John Cleese has mic taken away after making slavery joke

“[People] get competitive about this business of being oppressed,” he began

John Cleese had his microphone taken away at an onstage event after he made a controversial joke about slavery.

The comedian and actor was attending a John Cleese in Conversation event at SXSW in Austin, Texas, on March 11 alongside comedians including Duclé Sloan, Jim Gaffigan and Ricky Velez.

Cleese asked his fellow panelists who was more oppressed by colonisation and started discussing “competition” between cultures.


“[People] get competitive about this business of being oppressed,” Cleese said. “You do know the British have been slaves twice, right?”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sloan then took away Cleese’s microphone, saying: “I saved a comic whose career I respect”.

Cleese continued regardless, adding: “I want reparations from Italy.”

He continued: “And then the Normans came over in 1066… they were horrible people from France and they colonised us for 30 years and we need reparations there too, I’m afraid.”

Making light of the situation as Cleese continued in spite of his fellow comedians trying to stop him, moderator Dan Pasternack told the audience: “And this is why your phones are locked up.”


“The thing is, I’m going to be dead soon,” Cleese said later, explaining his remarks. “That’s why I’m in favour of global warming – I don’t want to be cold ever again.”

At the end of last year, John Cleese said he was planning on making a formal complaint against the BBC about the “deception, dishonesty and tone” of an interview he did with journalist Karishma Vaswani.