John Cleese under fire for joke about offensive Liverpool stereotype

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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: John Cleese during a book signing at Waterstones Piccadilly to promote his book
John Cleese made a joke about the sterotype of Liverpudlians being theives. (Getty Images)

John Cleese has caused offence to the people of Liverpool by making a joke about the old stereotype that Scousers are thieves.

The 81-year-old Fawlty Towers star was responding to the news that car manufacturer Ford is investing £230m at its Merseyside factory.

Cleese tweeted: "Delighted to see Ford is creating 500 more jobs on Merseyside.

"Let's hope nobody half-inches the plant."

"Half-inch" is rhyming slang for steal (pinch). People from Liverpool are traditionally known as Scousers after the Scouse stew which originates from the area.

Read more: John Cleese accuses London of not being 'an English city any more'

Many Twitter users responded to Cleese's tweet to say they were "disappointed" by the "tired old stereotype" and called it a "lazy joke".

One thing people often notice about Liverpool is our purple wheel bins. What a thing to be famous for but people really love them and I know fellow togs who devote entire portfolios to them I prefer to see Liverpool and purple like this at the Pier Head.The Pier Head is a riverside location in the city centre of Liverpool, England. It is part of the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was inscribed in 2004. The site encompasses a trio of landmarks, built on the site of the former George's Dock and referred to since at least 2000 as "The Three Graces": Royal Liver Building (far left), built between 1908 and 1911 and designed by Walter Aubrey Thomas. It is a grade I listed building consisting of two clock towers, both crowned by mythical Liver Birds. The building is the headquarters of the Royal Liver Friendly Society. Cunard Building (centre), constructed between 1914 and 1916 and a grade II* listed building. It is the former headquarters of the Cunard Line shipping company. Port of Liverpool Building (right), built from 1903 to 1907 and also grade II* listed. It is the former home of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. Also seen here is the new extension of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal which now runs through to Liverpool Docks.
Royal Liver Building in Liverpool (Getty)

Scouserella tweeted: "Not all us scousers are thieves sick of being tarred with the same stereotypical brush. You get thieves everywhere but us scousers are the best, funniest and most kind hearted of all."

Ian McNabb pointed out that Liverpudlian and Beatle George Harrison’s production company HandMade Films had financed Cleese's 1979 film Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

And another Twitter user accused Cleese of stealing a joke from the 1980s.

Graham Chapman (1941-1989), John Cleese, George Harrison (1943-2001), Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones performing 'The Lumberjack Song' on stage at the City Center in New York City, New York, USA, 20 April 1976. (Photo by Steve Morley/Redferns/Getty Images)
Beatles star George Harrison, third left, performed The Lumberjack Song with Monty Python in 1976. (Getty Images)

It was recently revealed that Cleese is set to front a new TV series exploring the phenomenon of cancel culture.

The Monty Python star will meet both those affected by being cancelled and those who are behind the cancelling in Channel 4 series John Cleese: Cancel Me.

English comedian and actor John Cleese with a dead parrot soft toy, in reference to the famous Monty Python sketch, UK, 1971. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
John Cleese with a dead parrot soft toy, in reference to the famous Monty Python sketch, UK, 1971. (Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

He will question whether it is possible to make good comedy without offending someone, and look at the effects on the lives of people who have caused outrage with their work or comments.

Read more: John Cleese pokes fun at Hank Azaria's apology for Simpsons character Apu

One of Cleese's best known series is the 70s sitcom Fawlty Towers, which saw him on the receiving end of cancel culture last year when an episode titled The Germans was labelled with a content warning after briefly being removed from the BBC and UKTV while it was reviewed.

Watch: John Cleese on cancel culture

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