British comedian and actor John Cleese had no problem with joking about Christianity throughout the years of Monty Pythons’ Flying Circus (Holy Grail and Life of Brian). In an interview with liberal atheist comedian Bill Maher, Cleese explains why he doesn’t joke similarly about Islam.
In the exchange with Maher, the two men spoke about the absurdity of political correctness and groups of people than cannot be joked about. First, Cleese used the example of Mexicans. Then Maher brought up Muslims, to which Cleese admitted that people “tend to hold back a little” when joking about people that will kill them for doing so.
Maher then proceeded to tell a Muslim joke.
As an atheist, Maher has viewed all religions as equally problematic. It is interesting to watch him ‘evolve’ on this as he sees the reaction of people to his anti-Islamic positions. Toward the end of the clip, he actually concedes that if someone were to take any religion literally, Jesus would represent the figure one should do so with because he truly called for peace (an obvious yet subtle slap at Islam).
As he always tends to do, Maher then cracks a joke about that which he rejects (“no one goes to the Father except through me”) but it does seem that the more he finds himself at the center of controversy over Islam, the more he is able to see differences between Islam and Christianity.