he impersonated and used some of his words Hitler in a debate. He was doing so speaking out against Hitler and antisemitism, but, you know, context doesn't really seem to matter in these cases.
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So, John Cleese decided to take it upon himself to cancel himself before anyone else got the chance. After all, this is John Cleese of Monty Python fame here. He's known for being provocative and pushing the envelope. In his Fawlty Towers TV show, for example, he did his own Hitler impression...a really hilarious one by the way. So, you know, he did something decades ago that will still get you cancelled today.
“I was looking forward to talking to students at the Cambridge Union this Friday, but I hear that someone there has been blacklisted for doing an impersonation of Hitler. I regret that I did the same on a Monty Python show, so I am blacklisting myself before someone else does. I apologize to anyone at Cambridge who was hoping to talk with me, but perhaps some of you can find a venue where woke rules do not apply.”
I have to say, I admire John Cleese for his stance against "cancel culture" and the "woke" who push it. He's standing up for artistic freedom and against this desire to purify everything, and that is important for all artists, writers and creators.
Cleese has a long history of fighting against "cancel culture." After Monty Python released the movie The Life of Brian over 40 years ago, the backlash by conservative Christians who called it blasphemous and wanted it banned was intense. It was the same kind of puritanical backlash that some comedians are getting these days over their off-colour jokes. The film was indeed banned in a number of places, including the whole frickin' country of Norway. People would picket outside of theaters that showed the film. Fortunately, the film ended up being a box office success, partly because of the controversy. So that was a big screw you to those who tried to censor and ban.
The wrong kinds of jokes are still being considered blasphemous by "woke" voices who are taking a very puritanical approach to entertainment. So, what John Cleese is doing is absolutely nothing new. This tackling authoritarianism and puritanical voices is the same thing that he did 40 years ago. And he's still the best at it.
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Now, one aspect that some of his critics have taken up with Cleese on social media is the very definition of woke. What is woke? Well, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary it is:
[A]ware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)
Many of his critics have said this is a good thing. And, yes, in many ways it is. I don't think Cleese is arguing at all that racism is good and those that oppose it are bad. The issue is not in how "woke" is defined, but in how some who are woke are acting. For example, when someone is forced to make a groveling apology for doing an anti-Hitler Hitler impression during a debate because woke people don't seem to care about context and want to purify discourse, that is a problem. But, thankfully, Cleese is on it!
And Cleese has gotten no shortage of abuse for his self-cancellation and speaking out against what happened at the Cambridge Union. People are calling him a has-been, being quite ageist in constantly referencing his age (as if that matters at all), saying he is irrelevant and out of touch. Sigh. The progressives are always so kind and polite aren't they? In fact, the attacks and insults remind me of the kind of rhetoric and attitudes employed by the holier-than-thou, puritanical Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, and some apparently well-known Christian dude named Malcolm Muggeridge in their famous televised debate with John Cleese and Michael Palin back in 1979. Here is part of it:
Heck, I feel that I AM progressive. I know I'm definitely liberal. So, when I see other progressives, usually farther to the left than I am, be such jerks towards Cleese because he took his current stand (which is identical to his previous stand in 1979), I just shake my darn head. And partly I do that because I see John Cleese as very liberal. So, the fact that progressives are jumping all over him for defending freedom of speech and expression just boggles my mind...yet again.
Not to worry though. When it comes to take-downs of those not-so-progressive "progressives," Cleese is a champ!