The 82-year-old actor revealed his new project on BBC Radio 4’s popular “Today” program on Monday morning. “I was approached and I didn’t know who they were,” said Cleese of GB News, which set up shop in Britain in 2021. “I don’t know much about modern television because I’ve pretty much given up on it — I mean, English television. Then, I met one or two of the people concerned and had a dinner with them and I liked them very much.
“What they said was, ‘People say it’s a right-wing channel, but it’s a free speech channel,’” explained Cleese, who is working on the show with political satirist and comedian Andrew Doyle.
“The nice thing about talking to the GB News audience is that they may not be used to hearing the sort of things I’ll be saying,” warned Cleese.
The BBC, he noted, hadn’t approached him about taking part in one of their shows, but even if they did, warned Cleese, he wouldn’t be interested. “I’d say ‘Not on your nelly.’ I wouldn’t get five minutes into the first show before I got canceled or censored,” he said.
Cleese is also slated to be fronting a Channel 4 series on so-called “cancel culture,” entitled “Cancel Me,” in which the actor speaks to activists and victims of “cancel culture,” including some famous faces.
Cleese, who has 5.7 million Twitter, followers, has been vocal regarding his scepticism on numerous topics that often ignite social media over recent years. Last fall, he pulled out of a talk at the Cambridge Union, citing concerns over “woke rules” and an Adolf Hitler impersonation he had famously done on the “Fawlty Towers” series decades ago.
Interviewed by the “Today” program’s Amol Rajan, Cleese was asked how big a threat he feels “wokeism” is to our culture.
“In America, [it’s] worse,” said Cleese, noting that “the way woke people conduct their campaign is not very honest” and referencing a radio interview in which he claimed a liberal campaigner said she was avoiding public debate.
“I’m an old-fashioned liberal, therefore I’m always saying, ‘If we do this, there will be advantages and there will be disadvantages,’” said Cleese.
As for whether “Monty Python” — which aired on the BBC between 1969 and 1974 — would be commissioned today, Cleese was dubious.
“Well, the guy who was in charge of light entertainment about four years ago said he wouldn’t commission it now,” said Cleese. “It’s six white people, five of whom went to Oxbridge [Oxford and Cambridge universities], but they made a program that a lot of people liked. The right wing didn’t like it.
“I remember when we were at the O2 [stadium] playing to audiences of 16,000 — the most extraordinary arena I’ve ever been in — and the Daily Telegraph ran a piece saying, ‘Was Monty Python ever really funny?’ To which the only answer is, well, some people thought so.”