John Cleese Cancels Himself from Cambridge Uni Union in Protest over Blacklisting of Hitler-Mocking Historian

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 13: John Cleese attends the 55th Rose d'Or Award at Axica-Kongress- und Tagungszentrum on September 13, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Clemens Bilan/Getty Images)
Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

Monty Python’s John Cleese has taken the preemptive move to cancel himself before Cambridge University’s student union has a chance to do so, after the body blacklisted an art historian who performed a mocking impression of Adolf Hitler during a debate.

Cleese — a known Monthy Python Hitler impersonator who also in one famous scene in Fawlty Towers goosestepped around Basil Fawlty’s Torquay hotel while shouting, “Don’t mention the war” — pulled out of a talk at Cambridge Union over the blacklisting of art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, suggesting Cambridge students who still wanted to hear a speech from their university’s alumnus “find a venue where woke rules do not apply”.

Mr Cleese said on Twitter on Wednesday: “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.”

“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,” the 82-year-old added.

The Python is a graduate of Downing College, Cambridge, and was a member of the university’s Footlights comedy club, of which dozens of prominent British actors and comedians are alumni.

The row over the blacklisting of Andrew Graham-Dixon began when the art historian, during a debate on November November 4th on the motion: “This house believes there is no such thing as good taste”, caricatured Adolf Hitler to demonstrate that Nazis had bad taste because they rejected some art on racist grounds.

The president of the 200-year-old debating society Keir Bradwell — who reportedly describes himself as a ‘conservative’ — pledged: “We will create a blacklist of speakers never to be invited back, and we will share it with other unions too. Andrew will be on that list.”

The Telegraph reports that the blacklist will apply to those who have already visited the union and who student officers feel have ‘harmed’ students.

Former Cambridge Union president Andrew Lownie, who wrote a biography on the Soviet member of the Cambridge Five spy ring Guy Burgess, branded the unashamedly named “blacklist” as “Stalinist”.

While apologising for any perceived offence for making fun of the German dictator, Mr Graham-Dixon defended his use of satire, saying later in a statement: “The intention of my speech was to underline the utterly evil nature of Hitler and his regime.

“He caricatured Jewish people and black people and homosexuals in all kinds of terrible ways and curated a huge art exhibition — called Degenerate Art — as propaganda for his poisonous views.

“In my speech I caricatured him, briefly, paraphrasing HIS [Hitler’s] crass and insensitive statements about art and race.”

He added — perhaps expecting too much from the current student generation: “I’d hoped this was crystal clear to all present.”

“My point was that evil ideas in the sphere of art can have untold and even atrocious consequences in the rest of life. Those familiar with my work will know that I have always spoken out against racism or any form of discrimination… It was not my intention to upset anybody, merely to persuade them that bad taste and bad morality often go hand in hand,” he added.

The 60-year-old art historian also defended himself against the insinuation by the student leader that he was racist, telling the BBC: “Mr Bradwell’s implication that I am 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.”

The list of self-imposed exiles from Woke Cambridge could grow, with Louis de Bernières, author of the wartime fiction novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, demanding to be put on the blacklist.

Writing to the Times letters section, Mr de Bernières said he had written to Mr Bradwell “to ask him to put me on his blacklist” and urged “all historians, writers, artists, scientists and public intellectuals to write to any student union, academic or public institution that practises cancel culture, demanding to be put on their blacklist. I also call on them to boycott these institutions absolutely.”

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