John Cleese: Political Correctness Can Lead to an Orwellian Nightmare
The essence of comedy is being critical, says Cleese, and that means causing offense sometimes. But we shouldn’t protect everyone from experiencing negative emotions by enforcing political correctness, he says. Cleese’s latest book is “So, Anyway….
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Transcript – I’m offended every day. For example, the British newspapers every day offend me with their laziness, their nastiness and they’re in accuracy, but I’m not going to expect someone to stop that happening I just simply speak out about it. Sometimes when people are offended they want – you can just come in and say right stop that to whoever it is offending them. And, of course, as a former chairman of the BBC one said, “There are some people who I wish to offend.” And I think there’s truth in that too. So the idea that you have to be protected from any kind of uncomfortable emotion is what I absolutely do not subscribed to. And a fellow who I helped write two books about psychology and psychiatry was a renowned psychiatrist called Robert Skinner said something very interesting to me. He said, “If people can’t control their own emotions then they have to start trying to control other people’s behavior.” And when you’re around super sensitive people you cannot relax and be spontaneous because you have no idea what’s going to upset them next. And that’s why I’ve been warned recently don’t to go to most university campuses because the political correctness has been taken from being a good idea, which is let’s not be mean in particular to people who are not able to look after themselves very well, that’s a good idea, to the point where any kind of criticism or any individual or group could be labeled cruel.
And the whole point about humor, the whole point about comedy, and believe you me I thought about this, is that all comedy is critical. Even if you make a very inclusive joke like how would you make God laugh? Answer: tell him your plans. Now that’s about the human condition; it’s not excluding anyone. Saying we all have all these plans, which probably won’t come and isn’t it funny how we still believe they’re going to happen. So that’s a very inclusive joke. It’s still critical. All humor is critical. If you start to say we mustn’t, we mustn’t criticize or offend them then humor is gone. With humor goes a sense of proportion. And then as far as I’m concerned you’re living in 1984.