John Cleese — the former Monty Python cast member and giant of British comedy — is being branded a
racist for daring to repeat his observation that London “is not really an English city” anymore.
How did London’s mayor react?
London Mayor Sadiq Khan — who’s been lambasted for his
knife-control policies amid a stabbing epidemic in the city — tweeted that Cleese’s comments make him “sound like he’s in character as Basil Fawlty.” It’s a reference to the sitcom “Fawlty Towers” in which Cleese plays a character known for his “incompetence, short fuse, and arrogance” guaranteeing that “accidents and trouble are never far away.”
“Londoners know that our diversity is our greatest strength,” Khan continued. “We are proudly the English capital, a European city, and a global hub.”
How did others react?
An op-ed writer for the Independent called Cleese’s comments “xenophobic” and that they “reveal a sad truth about aging comedians.”
TV comedy writer James Felton blasted Cleese in a mocking tweet: “Hi I’m John Cleese. Today I’ll be complaining there are too many immigrants in London from my home where I live in the Caribbean.”
Cleese last year said he was moving to the Caribbean.
What did Cleese have to say next?
Cleese offered a follow-up
tweet saying, “I suspect I should apologize for my affection for the Englishness of my upbringing, but in some ways I found it calmer, more polite, more humorous, less tabloid, and less money-oriented than the one that is replacing it.”
As for detractors who said Cleese’s London comments were hypocritical given his time spent in the Caribbean, the funnyman was only too happy to clarify things.
“It might interest those people who seem to think my remarks about London are racist as opposed to culturalist, to consider that what I like about spending time in Nevis,” he
tweeted in regard to the Caribbean island. “Nevis has excellent race relations, a very well educated population, no sign of political correctness.”
Cleese also pointed out that less-attractive aspects of any culture should be taken into account:
Cleese has long been impatient with those who push political correctness and a supposed right to never be offended, saying in 2016 that “all humor is critical. If we start saying, ‘Oh, we mustn’t criticize or offend them,’ then humor is gone, and with humor goes a sense of proportion — and then, as far as I’m concerned, you’re living in ‘1984.’ So the idea that you have to be protected from any kind of uncomfortable emotion is one I absolutely do not subscribe to.”