John Cleese says wokeness has an ‘unfortunate’ effect on comedy
Cleese was the keynote speaker the FreedomFest event held in Las Vegas where he spoke about the importance of cultivating the ability to think creatively, a talent that he believes is vital and not only in show business, but he also raised the alarm that the rise of political correctness is now an obstacle of major importance, especially for comics in the early stages of their careers.
If asked if comedians had the right to be funny in 2022 Cleese categorically replied “No.”
“There’s always been limitations on what they’re allowed to say,” Cleese stated. “Why you go to Moliere and Louis XIV. I mean Moliere had to be a bit careful. And there will always be limitations. I mean in England, until some ridiculous late date like 1965, all plays had to be submitted to what used to be a part of the palace called the Lord Chamberlain, and he would read it and there were hilarious letters used to go back was saying ‘you may only say f— once,’ this sort of- ‘and you cannot say bugger. But you can say-‘ this sort of ridiculous negotiating letters.”
The entertainment iconic John Cleese speaks at FreedomFest on the 15th of July, 2022. (Fox News Digital)
“But I think it’s particularly worrying at the moment because you can only create in an atmosphere of freedom, where you’re not checking everything you say critically before you move on. What you have to be able to do is to build without knowing where you’re going because you’ve never been there before. That’s what creativity is–you have to be allowed to build. And 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,” Cleese added. “So I would say at the moment, this is a difficult time, 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?”
“Monty Python “Monty Python” star explained that awakening lets”the “critical mind” to take over the creative mind, saying it’s “definitely in opposition to each other.”
“You can do the creation and then criticize it, but you can’t do them at the same time. So if you’re worried about offending people and constantly thinking of that, you are not going to be very creative. So I think it has a disastrous effect,” Cleese stated to Fox News Digital.
“Monty Python” star John Cleese met with Fox News Digital following his appearance at FreedomFest on July 15th, 2022. (Fox News Digital)
Cleese said his fellow hosts that “everything is more politicized now,” including late-night comedies in America. He cited “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, who Cleese says”adores” and “adores,” but acknowledged that his viewers are “more obviously politically aligned than it used to be,” noting that “it wasn’t like that.”
“It wasn’t like this when I first got to America,” Cleese stated. “When I first got to America in the 60s… two things happened. First of all, I very much admired the cross-the-aisle friendships and thought we don’t have that in England. We have real battles between the Tories and the Labour, but in America, there seems to be these- and this was destroyed by Newt Gingrich, quite deliberately, for purposes of power. I think that’s a tragedy.”
When asked if late-night comics are able to ever bring together both parties as they did before, Cleese replied, “No,” saying that comedians “sometimes summarize in a moment what’s happening very well” however they can’t “ever change anything.”
The comedy legend John Cleese is being interviewed by journalist Nick Gillespie at FreedomFest on July 15th, 2022. (Fox News Digital)
The 82-year-old British comedian firmly opposed the idea that a comedy act should ever be “canceled” over a joke and let the audience decide what’s hilarious.
“If you go to a Republican convention and tell anti-Democrat jokes, you’ll get a very good response. If you tell anti-Republican jokes, you won’t. So you’ve got to fit your material to some extent to your audience. And that’s part of it… If you go to see your granny and have tea with her, you don’t start telling her sex jokes. Now that’s not because it’s illegal, it’s just bad manners,” Cleese told the audience.
He went on to say, “So I think you would think what the audience is and then you might shock them a little bit because that’s fun. And also, as I point out on stage, if you get into areas that are a little bit taboo, you actually get the biggest laughs, which is why sexual humor is often greeted with huge laughs when it’s not particularly funny. It’s to do with anxiety and the release of anxiety when people relax or laugh with spare energy that comes from the fact that they just laughed at something they’ve been anxious about before.”
John Cleese takes the stage at FreedomFest in Las Vegas on July 15, 2022. (Fox News Digital)
Cleese gave a grim outlook regarding comedy’s future He said he’s feeling a “great sadness” about how there are “very, very few really good comedy scripts.”
“Certainly in England the time I visited the theatre between the 1960s to 2000 There were likely seven or six writers creating amazing comedies that were well-constructed, with good characters. This was the case in America too, as Broadway was a major stage and the actors working on Broadway were extremely educated. They wrote lots and knew how to write a plot,” Cleese told Fox News Digital. “What I think is happening now is that few people are able to plan a comedy and so comedies in America are geared towards young men since they’re those who go to the cinema on Fridays and the box office has a good look. The problem is that it’s all tied to making money since we have studios who are more concerned with the money rather than creating great movies. But in the earlier times, they were looking to make excellent films as well.”
“‘Roxanne,'” Cleese laughed, referring back to the 1988 Steve Martin film. “‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.'”
He also said, “I don’t go to comedies much because when you spent your life in comedy, by the time you get to 55 years in comedy, you’ve heard most of the jokes. And you watch people you think, ‘Yeah, that’s funny,’ but I have better things to do this evening than to watch comedy. I don’t need to be entertained. I’d rather read a book.”