John Cleese Biography
John Cleese (John Marwood Cleese) was born on 27th October 1939 in Weston-super-Mare, United Kingdom. He is an English actor, voice actor, screenwriter, producer, and comedian.
Cleese was educated at St Peter’s Preparatory School, where he received a prize for English and did well at cricket and boxing. When he was 13, he was awarded an exhibition at Clifton College, an English public school in Bristol. He could not go straight to Cambridge, as the ending of National Service meant there were twice the usual number of applicants for places, so he returned to his prep school for two years to teach science, English, geography, history, and Latin. He then took up a place he had won at Downing College, Cambridge, to read Law. He also joined the Cambridge Footlights. Cleese graduated from Cambridge in 1963 with a 2:1.
John Cleese Age
John Cleese was born 27th October 1939 in Weston-super-Mare, United Kingdom.
John Cleese Eric Idle
John Cleese and Eric are two comedians who at times perform together on the same stage. On 16th October to 3rd December 2016 they toured North America.
John Cleese Autobiography
This is the story of how a tall, shy youth from Weston-super-Mare went on to become a self-confessed legend. En route, John Cleese describes his nerve-racking first public appearance, at St Peter’s Preparatory School at the age of eight and five-sixths; his endlessly peripatetic home life with parents who seemed incapable of staying in any house for longer than six months; his first experiences in the world of work as a teacher who knew nothing about the subjects he was expected to teach; his hamster-owning days at Cambridge; and his first encounter with the man who would be his writing partner for over two decades, Graham Chapman. And so on to his dizzying ascent via scriptwriting for Peter Sellers, David Frost, Marty Feldman and others to the heights of Monty Python.
John Cleese Harry Potter
He portrayed Nearly Headless Nick in the first two Harry Potter films.
John Cleese Fawlty Towers
Fawlty Towers is a British television sitcom broadcast on BBC Two in 1975 and 1979. Only 12 episodes were made (two series of six episodes each). The show was created and written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, who also starred in the show. They were married at the time of series 1, but divorced before recording series 2. The show was ranked first on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000.
John Cleese Marriages
In 1968 he married Connie Booth and in 1971 Booth gave birth to Cynthia Cleese. In 1981 he married actress Barbara Trentham. In 1984 their daughter Camilla was born. They divorced in 1990. In 1992 he married he married American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger. They divorced in 2008. The divorce settlement left Eichelberger with £12 million in finance and assets, including £600,000 a year for seven years.
John Cleese Wife – John Cleese Spouse
In August 2012 John Cleese married Jennifer Wade, an English jewellery designer and former model.
John Cleese Children – John Cleese Daughter
John Cleese married Connie Booth in 1968 and in 1971, Booth gave birth to Cynthia Cleese, their only child. Cleese’s second child, daughter Camilla with American actress Barbara Trentham was born in 1984.
John Cleese Religion
In March 2015, in an interview with Der Spiegel, he was asked if he was religious. Cleese stated that he didn’t think much of organised religion and said he was not committed to “anything except the vague feeling that there is something more going on than the materialist reductionist people think”.
John Cleese Height
He stands at 6′ 6″ (1.98 m).
