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, created and starred in the classic sitcom Fawlty Towers and was one of the comedy troupe members behind the surreal sketch show Monty Python, both which first aired on the BBC.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Monday, he said: “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’ because I wouldn’t get five minutes into the first show before I’d been cancelled or censored.”
Today presenter Amol Rajan replied: “Well, we’ve given you five minutes today and I can promise you you haven’t been censored yet.”
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 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’.”
“Far from predictable”
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 and said: “John will have complete creative freedom to have the conversations he wants to have with the people who interest him most.
“Like John himself, it will be far from predictable.”
Reaction to the news has been quick to filter in.
Here’s a pick of what people have had to say: