John Cleese has cancelled himself in an odd protest against cancel culture, “blacklisting” himself from an event at Cambridge University after its debating society banned a historian who offended students with a Hitler impression.
Writing on Twitter, the comedian - who attended the university in the 1960s - said he had cancelled an upcoming talk after art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon was added to a new blacklist, because he had also done an impression of the dictator in a Monty Python show.
I was looking forward to talking to students at the Cambridge Union this Friday, but I hear that someone there has… https://t.co/clqySL5xby
The person he appeared to be referring to, Graham-Dixon made his bad taste impression while speaking at a debate about good taste at the university last week. The Daily Mail reported that his impression was as follows:
“The romantic tradition of German art was rejected by this modern art.
“This modern, horrible art that was promoted by the Jews... and the modern art, it was cubist - inspired by the art of the ne***s.
“This tribal art, urgh, how horrible is that? We must expunge this from our Deutschland.
“We are the pure, Aryan people. Our genetics is pure, our hearts must be pure, our tastes must be pure.”
He said he was trying to “underline the utterly evil nature of Hitler” but apologised for offending people and society president Keir Bradwell said he would subsequently be banned from the society, calling his comments “thoughtless and grotesque” in an open letter to students at the institution.
In his apology Graham-Dixon said: “In my speech I caricatured him (Hitler), briefly, paraphrasing HIS crass and insensitive statements about art and race.”
He said it was not his intention to upset but to persuade the audience “that bad taste and bad morality often go hand-in-hand”.
“I apologise sincerely to anyone who found my debating tactics and use of Hitler’s own language distressing; on reflection I can see that some of the words I used, even in quotation, are inherently offensive,” he added.
Speaking to the BBC, about his blacklisting, he added: “Mr Bradwell’s implication that I am a racist and anti-Semitic by placing me on his list is utterly rejected and in the context, surprising.
“The speech I gave was a strident attack on Hitler’s racism and anti-Semitism.”
Meanwhile, Cleese has frequently spoken out in support of free speech and against culture and even has a Channel 4 documentary, John Cleese: Cancel Me, coming out. He has impersonated the Nazi leader in both a sketch in Monty Python’s Flying Circus and an episode of Fawlty Towers - the latter episode was removed from TV recently because it also included a racial slur, then reinstated (or uncancelled) following a backlash.
And so as the cancel culture despiser... cancelled his talk, people spotted the irony of the situation and mocked Cleese:
Standing up against cancel culture by...
Cancelling yourself? https://t.co/ruzDODd7yq