John Cleese has delighted audiences for decades. After ripping up the comedy rulebook with Monty Python in the sixties, he created, wrote and starred in the massively influential sitcom Fawlty Towers before going on to enjoy a successful film career which peaked with A Fish Called Wanda. 

Monty Python’s A Life of Brian provoked its share of controversy, but Cleese has just signed up for what may prove his most shocking role to date.

Veteran comedy performer retiring in a dignified manner with his popularity undimmed?

GB News pundit, actually.

Oh. I haven’t spoken to my uncle since last Christmas, so you’ll need to remind me what GB News is. 

A very serious and credible news channel on which Neil Oliver is a pundit. The acquisition of Nigel Farage in July 2021 signalled a lurch even further to the right, which is not typically home turf for British comedians. 

And now for something completely different?

Not really. Cleese has been taking a silly walk down this path for a few years. After taking umbrage at a 2016 column written by Fraser Nelson - in the Spectator, no less - Cleese tweeted: “Why do we let half-educated tenement Scots run our English press? Because their craving for social status makes them obedient retainers?”. 

Five years earlier he told an Australian audience that “London is no longer an English city”, comments on which he doubled down in 2019. 

READ MORE: John Cleese to make BBC complaint about 'deception, dishonesty and tone'

The man’s a comedian. What are his qualifications for appearing as a GB News pundit?

There are hours of footage in which he’s rude to a foreigner. 

Has he still got it?

His tirades against Manuel in Fawlty Towers don’t come close to the comedic genius of appearing on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme with its 6.6 million weekly listeners and bumping your gums about free speech. 

What’s the reaction been like?

Having spent years honing his ‘old man yells at cloud’ schtick, he now generates the virtual equivalent of eye-rolls. Author Otto English tweeted: “Old John Cleese has become everything young John Cleese mocked and ridiculed”. 

READ MORE: How satirical website The Onion got serious with Supreme Court

Always look on the bright side. At least his friends will stick up for him. 

Speaking to the Guardian this month, Cleese’s fellow Python Eric Idle said: “He is who he is now. The thing I try to remember is the good times when we were young and funny. And we are no longer those people or speaking to today’s generation. We’re old farts. We should be left to go quietly to bed and watch the telly”. 

Don’t mention the culture war.

Actually, do. They’re right into that.