Woke War III: Graham Norton Beefs With John Cleese And J.K. Rowling
The BBC’s biggest chat show host has had enough of British icons and billionaires who complain about being “canceled.”
Following the news that Monty Python co-founder John Cleese is joining the conservative television station GB News after spending much of his twilight years railing against “cancel culture” and “wokeism,” Graham Norton delivered a dose of cold water to Cleese and the rest of the oppressed British elite in an interview with Times Radio at the Cheltenham Literature Festival this past Wednesday, saying, “In what world are you canceled? I think the word is the wrong word. I think the word should be accountability."
The Irish actor, author, comedian, and five-time BAFTA winner addressed Cleese’s complaints about the shifting tides of social awareness, saying, “It must be very hard to be a man of a certain age, who’s been allowed to say what he wants for years, and now suddenly there’s some accountability. It’s free speech, but it’s not consequence-free.”
Naturally, as one can expect of any conversation about deliberately obtuse and obscenely wealthy British media icons, the topic of discussion moved to Harry Potter author and transgender-bathroom-use 'expert' J.K. Rowling. Graham Norton provided his own point of view on the complicated issue of transgender rights in the U.K. by deferring to the actual experts, saying, “talk to trans people, talk to the parents of trans kids, talk to doctors, talk to psychiatrists, to someone who can illuminate this in some way. I’m very aware that, as a bloke of the telly, your voice can be artificially amplified, and once in a blue moon, that can be good, but most of the time, it’s just a distraction. It’s for clicks.”
After English singer and activist Billy Bragg retweeted a snippet of the interview while praising Norton for his measured eloquence on the matters, J.K. Rowling had a sensible and definitely-not-blown-out-of-proportion response to Norton’s comments, tweeting, “Very much enjoying the recent spate of bearded men stepping confidently onto their soapboxes to define what a woman is and throw their support behind rape and death threats to those who dare disagree. You may mock, but takes real bravery to come out as an Old Testament prophet.” Unfortunately, Rowling used up her 280 characters on that diatribe, so she wasn’t able to attach her source on Graham Norton supporting “rape and death threats.”
An openly gay Irish comedian isn’t exactly our idea of an “Old Testament prophet,” and Graham Norton isn’t interested in engaging with a shouting match with licensed endocrinologist and geneticist J.K. Rowling – Graham elected to remove himself from the situation and delete his Twitter, which is probably the most sensible thing any of us can do whether we’re feuding with a bigoted billionaire or not.
The dialogue among U.K. comedians surrounding issues like transgender rights is too often dominated by the most boorish and uninformed voices – Ricky Gervais has contributed his share of tasteless takes on the issue of trans acceptance. Peep Show’s Robert Webb and The I.T. Crowd creator Graham Linehan both made very public attacks on the controversial charity and advocacy group “Mermaids” back in 2018 over its alleged support of gender-affirming care for trans youth in the U.K.
It’s reassuring to see that at least one comedian in Britain wants us to listen to the experts – both the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology (AACE) and the global organization the Endocrine Society have published guidelines emphasizing the safety and importance of hormone therapy for both adults and adolescents who suffer from gender dysphoria, but in the United Kingdom, the rules regarding hormone therapy and the availability of treatment as provided by the National Health Service is a highly politicized issue that has somehow attracted the attention of the comedy community’s most disappointing icons.
As for ongoing culture war over words like “woke” and “canceled,” if J.K. Rowling and John Cleese are canceled, then, frankly, no one bothered to tell their bank accounts. Also, what has John Cleese done that the “woke” crowd would find offensive? Are snowflakes triggered by the word “ni?"