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John Cleese responds to slavery joke backlash after microphone was “confiscated”

"The room was easily read. It was a contagious, and hugely affectionate laughterfest"

By Hollie Geraghty

John Cleese in an TV interview
John Cleese has responded to the backlash (Picture: YouTube)

John Cleese has responded to reports that he had his microphone taken away on a panel after making a slavery joke.

The actor, writer and comedian made the controversial joke at a speaking event in Austin, Texas last week (March 11) which resulted in him having his microphone taken away.

Hosting the ‘John Cleese in Conversation’ event as part of SXSW, where he was joined on stage by comedians Duclé Sloan, Jim Gaffigan and Ricky Velez, the actor began discussing colonialism with his panellists.

“[People] get competitive about this business of being oppressed. You do know the British have been slaves twice, right?” Cleese said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Sloan then reportedly took Cleese’s microphone away from him, and told the crowd: “I saved a comic whose career I respect.”

Now, Cleese and moderator Dan Pasternack have claimed the move was made in humour.

Posting on Twitter, the ‘Fawlty Towers’ and ‘Monty Python’ actor wrote: “Next time the Editor of the Hollywood Reporter sends someone to review a Comedy Festival he would do well to send a reporter with a sense of humour. Otherwise it’s like sending someone deaf to review a concert.”

He has responded to a number of replies from those who have maintained the joke was in bad taste.

“The ridiculousness of the comparison was the joke,” he told one twitter user. “But if you lack a sense of irony, you might not realise that. But that’s not a good reason to deprive people who do understand irony of a good laugh.”

He wrote in another tweet: “The room was easily read. It was a contagious, and hugely affectionate laughterfest. My best experience since the Python shows at the O2.”

After Cleese made the joke at the event, he continued his speech without a microphone. “I want reparations from Italy. And then the Normans came over in 1066… they were horrible people from France and they colonised us for 30 years and we need reparations there too, I’m afraid.”

“The thing is, I’m going to be dead soon,” he later told the crowd of the joke. “That’s why I’m in favour of global warming – I don’t want to be cold ever again.”

The actor is set to release a documentary on cancel culture, titled ‘John Cleese: Cancel Me’, later this year.

“I’m trying to figure out the good side and of it and the not so good,” he said of the upcoming release. “Some, not all, of the woke don’t understand anything about irony.”