John Cleese disappoints me

This is just sad.

It’s not even creative or original or good — it’s just a variant of the creaky dumb “I want to be an attack helicopter” “joke” that lazy right-wing comedians have been dumping on us. I guess that puts him in a particular category, a specific “social construct” if you will, that I don’t find very interesting, but good on him for being his true self.

By the way, it’s interesting his three parameters — a nationality, a profession, and a gender identity — are all social constructs as well, and are achievable with a truly deep commitment and dedication to a goal. Not that I think he’s seriously interested. He’s too wrapped up in his current identity as an indignant male-presenting British ex-comedian.

Here’s a photo of Cambodian police women. Cleese should stop fetishizing them.


  1. stroppy says

    In his private moments maybe he dresses up in Cambodian police woman drag. There are odder things to do out there.

  2. tinkerer says

    Sadly, John Cleese turned into one of those reactionary old farts he used to lampoon so adroitly. He’s not even funny any more.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    funny how age does weird things to people. Cleese hasn’t gone over the edge as close as he may be tending. No one is without any flaws, his can be glossed over by his insight which still shines. Could be worse, like EG: Tim Allen, etc

  4. tinkerer says

    I haven’t noticed any insight from for many years, he’s just an old privileged white man ranting at clouds now. He has complained that London doesn’t feel like an English city, presumably because other nationalities and ethnicities make him feel uncomfortable.

  5. KG says

    Sadly, John Cleese turned into one of those reactionary old farts he used to lampoon so adroitly. That’s why He’s not even funny any more. – tinkerer@3, with a two-word insertion

  6. PaulBC says

    John Cleese used to be funny, but was never worthy of deification. Given his age, there is also probably nothing very surprising about his reaction.

  7. Jazzlet says

    Cleese disappointed me at least a couple of decades ago, he has indeed become that which he parodied as a young man.

  8. Allison says

    I want to be a Cambodian police woman

    Well, depending on what he means by this, it might be doable.

    The easiest thing would be to just fantasize about it. There might well be “Cambodian police woman” pornography (see rule 34), which would make it easy for him.

    If he wants to dress up as one, that’s pretty easy, too. I’m sure someone would sew him a uniform, and professional drag performers could give him tips.

    But if he wants Cambodians (esp. the Cambodian government) to treat him as a Cambodian police woman, that’s a heck of a lot more work, and might not be possible.

    First, he’d have to obtain Cambodian citizenship; I don’t know what sort of naturalization process Cambodia has, if any, so this might or might not be possible.

    He’d also have to transition to female; that’s doable, as millions of trans women can attest.

    Once he’d done both, then he’d have to see what a Cambodian woman has to do to become a police officer, and whether he qualified.

    Of course, all of this takes time and effort, and I don’t see any sign that he has any real interest in doing that or even in figuring out what would be involved. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t even really want to be a “Cambodian police woman,” he’s just saying that to be an a******.

    The transphobes like to pretend that we trans women just wish to “be women” (in whatever sense) and expect it to happen. No, we have to figure out what we can do to get closer to what we want to be, and we have to learn to live with the gap between what we wish we could have and what is possible. It is never easy. Kind of like almost anything in life; like, say, wanting to be a biology professor.

    If Cleese had come out with “I identify as a helicopter,” I’d say to him: be my guest. But you will have to figure out what you mean by that and what you want to happen, and then figure out what you’d need to do to get closer to that goal, and then go out and do the hard work. If you’re not willing to do that, I see no reason to take your “I identify…” seriously.

  9. PaulBC says

    There’s really nothing that “woke” about Cleese’s best comedy. It’s absurdist and skewers at bourgeois norms, but probably requires those norms to exist for it to work.

    Aside from Monty Python, there’s Fawlty Towers. It’s hilarious, but even when I was watching it on PBS in the 80s, I was little taken aback by the stereotypes (Manuel for instance). But yeah, it’s funny. I’d watch it again.

    I can’t even say I’m disappointed, because his attitude seems consistent with someone his age and privilege who is accustomed to being able to say the first thing on his mind and get recognition for making a witty observation.

