John Cleese Had Some Strange Things To Say About Slavery And Global Warming At A SXSW Panel

John Cleese has spent his career challenging taboos, often going to uncomfortable places to make people laugh and think. But lately he’s been having some issues. The Monty Python and Fawlty Towers alum is no fan of what some have dubbed “woke” and “cancel culture,” which he wants to explore in a documentary, even though its existence is debatable. He’s even been accused of transphobia. None of this has stopped him from spouting off with some controversial statements, and an appearance this weekend at a SXSW panel was no different.

As per The Hollywood Reporter, Cleese appeared alongside fellow comics Jim Gaffigan, Dulcé Sloan and Ricky Velez on Friday for a panel entitled “John Cleese in Conversation.” It was supposed to be funny, but THR reports that the tone got uncomfortable when Cleese started talking about, among other things, slavery. It began when Sloan made a joke about colonization, prompting Cleese to take a defensive stance on the British Empire, saying his nation didn’t “start” colonization.

“We know, but ya’ll did it so well!” Sloan responded to laughs. “It’s the reason I’m here! I’m not supposed to be here!”
“We gave you free passage, too,” Cleese replied, drawing gasps and groans.

He then became more sincere. “History is a history of crime. It’s a history of people who were stronger beating up people who were weaker and it’s always been that. It’s deeply, deeply distasteful. But to pretend that one lot were worse than another – you do know the British have been slaves twice, right?”

Sloan then changed the subject, but Cleese circled. “[People] get competitive about this business of being oppressed,” Cleese said. “We were oppressed, the English, by the Romans for 400 [years], from about 0 to 400.”

He then appeared to joke about reparations, an idea floated in America in reference to slavery. “I want reparations from Italy,” Cleese told the crowd. “… and then the Normans came over in 1066 … they were horrible people from France and they came and colonized us for 30 years – we need reparations there too, I’m afraid.”

After Cleese seemed to try and shock the crowd, beginning to make a joke about Jewish people, Sloan stood up and confiscating his microphone. She eventually returned it, which allowed him to muse about one of the most troubling subjects of our era.

“Well, the thing is, I’m going to be dead soon,” Cleese told the crowd. “That’s why I’m in favor of global warming – I don’t want to be cold ever again.”

In response, moderator Dan Pasternack cracked, “Where you’re going you won’t be!”

The panel ended with Sloan and Cleese hugging it out. All in all, these are far from the most shocking things Cleese has said recently, much less in the distant past. But it sure kicked off SXSW in strange fashion.

(Via THR)