John Cleese Movies and TV Shows
John Cleese Movies
- 1988: A Fish Called Wanda
- 1975: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- 1979: Monty Python’s Life of Brian
- 1997: Fierce Creatures
- 2002: Die Another Day
- 1983: Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
- 2001: Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone
- 1986: Clockwise
- 1999: The World Is Not Enough
- 2004: Shrek 2
- 1971: And Now for Something Completely Different
- 2002: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- 2007: Shrek the Third
- 1981: Time Bandits
- 2006: Charlotte’s Web
- 2008: The Day the Earth Stood Still
- 1985: Silverado
- 2001: Rat Race
- 2009: The Pink Panther 2
- 1997: George of the Jungle
- 1999: The Out-of-Towners
- 2016: Trolls
- 2009: Planet 51
- 1989: Erik the Viking
- 2011: Winnie the Pooh
- 1991: An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
- 2010: Shrek Forever After
- 2003: Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
- 1981: The Great Muppet Caper
- 2000: Isn’t She Great
- 1994: The Swan Princess
- 2012: A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman
- 1994: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
- 2005: Valiant
- 2004: Around the World in 80 Days
- 2008: Igor
- 1994: The Jungle Book
- 1993: Splitting Heirs
- 1969: How to Irritate People
- 2013: Planes
- 2015: Absolutely Anything
- 1983: Yellowbeard
- 2002: The Adventures of Pluto Nash
- 1987: The Wind in the Willows
- 2010: Spud
- 1969: The Magic Christian
- 1982: Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl
- 2003: George of the Jungle 2
- 2006: Man About Town
- 2011: The Big Year
- 1989: The Big Picture
John Cleese TV Shows
- 1975 – 1979: Fawlty Towers
- 1969 – 1974: Monty Python’s Flying Circus
- 1967: At Last the 1948 Show
- 1966 – 1967: The Frost Report
- 2002: Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)
- Since 2009: Monty Python: Almost the Truth (Lawyers Cut)
- 1989: Parrot Sketch Not Included – 20 Years of Monty Python
- 1998: Monty Python Live at Aspen
- 2006: Monty Python’s Personal Best
- 1999: Python Night – 30 Years of Monty Python
- 2001 – 2002: Disney’s House of Mouse
- 1976 – 1979: Ripping Yarns
- 1973 – 2010: Last of the Summer Wine
- 1999 – 2003: Casper & Mandrilaftalen
- 1961 – 1975: Comedy Playhouse
- 2014: Monty Python Live (Mostly)
- 2004: Britain’s Best Sitcom
- Since 1999: 100 Greatest
- 2015 – 2017: Dawn of the Croods
- Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- 1969 – 1976: Sez Les
- Grime Goes Green
- Since 1995: Look at the State We’re In!
- Since 1967: Misleading Cases
- 1982: Whoops Apocalypse
- Since 2009: Just for Laughs
- 2008: Batteries Not Included
John Cleese Interview
How did the Python team manage itself? Who made the final decisions?
John Cleese: Python always was democracy run riot. There was no senior person, no pecking order, no hierarchy. It was always a question of reading things out, and if they made people laugh, they were put in the show. If people didn’t laugh, they almost certainly weren’t. That was the litmus test. Had we been trying to portray a philosophy or something like that, there would have been much more argument. When we made Life of Brian, which I think is definitely our best work, it just happened that we all pretty much agreed on what religion wasn’t. If we’d tried to agree on what religion should be, we would have always been arguing and unable to reach a common viewpoint. When you’re dealing with humor, it’s very simple: Is it funny or not?
You’ve said that, if not for Monty Python, you would have become an accountant or a lawyer, settled down, and shot yourself. That suggests a pretty bleak reality for the rest of us. Any words of advice?
John Cleese: I was exaggerating for comic reasons. What’s true is that I would have found it relatively difficult to do a completely routine job.
In your career you’ve had periods of close collaboration with other creatives and periods of very focused individual expression. Do you work better alone or with partners?
John Cleese: It depends on the subject matter. I’m writing my autobiography now, and I don’t think there’s any point at all in doing that with anyone else. But traditionally, comedy writers have worked in pairs, and I like that. I do believe that when you collaborate with someone else on something creative, you get to places that you would never get to on your own. The way an idea builds as it careens back and forth between good writers is so unpredictable. Sometimes it depends on people misunderstanding each other, and that’s why I don’t think there’s any such thing as a mistake in the creative process. You never know where it might lead.
What in your view is the lasting impact of Python?
John Cleese: I have no idea. I think you’ll have to ask people who watch it. All I know is that, for reasons that none of us understand, it just seems to go on and on and on. In America, in particular, every new young generation seems to rediscover it, which is a mystery to us. I think it’s because the Python attitude toward life is to suggest how absurd everything is, and when people are younger they often look around and think it’s all a bit crazy. Humor is fundamentally a sense of perspective, and as I’ve grown older I’ve just gone back to the position I had when I was 15 or 16, when I thought most of what was going on was absolutely ridiculous. I’ve now re-reached that position at the age of 74.
Being funny, in my mind, requires a subversive outlook. Is that hard to maintain as you become successful and a larger stakeholder in society?
