John Cleese sparks outrage by calling Monty Python’s Graham Chapman a ‘poof’ on BBC Radio 4

Josh Jackman July 31, 2018
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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 21: In this handout photo, Fawlty Towers creator and co-writer, John Cleese, introduced the media to Stephen Hall, who will play the role of Basil Fawlty and Blazey Best as Sybil Fawlty in the world premiere tour of Fawlty Towers-Live on stage at Park Hyatt Hotel on March 21, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. Details of the full cast will be announced soon. (Photo by James Morgan/Getty Images)

Cleese used the slur while saying he wasn't allowed to use it (James Morgan/Getty)

John Cleese has caused a backlash after referring to his fellow Monty Python member Graham Chapman as a “poof” on BBC Radio 4.

The 78-year-old comedy legend was asked about diversity during this morning’s (July 31) Today show, after his fellow Python Terry Gilliam hit out at efforts to increase diversity earlier this month.

Gilliam called the idea of increasing minority representation “bulls**t,” adding that “I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian… My name is Loretta and I’m a BLT, a black lesbian in transition.”

British-US director Terry Gilliam poses on May 19, 2018 during a photocall for the film "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)
Gilliam has sparked outrage before, with inflammatory comment about the #MeToo movement (LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty)

Cleese, who also starred in Fawlty Towers, was asked by host Nick Robinson: “In this climate, is it fair to say your cast wasn’t particularly diverse?”

He responded: “Well that’s true. As you know Terry has decided he’s a black lesbian.

“And Graham Chapman – I’m not allowed to use the word ‘poof,’ am I? What have I got to say?”

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)
Listeners expressed their outrage at the comment (Clemens Bilan/Getty)

Robinson pointed out that he had already used the slur on the show – which is broadcast live – leading Cleese to respond, laughing: “Right. Graham was homosexual and also dead. So that’s a certain amount of diversity.”

This was a reprise of Cleese’s initial response to criticism of Monty Python for its lack of diversity, which saw him tell the press that the group had “a poof” and “no slave-owners.”

The fact that he said it on BBC Radio 4, however, shocked listeners.

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)
Cleese has previously joked that Monty Python was okay on diversity because it had “no slave-owners” (Clemens Bilan/Getty)

One listener wrote: “John Cleese on @BBCr4today plugging his daughter’s Edinburgh show while complaining about corruption & bemoaning inability to call people poofs these days. aha.

“Stick to skewering the DM, mate, there’s a worthwhile cause.”

“He really is quite embarrassingly ghastly,” responded another person.

One listener wrote to Robinson, saying: “Disappointed not to hear you challenge @JohnCleese more on his homophobic language.

“Great comic actor. Disappointingly dated prejudice.”

Another said Cleese “whines about attempts to promote diversity in BBC comedy” and “uses the word ‘poof’ on the radio.

“Hurry up and f**k off to your little island, John, you t**t,” they added.

One listener said: “John Cleese on @BBCr4today: ‘I can’t say poof can I?’

“No John, you can’t.”

In April, a bishop who resisted the legalisation of homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago appeared to defend jailing gay people in an interview on the Today programme.

Bishop Victor Gill claimed that “if homosexuality is gonna be decriminalised, it will criminalise Christian freedom.”

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: John Cleese (L) and Terry Gilliam attend the "Monty Python And The Holy Grail" Special Screening during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 24, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival)
Cleese and Gilliam (Stephen Lovekin/Getty)

And last year, Heather Brunskell-Evans, a research fellow at King’s College London, was barred from delivering a university lecture after she made anti-trans comments on Radio 4’s Moral Maze.

More: Anti-gay, BBC, BBC Radio 4, Gay, john cleese, Monty Python, Radio, terry gilliam, today, UK

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