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John Cleese pulls out of Cambridge talk after university bans Andrew Graham-Dixon for impersonating Hitler

‘I am blacklisting myself before someone else does,’ said ‘Monty Python’ star

Ellie Harrison
Wednesday 10 November 2021 18:24
John Cleese condemns 'woke jokes' and 'political correctness' in comedy

John Cleese has withdrawn from a talk at Cambridge University because the union’s president banned another speaker, the art historian and television presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon, for “impersonating” Hitler.

Cleese, who attended the university in the 1960s, tweeted this morning: “I was looking forward to talking to students at the Cambridge Union this Friday, but I hear that someone there has been blacklisted for doing an impersonation of Hitler.

“I regret that I did the same on a Monty Python show, so I am blacklisting myself before someone else does.”

In a second tweet, he added: “I apologise to anyone at Cambridge who was hoping to talk with me, but perhaps some of you can find a venue where woke rules do not apply.”

In an email to members, union president Keir Bradwell announced that Andrew Graham-Dixon had been banned from speaking at the society after a debate about good taste last week in which he caricatured Hitler.

He said in a separate letter published on Facebook that Graham-Dixon offended members when he allegedly made “deplorable remarks” and used “thoughtless and grotesque language”.

In a statement, Graham-Dixon said that he was “briefly paraphrasing HIS [Hitler’s] crass and insensitive statements about art and race”.

He said it was not his intention to upset but to persuade the audience “that bad taste and bad morality often go hand-in-hand”.

“I apologise sincerely to anyone who found my debating tactics and use of Hitler’s own language distressing; on reflection I can see that some of the words I used, even in quotation, are inherently offensive,” he added.

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Bradwell announced that the union now plans to “create a blacklist of speakers never to be invited back, and we will share it with other unions too”. He added: “Andrew will be on that list.”

Speaking to the BBC, Graham-Dixon said: "Mr Bradwell’s implication that I am a racist and anti-Semitic by placing me on his list is utterly rejected and in the context, surprising. The speech I gave was a strident attack on Hitler’s racism and anti-Semitism.”

Cleese, 82, has impersonated the Nazi leader in both Fawlty Towers and in a sketch in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The comic dedicates much of his social media presence to railing against “cancel culture”. He is also bringing out a new documentary, Cancel Me, which will reportedly see Cleese explore “why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said”, speaking to people who claim to have been “cancelled” by the mob of public opinion.

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