John Cleese: I don’t think so. I think people sometimes are less productive as they get older because it’s easy to see that work is just part of life, not the whole of it. When you’re in your thirties and making your way, your career is enormously important, but at a certain point you let go of the need to impress yourself on the world, create a reputation, and inflate your ego, and you start enjoying other things. That probably means you become less productive, but it doesn’t mean you become less funny. The best definition of humor I ever came across was from the philosopher Henri Bergson, who said it was “a social sanction against inflexible behavior.” People tend to laugh together at something they disapprove of, and it is far more subjective than most people realize. What will make one audience laugh will not necessarily make another one laugh, and that can be the difference between Wednesday night and Thursday night in the same town. What Bergson means is that if you behave appropriately for what is happening around you, you are not really funny. If there is a kind of psychological rigidity that forces you to behave in a particular way, and you behave absurdly, that will be funny.
You went through an interesting reinvention and started doing the business training courses. What on Earth convinced you that you were qualified to do that?
John Cleese: Nothing. When I started, it was the idea of a fellow called Tony Jay, now Sir Anthony Jay, who wrote the comedy series Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. We were dealing with subjects like how to run an interview or how to reach a decision or how to conduct a meeting, and we used to meet with the top experts in Britain and prepare the scripts in collaboration with them. We always discovered that when we added something creative, it seemed to do much better in the marketplace.
So from that experience, did you come up with a few basic lessons for leaders?
John Cleese: In the book Life and How to Survive It, which I developed with Robin Skynner, we decided that the ideal leader was the one who was trying to make himself dispensable. In other words, he was helping the people around him acquire as many of his skills as possible so he could let everyone else do the work and just keep an eye on things, minimizing his job and the chaos that would come with a transfer of authority.
Should businesses be funny?
John Cleese: I’ve always advocated humor in advertising. The people making the product think that it’s their life, their mortgage, their children’s education. But that’s not how customers look at it, so you need to create a warm and humorous atmosphere around a product to make it attractive. This is cultural, though. In America, a straight hard sell is more acceptable than in England and most of Europe.
What’s your take on office humor? Be funny and risk offending a colleague, or bite your tongue?
John Cleese: I don’t think there is any hard-and-fast rule. I do think political correctness can lead to the point where people really can’t be spontaneous. Ordinary human behavior becomes very difficult because people are self-conscious, and an enormous amount is lost in that atmosphere. But I think it’s the usual thing: If you’ve got decent people around, you don’t really need rules. The more unscrupulous and selfish people become, the more you do. So are you living in a healthy society or an unhealthy one?
Employees often feel obligated to laugh at their bosses’ jokes. So how can leaders figure out if they’re actually funny?
John Cleese: I’m told that in large organizations, people do keep half an eye on the boss to see if he laughs before they laugh themselves. Somebody once suggested that this is why the audiences in Ottawa were not just quieter but also a little slower to respond, because they were politicians who needed to check how people were reacting before they reacted themselves.
I’m sure you get this question all the time, but what’s the difference between British and American comic sensibilities?
John Cleese: I think there is a much bigger difference between the humor in Kansas or Arkansas and the humor in New York and San Francisco than there is between London and New York. My feeling is that the real dichotomy in America is between the Midwest, the people who tend to be literal-minded, and the people on the coasts and in and around Chicago and the Great Lakes, who have got a much more ironic sense of humor.
As a scripted comedian, what do you think about the rise of improv?
John Cleese: The delights of improv have always rather escaped me. I don’t know why it’s considered a major art form. I don’t mean that it’s not interesting or skillful. But over the years all the comedians that I’ve respected—I could also say all the comic writers—are people who put words down on paper and went on working on them until they felt they couldn’t improve them anymore. That seems to me the most important and interesting part of comedy. The other is sort of a party trick, which I respect, but it doesn’t seem to me that it should be regarded at the same level. I got an Oscar nomination for the script of A Fish Called Wanda, which had been through 13 drafts, and by the end of it, I really felt I had brought it all together. That is not a feeling I have with improv. They don’t really build to any kind of dramatic climax or comedic climax.
Do you see yourself as a perfectionist?
