Rowan Atkinson says comics should make jokes about ‘anything’ as he spoke about cancel culture
Rowan Atkinson has hit back at “cancel culture” and insisted that in a free society comedians are allowed to joke about “absolutely anything.”
The Mr Bean star, 67, said the purpose of comedy was to “have the potential to offend” and argued that humor is made to make someone look “ridiculous”.
Rowan said he thinks people should be careful about limiting what comedians can joke about as he railed against the cancellation culture.
Free speech: Rowan Atkinson (pictured in October 2018) hits back at ‘cancel culture’ and insists comedians be allowed to joke about ‘absolutely everything’
He told the Irish Times“It seems to me that the job of comedy is to offend, or to have the potential to offend, and it cannot be stripped of that potential. Every joke has a victim.”
Rowan, who has worked in comedy for more than four decades, also addressed the suggestion that jokes should “make sense” with those in power and not be pointed downward.
He added: ‘There are a lot of extremely smug and smug people in what would be considered lower in society who also deserve to be pulled up. In a truly free society you should be allowed to joke about anything.’
Speaking of the role of social media, Rowan said the platform is pulling jokes from their original content to provoke anger and that we are still learning how to use technology.
Cancel culture: The 67-year-old Mr Bean star said the aim of comedy was to “have the potential to offend” and argued that humor is made to make someone look “ridiculous”
It’s not the first time Rowan has spoken out against the cancellation culture, having previously campaigned against laws that could restrict freedom of speech and offensive language.
And in January 2021 he said: social media fill him with ‘fear of the future’ and that it has increased divisions in society and reduced tolerance.
He told the Radio Times: ‘The problem we have online is that an algorithm determines what we want to see, which ultimately leads to a simplistic, binary view of society.
“It becomes a matter of whether you are for us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be “cancelled.”
“It’s important that we are exposed to a wide spectrum of opinions, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob wandering the streets looking for someone to burn.
Restrictions: Rowan (pictured in 2018) said he thinks people should be careful about putting restrictions on what comedians can joke about
“So it’s scary for anyone who’s a victim of that mob and it fills me with fear for the future.”
He added: ‘It’s really nice that people want to connect with Mr Bean, but I don’t feel the need to be on social media. What happens there is an afterthought in my world.’
His final comments come while he’s busy promoting his latest comedy Man Vs Bee, which airs on Netflix Friday.
In the ten-part series, consisting of ten-minute episodes, Rowan stars as Trevor, a man recruited by an agency to look after wealthy strangers Christian and Nina.
But the presence of a bee in the luxurious house drives him increasingly mad, and after a succession of disastrous attempts to silence it, ending in absolute carnage, the bee buzzes away to Christian’s beloved Jag.
Comedy: Rowan (pictured in Blackadder) has previously campaigned against laws that could restrict free speech and offensive language
“What starts as a minor inconvenience for Trevor becomes an obsession that leads to massive destruction,” Rowan told the Daily Mail’s Weekend Magazine.
“The bee is the catalyst for Trevor to destroy the house and the car in various ways.”
Trevor is Rowan’s first new sitcom TV character since the pompous Inspector Raymond Fowler in BBC comedy The Thin Blue Line nearly 30 years ago, though it’s the creation that preceded him that evokes the most comparison.
The hapless buffoon Mr Bean often found himself in the sort of farcical situations Trevor has to deal with, and Rowan acknowledged that there is a similarity between the two.
“If I’m going to play a character without words—and Trevor doesn’t say much—you’ll see something that reminds me of Mr Bean,” he said.
“There will be something that will remind you of him and there are aspects of the story that are reminiscent of the kind of difficulty Mr. Bean would find himself in.
“But Trevor is a rounder character than Mr Bean, who was a two-dimensional, selfish anarchist. Trevor is nicer, so hopefully people will support him if he gets into more trouble.”
The Blackadder star also admitted that he doesn’t really enjoy filming TV shows, but likes to rehearse and see the finished product.
“If you see a TV project as a sandwich, I enjoy the bread, but not the meat in the middle,” he admitted.
New venture: His final comments come as he promotes his latest comedy Man Vs Bee, which airs Friday on Netflix
“I enjoy the rehearsal period, I enjoy working on the script and I enjoy the post-production. I enjoy the opportunity to get involved in sound mixing and editing.
“I think the movie part is terrible, but it’s something you have to do to tell the story. The irony is that’s the part I should be good at.
“But I’m playing a single character, so the pressure is on me to make the show work. There is quite a bit of stress involved, which is not nice.
“Whatever I do, I always think I can do better. I’ve felt that in every role I’ve played except Blackadder, because there was a shared responsibility for that, so I felt I was carrying the burden with others.”
Hilarious: In the ten-part series consisting of ten-minute episodes, Rowan stars as Trevor, a man recruited by an agency to take care of the household for rich strangers Christian and Nina