John Cleese: Cancel culture is a ‘tragedy’, modern comedy is for men
“If you’re worried about offending people and thinking about it all the time, you’re not going to be very creative,” Cleese said, calling the latest big comedies “Roxanne” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” both starring Steve Martin.
‘Monty Python’ legend John Cleese has defended JK Rowling amid transphobic tweets, slammed new ‘wake up rules’ for laughs and is now calling out movie studios for producing uncreative comedies.
Speaking at the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas (via New York Post), Cleese told Fox News Digital that comedians don’t have the freedom to be funny in 2022.
“There have always been limits to what they’re allowed to say,” Cleese said. “I think it’s particularly worrying right now because you can only create in an atmosphere of freedom, where you don’t critically check everything you say before moving on. What you have to know how to do is build without knowing where you’re going because you’ve never been there. That’s what creativity is — you have to be allowed to build. And a lot of comedians now sit there and when they think of something, they say something like, ‘Can I get away with this? I do not think so. So-and-so got in trouble, and he said that, oh, she said that. You know what I mean? And that’s the death of creativity.
He summed up, “You can do the creation and then critique it, but you can’t do them at the same time. So if you’re worried about offending people and thinking about it all the time, you’re not going to be very creative. So I think it has a disastrous effect.
Calling it a “difficult time” for comedy, especially with young comedians, Cleese added: “My audience is much older and they just aren’t interested in most woke attitudes. I mean, they just think you should try to be nice to people and there’s no need to complicate things, you know? »
It’s a ratings issue, anyway, for Cleese: “If you go to a Republican convention and tell anti-Democrat jokes, you’ll get a really good answer. If you tell anti-Republican jokes, you won’t. So you need to tailor your material to some extent to your audience. And that’s part of it… If you go to see your grandma and have tea with her, you don’t start telling her sex jokes. It’s not because it’s illegal, it’s just bad manners.
He continued, “So I think you would think about what the audience is and you might shock them a bit because it’s fun. And also, as I point out on stage, if you go into areas a little taboo, you actually get the biggest laughs, which is why sexual humor is often greeted with huge laughs when it’s not particularly funny. It has to do with anxiety and releasing the anxiety when people relax or laugh with spare energy that comes from having just laughed at something they were worried about before.
Stand-up routines and on-stage comedy aside, Cleese added that he felt “great sadness” watching the state of comedy films, saying there was “very, very little, very good comedy scripts” these days.
“What I feel now is that very few people understand how to plot comedy, so comedies in America are really for young men because they’re the ones who go to the movies on Friday nights, which means that the box office is looking good,” Cleese explained. “And it’s all ultimately for the money because now we have studios that are more interested in the money than making great movies and at the time they also wanted to make great movies.”
The last great comedies of his book?
Steve Martin’s 1987 film ‘Roxanne’, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s ‘Cyrano’ and 1988’s ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’, which was remade with a genre twist starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in ‘The Hustle’ of 2019.
Director Todd Phillips previously told Vanity Fair that his move to directing the DC drama film “Joker” was due to the shift in comedy films.
“Go try to be funny these days with this woke culture,” Phillips said in 2019. This shit, ’cause I don’t mean to offend you.
The ‘Hangover’ director shared, “It’s hard to chat with 30 million people on Twitter. You can’t do it, can you? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’ I’m going out, and you know what? With all my comedies – I think what comedies, in general, all have in common – is that they’re irreverent. So I’m like, ‘How can I do something irreverent thing, but fucking comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it upside down with this. And so that’s really where it came from.
Cleese’s British comedian Rowan Atkinson also agreed that “comedy’s job is to offend”.