John Cleese: ‘I’d get cancelled on BBC,’ Cleese tells the BBC  as he reveals new GB News show

John Cleese said he would tell the BBC “not on your nelly” if it asked him to make a new programme – as he announced he is joining GB News after being told it is a “free speech channel”.

The actor and comedian, 82, said Monty Python would not get commissioned today “because it’s six white people, five of whom went to Oxbridge”.

Speaking on Monday, he said: “The BBC have not come to me and said, ‘Would you like to have some one-hour shows?’

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“And if they did, I would say, ‘Not on your nelly’ because I wouldn’t get five minutes into the first show before I’d been cancelled or censored.”

John CleeseJohn Cleese
John Cleese

Cleese has previously spoken out about cancel culture and criticised a perceived “stifling” effect of political correctness on creativity – saying there is no such thing as a “woke joke”.

Asked on BBC Radio 4 about how his new show with GB News came about, he said: “I don’t know much about modern television because I’ve pretty much given up on it. I mean, English television.

“And then I met one or two of the people concerned and had dinner with them and I liked them very much.

“And what they said was, ‘People say it’s the right-wing channel – it’s a free speech channel’.”

According to GB News, Cleese’s new series will air next year and feature him in conversation with “his choice of guests on a wide range of areas that interest him”.

Writer and comedian Andrew Doyle will executive produce the programme.

GB News was set up in June 2021, with former BBC political broadcaster Andrew Neil positioned as chairman and host of a primetime show before he stepped down in the September.

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Cleese will join former This Morning host Eamonn Holmes, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, former Sky anchor Colin Brazier, ITV News journalist Alastair Stewart, and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero on the channel.

Questioned about his thoughts on the limits of free speech, Cleese said: “Somebody once said to me, ‘Everyone’s in favour of free speech, particularly for the ideas that they like’.”

Reflecting on whether free speech should extend to those spreading opinions and misinformation about public health matters, he added: “If there’s a factual response to something like that, then that should be made.

“That’s the job, to put the facts out there and then to have opinions slightly separate and have a proper argument about it, but not to try to avoid a public debate and then try and get yourself through social media.”

On Python, Cleese, said: “Well, the guy who was in charge of light entertainment about four years ago said he wouldn’t commission it now because it’s six white people, five of whom went to Oxbridge.

“But the point was they made a programme that a lot of people liked.”

While Cleese has previously supported the Liberal Democrats and the Social Democratic Party, he said he does not belong to either party and now finds politics a “confusing mess”.



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