John Cleese in mock ‘apology to white people’ as Hank Azaria regrets Apu role on Simpsons

John Cleese reveals Fawlty Towers scene he would 'redo'

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Veteran actor John Cleese, 81, has mocked an apology issued by The Simpsons’ voice actor Hank Azaria. Hank had voiced the role of store worker, Apu, on the hit animated show.

I would like to apologise on behalf of Monty Python for all the many sketches we did making fun of white English people.

John Cleese

American actor Hank, 56, had voiced the South Asian character from 1989 until 2020, following the release of a 2017 documentary entitled The Problem with Apu, which explored the negative stereotypes, racial microaggressions and slurs against Indians and South Asians.

He then apologised to “every single Indian person” for taking on the role after it had been said that the character had impacted Indian people across America.

During an appearance on a podcast, Hank said that the character had played a part in “structural racism” over the course of his 30-year stint.

He said: “I was speaking at my son’s school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input.

“A 17-year-old, he’s never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means.”

Azaria went on to tell the Armchair Expert podcast: “It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that this is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.

“I really do apologise.”

Hank continued: “I really didn’t know any better, I didn’t think about it, I was unaware how much relative advantage I had received in this country as a white kid from Queens [New York].

“Just because there were good intentions it doesn’t mean there weren’t real negative consequences to the thing that I am accountable for.”

Now, in view of his 5.7 million Twitter followers, John Cleese has issued an apology, appearing to mock Mr Azaria’s.

His tweet read: “Not wishing to be left behind by Hank Azaria, I would like to apologise on behalf of Monty Python for all the many sketches we did making fun of white English people.

“We’re sorry for any distress we may have caused.”

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Last year, Mr Cleese hit out against “political correctness” and voiced his concerns about “cancel culture” during an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today.

He said: “PC stuff started out as a good idea, which is, ‘Let’s not be mean to people’, and I’m in favour of that despite my age,

“The main thing is to try to be kind but that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset.”

Cleese continued: “I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society.

“From the point of creativity, if you have to keep thinking which words you can use and which you can’t, then that will stifle creativity.

“The main thing is to realise that words depend on their context very literal-minded people think a word is a word but it isn’t.”

John has previously addressed a racial slur used in Monty Python, indicating that it should not have been removed from UKTV.

In an episode titled The Germans, which first appeared on screens in 1975, Basil Fawlty, played by Cleese was seen marching saying: “don’t mention the war,” while stood in front of German soldiers.

Major Gowen, played by Ballard Berkeley, also used derogatory language towards the West Indies cricket team.

Addressing Major Gowen who used the N-word on more than one occasion, Cleese said: “The Major was an old fossil leftover from decades before, we were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them.

“If they can’t see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say?

“Fawlty Towers has given a large number of people a great deal of happiness, why would you want to stop that?”

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