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John Cleese to take up GB News slot

John Cleese, Bruce Baker/Creative Commons

Monty Python legend John Cleese is to to become a regular presenter on GB News, the news channel that launched in 2021 with a rosta of high profile hosts including Nigel Farage, Andrew Neill and Manchester United Foundation trustee Eamon Holmes.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today show on Monday, The Fawlty Towers creator, who frequently served as the Southern foil to Les Dawson’s working class Mancunian in the sketch show Sez Lez, Cleese defended the oft-mocked news channel, insisting that “GB is not a right-wing channel. It’s a free speech channel.”

Cleese seems likely to use his new show to continue his battle against “woke” culture, a popular theme among many of GB News’ hosts. Making a keynote speech at FreedomFest in Las Vegas earlier this year, Cleese decried cancel culture and claimed that comedians didn’t have the freedom to be funny anymore.

The comic is also due to host a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary series entitled Cancel Me, produced by Expectation, which operates its Expectation North arm from Leeds Docks. Cleese said of the doc: “I’m delighted to have a chance to find out, on camera, about all the aspects of so-called political correctness. There’s so much I really don’t understand, like how the impeccable idea of ‘Let’s all be kind to people’ has been developed in some cases ad absurdum.”

Cleese claimed to Today that he didn’t know much about GB News before being approached to front his show, before it was pointed out that he had previously tweeted that “GB News is sometimes referred to, rather wittingly, as KGB News” and had raised questions about potential Russian influence in the channel.

In August Warner Bros Discovery announced it was selling its stake in GB News, which had received disappointing ratings since launch, and lost its chairman and lead host Andrew Neil following a very public fallout.

After leaving the channel Neil, who now presents The Andrew Neil Show on Channel 4, said he felt like “a minority of one” at the network. He added to the BBC at the time that he had quit the channel because he didn’t want to be part of a “British Fox News.”

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