Laughter of liberation
Eric Idle: What did Voltaire say? Once a philosopher, twice a pervert? I don’t think it’s politically correct to quote that anymore, but it’s actually Voltaire, so I think you get away with it, right?
John Cleese: You can say pervert, can’t you? (…) It’s very hard these days to know what you can say. We could say a great deal in our day, couldn’t we? People didn’t get quite so upset about things (…)
Eric Idle: Well I think that’s because Beyond the Fringe said so many upsetting things (…) it had an enormous effect on me, and I suppose it had on you too…
John Cleese: …a theatre show that came to Cambridge in 1962 and was the most brilliant show I ever saw, the funniest show I ever saw (…) and it was extraordinary ’cause up to that time England was such a deferential society. People did not impersonate the Prime Minister because it would have been disrespectful. I’m not kidding. And these guys came out and they made fun of everything. Alan Bennett did a Church of England sermon. I’ve never heard laughter like it – it was the laughter of liberation.
– Transcription of John Cleese in conversation with Eric Idle at Live Talks Los Angeles, Nov. 18th 2014. (27:50-29:50)