John Cleese claims BBC doesn’t air Monty Python anymore because it is ‘too funny’ and would put modern BBC comedy shows to shame.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme on 31 July, Cleese pointed out that Monty Python’s Flying Circus hasn’t been aired on BBC in almost two decades: “It’s not been shown for 17 years. Michael Palin told me that a few years ago.
Maybe it’s too funny. It might not contrast well with some of the comedy they’re doing now, that’s the only explanation I’ve got. People might not laugh at modern comedy,” John said.
He then singled out British sitcom Men Behaving Badly (1992-2014) as an example of poor British comedy: “Do you remember in John Birt’s reign, they had a show called Men Behaving Badly? And they had a poll of the funniest comedies of all time, and that won. It was voted number one. Have you ever heard of it since?”
The BBC no longer has the broadcast rights to Monty Python content but episodes are available to stream on Netflix.
The head of BBC comedy commissioning, Shane Allen, recently said he didn’t think Monty Python would be made today: “If we’re going to assemble a team now it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes. It’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world and have got something to say that’s different and we haven’t seen before,” he said.
Cleese responded to the criticism during his Today interview by saying Terry Gilliam: “has decided he’s a black lesbian, and Graham Chapman – I’m not allowed to use the word ‘poof’ – Graham was homosexual and also dead, so there’s a certain amount of diversity.”
His use of the word ‘poof’ has already caused social media backlash, while others rushed to defend his choice of the word:
John Cleese on @BBCr4today
“I can’t say poof can I?”
No John, you can’t.
— Emma Charlotte Smith (@WelshAlienLDN) July 31, 2018
I strongly suspect Graham thought and referred to himself as a poof. That's his generation showing.
When the hell did we start expecting Monty python members to be PC and why would we want them to be?
— CEO Russian Troll Farm Inc. (@CEORTF_Inc) July 31, 2018
No challenge from anyone on him slinging ‘poof’ into the conversation, he should have stayed frozen in time with Fawlty Towers or Diplodocus
— Paul Scholes (@misterp55) July 31, 2018
@JohnCleese John, as a homosexual, I can certify to you that the term poof is absolutely fine. I quite like it, but that might be because I’m an old poof myself
— Mark (@mkaftermidnight) August 1, 2018
Cleese also confirmed that he planned to leave the UK for a new life on the Caribbean island of Nevis later this year.