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An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part Four)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2016/12/22


An interview with Tony Hendra. He discusses: sexual and social correctness; the simplification of life; importance of the free flow of information; most controversial thing at the moment regarding free speech; consequences if ongoing restriction of speech; and ‘last words’.

Keywords: Actor, Satirist, Tony Hendra, Writer.

An Interview with Tony Hendra: Actor, Satirist, and Writer (Part Four)[1],[2]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, &bibliography & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been mildly edited for clarity and readability.*

12. You used phrases: “sexual correctness” and “social correctness.” Those seem to be the heart of the issue. The internet is part of it. It is less about individuals. It is about controlling the larger group and not hearing things the group would consider bad, and by implication you get the individual.

Right, yes. Sexual correctness is just prudery in another word. You might be watching porn all of your life, but when you actually come across real sexual opportunities. Maybe, it makes you very nervous. By the same token, female on female or whatever it might be. You don’t want to deal with the reality of actual things because it is very much more complicated and very much more likely to be disappointing and not be as easy to control, as it has been in your young life hitherto.

Similarly, with social encounters with diverse people and so forth, and people of different views, and people who present temperamental threats to you, you have not had to worry about that because you friend who like and unfriend people you don’t. I think we can say, “Thanks internet, for a lot of this.”

13. In a way, it is a simplification of the ecosystem of real life. People live in their bubbles.

Yea, exactly. There is actually a very good article by Andrew Sullivan on this, which is about giving it all up, giving up the connected, giving up your cell phone, giving up your computer, giving up your favourite blogs, and all of the rest of it. It may be the first of a number of articles like that, I think. I hope it is. Obviously, the internet is incredibly valuable in all kinds of ways, practical ways. It isn’t valuable to me in terms of my growth as an individual or my destiny as an individual either. I do not think.

To be reductionist about it, when you really get down to it, the internet is basically small television, litle television. Except, you can carry it in your fist rather than having it on a piece of furniture across the room. Since I am not interested in television, I am not very interested in the internet. This album is supposed to dramatize it. I think it probably does quite successfully.

14. It is targeting a set of ideas and activities that are ongoing and I, personally at least, find that it has the comedy, but that it is thematic at a deeper level. It is really looking at what is the absurdity in restriction of speech by others, for anyone. 


We’re in a pluralistic, democratic society, where it (free speech) is, in essence, to a large extent the fluid to keep things going – where you can have free flow of information from mind to mind, device to device, or whatever it may be.

Right, indeed. One thing that I say when I am talking about this in public, which I do, rarely. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between telling me I have to avoid a whole set of subjects and do so on the pain of not being able to make my living (the way I make my living), and the terrorist who says you’re not allowed to speak about the Prophet in any way, or speak about Islam in any way, or we’ll cut your head off. I don’t see much difference, frankly. I don’t see much difference between those two impulses. They’re both trying to stop me thinking and saying things that I have a perfect right to do – a perfect right to think and say.

15. What do you think is the most controversial ongoing topic at the moment, internationally, with respect to the theme we’ve been discussing so far about freedom of speech and freedom of ideas?

One of the recurrent themes is one that I don’t particularly want to get into with any detail, but it is certainly, at least within this country, extremely hard to have any real discussions about Israel without there being repercussions that you can’t particularly control. That’s a shame. Not necessarily that I have a rigid view about Israel, I have a lot of friends that live there and a lot that support Israel. I don’t take much issue with it.

But I think it is appalling that you can’t really have an open discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in this country without, as I say, it being fraught with landmines. In that sense, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is one of the main reasons we are encountering this huge antagonism from the Muslim world in one form or another. We need to have that discussion. We need to have it openly and frankly.

That would be where I would say American politics impinges on freedom of speech.

16. Also relevant to the new album is the fact that those who are in university become adults, become fully functional adults for the most part, those going through these experiences of restriction of their speech through trigger warnings, safe spaces, and so on. This could leave impacts on how they view things in society should be done. In a free society, in an open society in Karl Popper’s terms, that can be an issue. What do you think could be some of the consequences if these restrictions are ongoing?

You mean if my album isn’t a hit and doesn’t sell a million copies and becomes a bestseller and changes culture? That’s what you really mean, right?



If my album doesn’t sell a million copies and change the culture on campus, I will be very disappointed because it does deserve to sell a million copies and speech on campus needs to change. But clearly, if you grow up, or your formative years are formed, around the idea that you have the power, collectively or individually, to shut other people up, then that bodes extremely unwell for free speech, which is already under colossal threat.

The last thing anyone needs to be doing is trying to control speech, when they ought to be banding together to seize their democracy back from those in power who have taken it away from them, and are continuing to take it away from them. I would say that would be the most important reason why this particular trend on campus needs enormous pushback.

But friendly pushback, but real pushback, whether it is ridicule, whether it’s instruction, but I think ridicule is a more powerful way to do it; there should be consequences for trying to do this to other people. I don’t mean punitive ones, but I mean there should be consequences in terms of employment.

17. Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion about the subject matter discussed today? ‘Last words,’ as one might say.

That’s the title of a book I wrote about George Carlin. I think the burning issues of our time really do not have room for these essentially trivial attempts at suppression of speech. They really are trivial. I mean, you’re looking for a safe space. You find one. Now, you’re sitting in your safe space virtually or actually.


There was a news story about a very large asteroid grazing the Earth’s atmosphere, which means it came considerably closer to Earth’s atmosphere than other asteroids have in quite some time. So if you’re sitting in your safe space and the asteroid comes through your room and atomizes you, where are you then? How safe are you then?

I’ve said enough about triggers and micro-aggressions, but that’s really the thought I want to leave people with. The other thought I want to leave people with is to buy the album and have a good time.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Hendra.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Actor, Satirist, and Writer

[2] St. Albans School; Cambridge University.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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