John Cleese Refuses To Change Monty Python For Modern Sensibilities

John Cleese refuses to remove a scene that some consider transphobic from the stage adaptation of Life of Brian.

By Britta DeVore | Published

john cleese

When it comes to “woke culture,” Monty Python star John Cleese isn’t having any of it. According to Deadline, the Fawlty Towers star is standing by a decision to leave a controversial scene in the stage adaptation of the beloved comedy film, Life of Brian. In a move that could be deemed transphobic and one that his American actors warned him against, the legendary performer has decided to keep in the “Loretta” scene from the 1979 movie.

For those who may not remember, the bit features a male character who comes to his friends with the decision that he wants to instead be referred to as “Loretta” and transition into a woman so that he can have a child. John Cleese’s character quickly shuts down his pal’s request while the others in the group jump to his defense, adding that it’s well within his rights to want to do so. The punch line of the schtick is “Don’t you oppress me!” with Loretta firing her upset at Cleese’s character. 

john cleese
From left to right: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Sue Jones-Davies in the “Loretta” scene of Life of Brian (1979)

Despite the initial report that John Cleese had a change of heart about the scene during a read-through with American actors, the star has since come out to say that this wasn’t in any way the case and that it would stay in the stage adaptation. He cites the fact that the scene hasn’t endured “a complaint about in 40 years” as the reason to stay with the script and that, while it may offend some viewers, he wants to leave it in. 

After consulting the team of performers – several of whom John Cleese revealed to be Tony winners – he said that his comments were taken out of context, misunderstood, and twisted by those who first reported on them. He says that although the group “had advised me strongly” to axe the scene from the theatrical adaptation, “I have, of course, no intention of doing so.” The fallout of Cleese’s decision is still up in the air as the project has yet to make its way to the stage.

First landing in theaters in 1979, Life of Brian followed the unlucky titular character who is born one stable down and on the same night as Jesus. When he meets a young rebellious woman named Judith, Brian hopes to win her affection by joining the movement that is taking up arms against the Romans. In a case of mistaken identity, Brian accidentally appears to be the Messiah to the People’s Front of Judea. Along with John Cleese, the film, which is currently streaming on Netflix, also stars Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, and Terry Jones.

John Cleese’s decision to leave the controversial “Loretta” scene in Life of Brian is the opposite of what we’ve been seeing from other projects coming out of Hollywood. From The Lord of the Rings character Aragorn being reimagined as a Black man to Disney’s ongoing battle with the state of Florida, many of those in a position of power are stepping forward to give a voice to those who aren’t being heard.