John Cleese set to join GB News in a push for ‘free speech’
John Cleese is making a return to TV, joining GB News for a regular slot in the coming year.
The Monty Python star will have a regular spot on the talk channel in 2023 alongside comedian Andrew Doyle.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today show this morning, Cleese, 82, explained that the GB News team framed the channel as a “free-speech channel” as opposed to a “right-wing” one.
“I was approached and I didn’t know who they were,” he said. “I don’t know much about modern television because I’ve pretty much given up on it.”
“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.
“The BBC have not come to me and said, ‘Would you like to have some one-hour shows?’ and if they did, I would say, ‘Not on your nelly!’ I wouldn’t get five minutes into the first show before I’d been cancelled or censored.”
According to the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, the TV channel reaches around two million people each month, compared to BBC News Channel’s 15.9m and Sky News’ 10.9m.
Cleese has voiced his dismay to “woke culture” in recent years, and was particularly irked in 2020 when streamer UKTV decided to remove a Fawlty Towers episode because it contained “racial slurs”.
The episode featured a character using racist language in an anecdote about the West Indies cricket team.
“If you put nonsense words into the mouth of someone you want to make fun of, you’re not broadcasting their views, you’re making fun of them,” Cleese told the Age at the time.
“The major was an old fossil left over from decades before. We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them. If they can’t see that – if people are too stupid to see that – what can one say?”
The episode was later reinstated but had a warning on it.
Cleese has also criticised the UK press more broadly, supporting the campaign group Hacked Off in recent years.