John Cleese claims he's 'up against the literal-minded' as he removes racial slurs from stage version of Fawlty Towers

John Cleese claims he's 'up against the literal-minded' as he removes racial slurs from stage version of Fawlty Towers

WATCH HERE: John Cleese reveals how a man DIED laughing at one of his movies

GB News
Lauren Williams

By Lauren Williams

Published: 02/05/2024

- 21:17

Fawlty Towers was aired by the BBC in 1975 and 1979, with only 12 episodes ever being broadcast

John Cleese has revealed that he has made the decision to take out any racial slurs from the upcoming stage production of 70's BBC hit show Fawlty Towers.

The show saw Basil Fawlty (played by Cleese) and his bossy wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) run their dysfunctional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay in Devon.

Basil and Sybil were often joined by their sensible chambermaid Polly (Connie Booth) who was the peacemaker and voice of reason, and the hapless and English-challenged Spanish wait Manuel (Andrew Saches).

Confirmation of the show being taken to the stage came earlier this year, with Cleese later revealing he had written a two-hour play based on three episodes from the series - The Hotel Inspector, The Germans and Communication Problems.

The production will debut at London's Apollo Theatre on May 15, close to five decades after the first episode was filmed at the BBC TV Centre in December 1974.

Cleese has admitted that the slurs from the original version of The Germans episode will be taken out of the new adaptation.

Basil Fawlty

Fawlty Towers was a hit comedy show on the BBC in the 70s


During the original episode, army veteran Major Gowen used the N-word when referring to a Caribbean cricketer, and another racial slur to describe an Asian cricketer.

Speaking about the decision to take them out, Cleese said at a recent press conference: "Those scenes where the Major used a couple of words you can’t use now, racial slurs they would come under, we took them out.

"There’s always a problem with comedy that you deal with the literal-minded. Whenever you’re doing comedy you’re up against the literal-minded and the literal-minded don’t understand irony. And that means if you take them seriously, you get rid of a lot of comedy.

"Because literal-minded people don’t understand metaphor, irony or comic exaggeration. People who are not literal-minded can see there are various different interpretations, depending on different contexts."

John Cleese

John Cleese is excited about the upcoming show


Director Caroline Jay Ranger, from Only Fools And Horses The Musical and Monty Python Live, will helm the upcoming stage adaptation.

Basil, will be played by Adam Jackson-Smith, as he attempts to ingratiate himself with guests he suspects are posing as hotel inspectors.

Despite having to make some changes to the episode, Cleese was excited for the show to come to life and added: "What a thrill to be bringing Fawlty Towers to the West End for the first time.

"We’ve been involved in the casting process for some time, being constantly reminded of what a wealth of acting talent we have in Britain – sorting the very, very, very good from the merely very, very good.

John Cleese

John Cleese made an admission about the new stage show


"Finally, we assembled a top-class group of comedy actors who will bring the show to the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.

"I’ve adapted three of my favourite episodes for the stage and written one huge finale, which will bring together the endings of all three episodes," the 84-year-old said.

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