John Cleese Refuses to Cut ‘Life of Brian’ Scene from Stage Show After Asking Actors If He Should Remove It
Cleese’s dual status as a British comedy legend and the country’s preeminent “cancel culture” complainer was on full display this past week, starting when the Monty Python icon made headlines over a report that he was considering cutting a scene from the Life of Brian stage adaptation that had become popular among the anti-trans Twitter community for its supposedly prescient take on the issue of trans acceptance forty years before it entered public discourse. Shortly after the report of a possible cut leaked, Cleese again drew attention for roundly denouncing the notion and claiming that he had been “misrepresented” in his stance that, despite the clamorous opposition to the scene’s inclusion in the upcoming play, he will never self-censor to appease the pearl-clutchers and hand wringers who would seek to rewrite Python history.
Then we learned that this completely inane non-controversy started when Cleese directly asked the actors in the stage play’s readthrough if the scene in question would still land for modern audiences, then becoming cross when they gave their opinions that it wouldn’t. Basically, a boss asked for his employees’ thoughts on a project they were working on, then went on Twitter to complain about them when he didn’t like their answers.
On Thursday, Cleese clarified his side of the story after a number of rumors had rapidly circulated surrounding the Life of Brian stage show, which is slated to premiere in 2024. In addition to the allegation that the “Loretta” scene, Cleese was also publicly accused by his former creative partner and Spamalot writer Eric Idle of cutting the show’s finale wherein Brian and the rest of the crucified sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Cleese roundly denied both rumors, noting that “Bright Side” will remain primarily because “We don't want to upset Eric and it's his only contribution to the Life of Brian script.”
On the topic of the “Loretta” scene, Cleese tweeted, “So here you have something there’s never been a complaint about in 40 years, that I’ve heard of, and now all of a sudden we can’t do it because it’ll offend people. What is one supposed to make of that?” adding of the detractors within the cast, “These were absolutely top-class Broadway performers and they were adamant that we would not get away with doing the scene. … I asked them ‘Are Python fans not going to come because we're doing a scene they've been laughing at for 40 years?’”
According to a report from Deadline, Cleese was the one who first started the conversation at the Life of Brian readthrough about the scene’s fittingness for a stage in 2023. While it certainly seems silly to cut a scene written in the 1970s because it has been co-opted in bad faith by politically motivated Twitter warriors in the modern age, the cast didn’t see it the way Cleese had hoped they would and answered his question honestly. None of them have taken to social media to argue their side the way Cleese has done, and absolutely no one is demanding a cancelation, a boycott, the formation of an angry mob or any other number of punitive responses to the scene’s inclusion.
In short, this was a non-issue that no one is talking about besides John Cleese. Remember when he thought the BBC had canceled Monty Python?