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The Ministry of Silly Wokes?
John Cleese, the former Monty Python heavyweight and more recently a vocal campaigner against so-called wokeism and cancel culture, is set to become a regular presenter on GB News, the right-leaning news channel that launched in 2021.
Speaking about the show on the BBC’s flagship radio news program Today on Monday, The Fawlty Towers creator described himself as an “old-fashioned liberal” and argued that “GB is not a right-wing channel. It’s a free speech channel.” He also argued that the reason he was joining the channel — which spends much of its time dedicated to criticizing supposed woke culture — was that the BBC hadn’t approached him and, if it did, he would turn the public broadcaster down, “because I wouldn’t get five minutes into the first show without being canceled or censored.”
Earlier this year, Cleese, 82, described cancel culture as a “tragedy,” telling the attendees at the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas, where he was keynote speaker, that comedians didn’t have the freedom to be funny anymore and that comedy films were now “aimed at young men because they’re the ones who go to the cinema on Friday night.” Last year, it was reported that Cleese was to front a new series called Cancel Me on Brit network Channel 4 to investigate cancel culture and what it means for comedy. In November, Cleese appeared to cancel himself when he pulled the plug on an appearance at Cambridge University after a visiting speaker was banned for making a Hitler impression, saying that he was “blacklisting myself before someone else does” and urging organizers to “find a venue where woke rules do not apply.”
Interestingly, although on Radio 4’s Today he said he didn’t know much about GB News before being approached to front his show — which launches in 2023 — it was pointed out that he had previously tweeted that “GB News is sometimes referred to, rather wittingly, as KGB News” and had raised questions about potential Russian influence in the channel.
In August, it was revealed that Warner Bros. Discovery was set to sell its stake in GB News, which was hit by a string of issues and disappointing ratings in its opening weeks, eventually losing its chairman Andrew Neil following a very public fallout. Discovery had been one of the early backers of the channel.
After he left GB News, Neil said he felt like “a minority of one” at the network. “More and more differences emerged between myself and the other senior managers and the board,” he told the BBC, adding that he quit the channel because he didn’t want to be part of a “British Fox News.”
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