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John Cleese pulls out of Cambridge Union appearance over Hitler row

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Actor and comedian John Cleese has appeared to “blacklist” himself from the Cambridge Union after art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon was banned from the debating society for doing an impression of Adolf Hitler.

The cast of Fawlty Towers. PA Photo: (C) BBC
The cast of Fawlty Towers. PA Photo: (C) BBC

Cleese, 82, a member of the Monty Python team and the co-writer and star of Fawlty Towers - cited by many as one of the best TV sitcoms of all time - tweeted on Wednesday (November 10) that he was “looking forward” to talking to students at the Union this Friday (November 12), but that he had decided to pull out following the treatment of Mr Graham-Dixon.

“I was looking forward to talking to students at the Cambridge Union this Friday, but I hear that someone there has been blacklisted for doing an impersonation of Hitler,” he wrote. “I regret that I did the same on a Monty Python show, so I am blacklisting myself before someone else does.”

He then added: “I apologise to anyone at Cambridge who was hoping to talk with me, but perhaps some of you can find a venue where woke rules do not apply.”

John Cleese. Picture: PA
John Cleese. Picture: PA

One Twitter user replied criticising Mr Cleese’s use of the term ‘woke’ by saying “I admire and respect you, but please don’t use ‘woke’ in this context. It’s demeaning to people who want a fairer world for everyone, something I am positive you would support”.

Mr Graham-Dixon, who spoke in a debate last Thursday (November 4) on the motion ‘This house believes there is no such thing as good taste’, has now been banned from the Union, the oldest debating society in the world - which was founded in 1815 - for impersonating the Austrian-born dictator.

Cambridge Union president Keir Bradwell said the remarks were “grotesque” and apologised for his lack of intervention at the time. Mr Graham-Dixon issued an apology but said that his impersonation of the leader of the Nazi Party was done to “underline the utterly evil nature of Hitler”.

The Cambridge Union has been asked to confirm that this Friday’s event has definitely been cancelled. For more on the Union, go to cus.org.

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