John Cleese: There are two ways you can be a perfectionist. One is that you can really try to make it absolutely as good as you can, which is what I do every night when I go onstage. I know that it’s not going to be a perfect performance. I know that at some point, I will mistime something, I will fluff a line, I will miss a laugh. But I make it as good as I can, and afterward I quickly review it in my mind and think about what to change the next night, and then I go have a drink. The other sort of perfectionism is to go on agonizing about it and saying, “Oh, I shouldn’t have made those mistakes.” You want to try to achieve perfection, but you don’t want to beat yourself up about it. Of course, if you look at the great artists, you have to agree, they’re basically obsessional about what they do. Their life almost takes second place. Picasso was not stopping at 3:00 in the afternoon to play tennis.
Years ago you worked for Newsweek. What was that experience like?
John Cleese: Just for a single month, I went into the office and sat in on the meetings. I wasn’t qualified to do the writing, and I had a mentor, Everett Martin, who was to keep an eye on me. But then he got pulled away after about the second week, and there I was, as it were, in a canoe without a paddle. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and eventually I was asked to write a preparatory obituary for Sukarno, who at that time seemed to be about 35 and in the peak of physical condition. And I realized that I was just being gently sidelined so that I couldn’t do any harm. At that point I wrote a letter of resignation, because I liked my editor, Bob Christopher, much too much to put him in the embarrassing position of having to fire me.
Strangers must come up to you frequently and start doing their favorite skits from Python or Life of Brian. I imagine that might be the least pleasant experience that could happen to you.
John Cleese: If it happens twice a day, it’s totally handleable. You just nod and smile. They say all the things everyone else says, and you continue to nod and smile. Sometimes they just go away; sometimes they then say something interesting like, “Why did you do that?” or “What was the purpose of that?” and you get into a proper discussion.
Are there any jokes you’ve made that you regret?
John Cleese: Yes, one or two in Python. David Hemmings is a very decent guy, but I remember we thought his acting was a bit wooden, and we used to put at the end of the credit sequence “David Hemmings appears by permission of the National Forestry Commission.”
I did notice you got your wrist slapped in the Twittersphere for the joke about Pistorius.
John Cleese: Oh yes, that was a terrible misunderstanding. I had a guy fixing my television set while I was talking to the guy who does my tweets. He made the remark about “legless” and I repeated that to the guy on the phone and I said, “Yes, we should put that one out,” sarcastically, as in, “If we put that out, wouldn’t we get into trouble.” Unfortunately, he misunderstood. When I realized it had gone out, of course, I apologized immediately. It’s to do with sensitivities. I remember Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook talking about it once: How long after the Charge of the Light Brigade could you make a humorous reference to it?
In Python and certainly in Fawlty Towers, you decided that Germany and World War II were fair game. Was that risky?
John Cleese: People rather misunderstood what was funny. I always felt that the English harked back to the Second World War because it was the last time we were really important. One of my more sarcastic jokes is to say that the Americans suddenly realized what an awful, evil person Hitler was almost immediately after Pearl Harbor. You know, we were confronting Hitler—or at least not kowtowing to him—when the rest of Europe was basically either Nazi or neutral. But the British tended to go back there, to go on and on making war films because that was the last time that we were really deeply significant. It was all about the fact that Fawlty was going around impersonating Hitler because he was still stuck back in history, and it was the embarrassment that he was doing this in front of the Germans, who were behaving with great restraint and courtesy. People always saw it that we were taking the piss out of the Germans. I was taking the piss out of Basil.
You’ve made fun of death over the years, but in real life does it disturb you?
John Cleese: I certainly don’t want to die anytime soon, because I think my life in many ways is becoming happier than it has ever been. I am very happy indeed in my fourth marriage, and I consider that a blessing after the train wrecks that I have been experiencing the last 40 to 50 years. There are so many things I want to find out about and understand better, so I don’t want to go anytime soon. I think I have a good shot at getting into my late eighties, and once I get there, I hope I’ll feel I’ve done enough and I don’t mind going.
How would you like your epitaph to read?
John Cleese: “My friends thought that I was reasonably kind,” I hope.
Nothing about your contribution to the world of humor?
John Cleese: No, I don’t regard any of that as anything other than an amusing way of passing the time. I love the fact that I’ve made people laugh, but the important thing, ultimately, I do believe, is a relatively small number of really close relationships.
John Cleese Video
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