  10. susans says

    We saw Cleese perform a one-man show at one of the local universities, some years ago. It was mostly about how much he hated his mother.

  11. KG says

    As far as I can tell, he doesn’t even really want to be a “Cambodian police woman,” he’s just saying that to be an a******. – Allison@9

    And even so it was a complete waste of effort, since he’d already fully achieved the latter!

  12. microraptor says

    I believe his support for Brexit, as tinkerer mentioned in post 5, was the nail in his coffin as far as being him turning into the people he used to lampoon. Honestly can’t say that I followed him much in the last couple decades anyway.

  13. nomdeplume says

    Well, no, John, you can’t be a Cambodian policewoman, but you can, if you wish, be a Retired Comedienne living in East Cheam.

  14. gijoel says

    I want to be a rich 81 year old man. I want to be afraid of the sky. I want to yell at clouds. I want to listen to other conceited rich men on the radio, and get angry at them. I want to believe every dumb thing that feeds my fears, no matter how wrong they are. I, most importantly, don’t want to change.

  15. says

    Yeah, what Allison says.
    He thinks that “Cambodian police woman” is clever, some thing completely undoable when in reality it takes time and effort, and the ship has probably sailed on “police officer”.
    No, John, you don’t become citizen of another country or professional in any trade by just “wanting” it. But this tells you how guys like him think the world works : it owes them and c should fulfill their every whims.

  16. DanDare says

    Even the attack helicopter is in the realms of possible but immensely difficult. The hard part being how to connect a brain to the device so the device responds as a body, and keep the brain alive and undammaged.

  17. says

    @slithey tove “No one is without any flaws, his can be glossed over by his insight which still shines. ”

    That my friend can’t be glossed over. As a transgender woman that directly impacts my life, my access to care and my treatment by others. His voice (and JK Rowling) has power to tilt society, and even something tiny is a tilt I cannot ever tilt back because I don’t have his privilege. It might be something that doesn’t bother you, but would you say the same thing if he was referencing someone Jewish or someone black?

  18. John Morales says

    Yeah, he went off the rails a few years back.

    He’s become indignant, he rails against political correctness and changing tolerance. He’ll tell you it’s the same thing as railing against dogma.
    (he doesn’t see the irony, as is oft the case with the self-righteous)

    The contrast with the John Cleese who was interviewed about Holy Grail is remarkable, if a bit sad.

    or, what gijoel wrote @16, less poetically.

  19. says

    Even as early as A Fish Called Wanda, his character was built out of this side of Cleese’s personality, and in that movie it took Wanda’s concentrated influence to break him out of it and make him somewhat interesting.

    We really should have seen this coming, sad to say.

  20. says

    Some comedian needs to do a routine about how unfunny it is when unfunny comedians blame “political correctness” for their routines getting stale because they were too lazy to adapt.

  21. idontknowwhyibother says

    Is it churlish to point out that Cleese’s comment is in response to someone saying: “Why the fuck can’t you just let people be who they want to be?”

    This seems to be a response to something that is common in (some) circles, which is the idea that “you are what you say you are” (or that you “want to be”).

    I think that a great deal (no, not all)of what is seen as “anti-trans” would probably disappear if it were accepted by the trans activist community that “deep commitment and dedication to a goal” were requirements for changing one’s gender. But in fact, there seems to be a (very loud) part of that community who reject this idea, with statements such as “just let people be who they want to be.”

  22. davidc1 says

    I blame all those highly strung American women he seems to have a weakness for ,he has married about 5 or 9 of them .
    For a lad from Weston Super Mare ,it was always going to end in tears .

  23. says

    @11 What made you think it was ever anything different? Counterculture comedy was always the realm of the privileged – whether the Oxbridge elite of the UK or the Ivy League types of National Lampoon. However much they trashed bourgeois manners, they were still a part of them and never wanted to destroy them completely.

  24. KG says


    Neither do I if you’ve nothing more intelligent to say. The context you give just makes Cleese’s response even more snide, if possible.