John Cleese Won’t Censor Life of Brian Play

John Cleese is keeping one of his masterpieces intact. The Daily Mail recently reported that Cleese is bringing Monty Python’s Life of Brian to the stage, but the article has some errors Cleese cleared up on his Twitter account. The first is that the play will not be a musical, as Daily Mail said it would. The second doesn’t seem like a misreporting since both accounts are pretty much the same, but it’s more interesting than the type of production Cleese is producing. After a read-through of the play in New York City with a bunch of actors Cleese describes as “top-class Broadway performers,” the actors advised Cleese to cut the scene where a man insists that he can decide he is a woman and has a right to give birth. You can see the scene below:

In his tweets, Cleese affirms that the scene is going nowhere:

And that’s exactly the right attitude to take. These unwritten censorship rules only stop when people stop abiding by them, and they should be treated with as much ridicule as Cleese’s character treats the guy to his right (played by Eric Idle) in the scene that’s causing histrionics among Broadway actors. It’s important to note that this happened last year; after what just happened – and is continuing to happen – to Anheuser-Busch and Target, would they be so quick to advise Cleese to cut the scene? Probably; this is a different issue than those (which are different issues from each other as well), and I don’t think the bulk of the Broadway audience would care if Cleese catered to the trans community. But it speaks highly of Cleese’s character that it wouldn’t matter to him either way.

Cleese’s unwillingness to make his work politically correct bodes well for some other projects he’s developing – ones I’m a bit more familiar with than Life of Brian (which I’ve never seen, but I’m going to rectify that). A stage production of the movie A Fish Called Wanda (an excellent film; oddly enough, I don’t find it all that funny, but the story and characters are wonderful, and every time I watch it, I want to spend more time with them when it’s over) is in the works, but the one with the most potential is a sequel series to Fawlty Towers he’s developing with his daughter, Camilla Cleese. If you’ve never seen it, Fawlty Towers is a British sitcom from the 70s created by Cleese and this then-wife Connie Booth about a grumpy, out-of-touch hotelier running a seaside resort in the south of England with his wife. It’s hilarious and well worth a watch, and the humor’s irreverence is part of what makes Cleese’s character, Basil Fawlty, so funny. When word first came of a sequel series, I figured it would be watered down and, if not woke, certainly toothless and undeserving of its predecessor’s name.

But Cleese’s attitude about Life of Brian has me excited to see Basil Fawlty again. So does the premise, which finds Fawlty and his heretofore unknown daughter running another hotel (presumably also called Fawlty Towers) in the Caribbean. Cleese describes it like this to The Telegraph:

“It’s going to be very different because if it’s in the Caribbean it will be a multicultural cast which will be very interesting. And my daughter Camilla will be playing the woman who’s running the hotel.”

The “multicultural cast” may give you pause (an unfortunate side effect of the buzzwording of things that once came naturally), but The Telegraph also says that the show will “explore how the dramatic and cynical Basil navigates the modern world.” Anyone who’s seen Fawlty Towers knows what that means, and I wouldn’t be surprised if political correctness itself is in Cleese’s crosshairs with this one.

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