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The 80-year-old Monty Python star said people should not be “nasty, mean and unkind” to each other but said “affectionate teasing” was a bonding mechanism.
The first question I would say is, ‘Can you tell me a woke joke?’
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “PC stuff started out as a good idea which is, ‘Let’s not be mean to people’.
“And I’m in favour of that, despite my age. I think Jesus Christ would have agreed. The main thing is to try to be kind.
“But that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset.
“I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society.”
The former Fawlty Towers star continued: “From the point of creativity, if you have to keep thinking which words you can use and which you can’t, then that will stifle creativity.
“The main thing is to realise that words depend on their context.
“Very literal-minded people think a word is a word but it isn’t.”
Mr Cleese said teasing can be a “bonding mechanism” as well as the “nasty, mean, unkind” type designed to “put people down”, which is “completely wrong”.
He said: “There’s also affectionate teasing which is the sort of teasing we do in families and work groups that know each other, just making fun of each other in gentle ways.
“That’s a great source of fun and enjoyment, a verbal dual – who can make the best rude remarks all in an atmosphere of affection. It’s a bonding mechanism. It’s positive.
“PC people simply don’t understand this business about context because they tend to be very literal-minded.
“I would love to debate this. The first question I would say is, ‘Can you tell me a woke joke?’
“I don’t know what a woke joke would be like. It might be heart-warming but it’s not going to be very funny.”
His comments come after reports said new BBC boss Tim Davie hopes to tackle perceived left-wing bias in comedy shows.
Mr Davie is understood to want an overhaul of the broadcaster’s comedy output in the coming months amid fears it is seen as ‘too one-sided’.
Shows such as BBC Two’s satirical comedy The Mash Report and The Now Show on Radio 4 and Have I Got News For You have previously been criticised.
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Last month, singer and musician Nick Cave said political correctness had an “asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society”.
The Bad Seeds musician described “cancel culture” as “bad religion run amuck”.
BBC veteran Andrew Neil has also hit out against “woke” culture.
He said: “There seems to be a small group of people who patrol the internet looking for reasons to be aggrieved and outraged.
“That’s all their sad lives consist of. It’s time they finally got a proper life.”
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