North East comedy legend Rowan Atkinson has attacked online cancel culture and censorship, describing social media as a place where medieval mobs roam “the streets looking for someone to burn”.
In an interview with the Radio Times, the star, born in Consett, County Durham, slammed social media’s tendency to divide and silence public debate, saying: “It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be cancelled.”
Rowan said: “The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society. It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion.”
When asked about the impact of social media on public debate and comedy, he said it was scary “for anyone who’s a victim of that mob and it fills me with fear about the future.”
Rowan, 65, also spoke of the possibility of Blackadder making a comeback after 30 years – the last full series was on our screens in 1989 with Blackadder Goes Forth.
“It’s certainly not impossible,” he said. “That’s about as optimistic as I can be, and I’d rather not speculate on when it could be set.
“But Blackadder represented the creative energy we all had in the 80s. To try to replicate that 30 years on wouldn’t be easy.”
One such character he doesn’t like so much is the bumbling Mr Bean. While he confessed that “watching an adult behaving in a childish way without being remotely aware of his inappropriateness is fundamentally funny”, he never enjoyed playing Mr Bean.
But he will still voice him in the animated versions, with a cartoon film in the pipeline.
Rowan said: “It’s easier for me to perform the character vocally than visually. I don’t much enjoy playing him. The weight of responsibility is not pleasant.
“I find it stressful and exhausting, and I look forward to the end of it.”