John Cleese Time Movie – It takes some time before people start to recognize the man who has just walked into the garden of the Draycott Hotel in west London. John Cleese, 75, wears padded slippers, a thick scarf around his neck and a winter coat, but he can’t hide the fact that he has a bad cold. His cough seems strong enough to bring down a building. Cleese says his wife Jennifer, a jewelry designer, is also sick in bed. I think they took everything they have on the flight from the Caribbean vacation.
Cleese, however, is persisting with the interview as she wants to promote the translation of her memoir, “So, Anyway,” which is out in Germany this week. In it, he writes about his childhood, his domineering mother and his first steps on the British comedy scene in the 1960s.
John Cleese Time Movie
Cleese is famous for creating Monty Python. Members of the comedy troupe included Graham Chapman, Cleese’s Cambridge classmate who died in 1989. The others included Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Eric Idle, who studied together at Oxford, as well as American illustrator Terry Gilliam.
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In 1969, the BBC broadcast the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, catapulting the group to international fame and creating a new standard of comedy for generations to come. After the breakup of the group in 1983, Cleese wrote screenplays, created the series “Fawlty Towers” and the film “A Fish Called Wanda”.
During this time, he also produced motivational videos for executives, made commercials for beer, vacuum cleaners and chocolate, and also appeared in the films “James Bond” and “Harry Potter”. All the while, however, he remained true to himself, always playing the part of the exasperated gentleman, dead serious and his eyebrows raised as he uttered the most ridiculous absurdities into the camera.
Even today, people try to walk strangely when they see him, as he once did in the popular sketch Ministry of Stupid Walks. He says it makes him smile, but he wishes people wouldn’t. Before our interview begins, Cleese orders a hot brownie which, to his mild amusement, is never served.
: It’s a scene from your movie “A Fish Called Wanda”. In it, he sits on the edge of the bed and cuts his toenails. Your wife is lying next to you.
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Cleese: Oh yes, it’s so awful, yes. That was really bad. But there was another horror scene that I’m quite proud of. I played Professor Waldman in the 1994 adaptation of Frankenstein and was stabbed to death by Robert De Niro. If anyone kills him, it should be De Niro. He is a wonderful killer.
: Yes he did. Back to “A Fish Called Wanda” and this marriage scene with toenails all over the place: It looks like the final blow to conjugal love. Do you think marriage is more of a comedy or more of a tragedy?
Cleese: You have to ask this about life, don’t you? We all die eventually, but does that negate everything? Most people prefer to say, “If I wasn’t born?” Once you are born, you will have to die, is it funny or sad?
Cleese: I’ve been down for three weeks now with this virus and my mood is a little lower than usual. I usually see it as a comedy. So speaking of marriage…
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Cleese: I was doing great before I divorced Alice Faye Eichelberger. I never knew what I really had: I was comfortable. But now I’ve been working for seven years to pay child support. She is much better than me. So you can resent it. Or maybe you think it’s completely ridiculous.
: Sounds pretty serious: You went on the “Almentari Tour,” as you called it, to raise money to pay your ex-wife.
Cleese: Yes. In July I will make the final payment and then I will give you $20 million.
Cleese: Indeed. When we separated, there were five properties. Now I have a very nice flat in London, just around the corner. I don’t need anything else. It’s amazing how important money is these days. When I was young, people talked very little about it. The feeling was that the rich have money, well. You realize it’s vulgar. My father earned £30 a week and that was when a miner got £10.
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: You grew up in Weston-super-Mare and Bristol. Your father was an insurance salesman, your grandfather was a clerk in a law firm, and another was an auctioneer…
Cleese: …very boring, I know. Safety and reputation were everything. People were afraid of being caught doing something disrespectful.
Cleese: I think we’re all born with a sense of humor. Creativity is something else: If you spend your whole life in Des Moines, Iowa, it’s hard to imagine anything different. I had Weston-super-Mare then Bristol and later Cambridge so I could compare. Psychologists say it also helps creativity if you have parents who constantly disagree about things. And I had it. The main killer of creativity and humor is anxiety. You have to be able to play. I think many of us have lost this ability. I once did an interview with the Dalai Lama and he said that what he likes about people laughing is that it gives them a chance to have new ideas.
: You have a lot of respect for the Dalai Lama, you even copied some Buddhist scriptures for him. Are you a religious person?
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Cleese: I certainly don’t think much of organized religion. I am committed to nothing but a vague sense that there is more to it than materialistic reductionist people think. I think you can reduce the suffering a little, as the Buddhists say, that’s one of the few things I take seriously. But the idea that you can manage this planet in a rational and kind way, I don’t think is possible. There will always be these sociopaths at the top: selfish people who seek power and want to spend their entire lives seeking it. Robin Skinner, a psychiatrist with whom I wrote two books, told me that you can start enjoying life when you realize how bad the planet is, how hopeless everything is. I came to that point in the last two or three years where I saw that our existence here was absolutely hopeless. I see the rich have us. If someone had told me that when I was 20, I would have considered them a left-wing fool.
: You may not have been a left-wing fool, but you were happy to attack and ridicule the church. “Life of Brian,” the story of a young man from Judea who is not Jesus Christ but is followed as a savior and then crucified, was considered blasphemous when it was published in 1979.
Cleese: Well, there were a small number of people in country towns, all very conservative, who got upset and said, “You can’t show the movie.” People hired buses and drove 15 miles to the next town and went there to see a movie. But many Christians have said, “We get it, we know the joke is not about religion, it’s about the way people follow religion.” If Jesus had seen the Spanish Inquisition, I think he would have said, “What are you doing there?”
: Today, Muslims and Islam are risky subjects. Do you think they are good subjects for satire?
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Cleese: Of course. In 1982, Graham Chapman and I wrote a series of scenes for the film The Meaning of Life, which featured the Ayatollah. This Ayatollah raged against all the evil inventions of the West, you know, like toilet paper. These scenes were never included in the movie, although I thought they were much better than many of the other scenes that were included. And that’s why I didn’t make Python movies anymore: I didn’t want to be too loud anymore. But I would not mock the prophet.
Cleese: How could you? How could he mock Jesus or Saint Francis of Assisi? They were wonderful human beings. People are only funny when they act inappropriately, when they allow themselves to be swayed by some selfish emotion they cannot control and become less human.
: Is there a difference between mocking our, so to speak, Western Christian side and Islam?
Cleese: They’ll kill you later, yeah. But to be serious: I think that if people, especially Muslims, who have a completely different value system, come to the West, then they should accept that there are certain basic values in the West that are intrinsic to our culture. Just as I wouldn’t suggest any Westerner walk the streets of Saudi Arabia in one
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