If any of the following sentences causes you to crash to the floor and burst out laughing, this post is for you; on the other hand, if they make you go “WTF is wrong with this guy?” they probably aren’t, but with a wee bit of exposure and (with a little luck) possibly some inbreeding, these lines could make brilliant sense to you as well… Let’s find out, shall we?
- “This parrot is no more!”
- “It’s only a flesh wound”
- “I’ve come here for an argument”; “No you haven’t”; “Yes I have”
Ah yes, the immortal words spoken by none other than the big man himself, J.C.! And being one of his many disciples residing here in the ancient city of Victoria B.C., imagine my delight when Tristan and I got the opportunity to be in his presence last Saturday night as he performed one of six (yep, count ’em, six) sold out shows at a local theatre. Oh, and just to be clear, I’m talking about John Cleese, one of the legendary comedic geniuses behind that religion known to legions of followers as “Monty Python”. Personally I’ve been a full fledged member of the congregation of The Church of Python since 1976 , right after I saw “The Cheese Shop” for the first time. In the sketch, Cleese’s straight man makes note that the “remarkably clean” shop is “certainly uncontaminated by cheese”; and on it goes.
Post-Python Cleese (with wife Connie Booth) wrote and acted in the incredible “Fawlty Towers” – only 13 episodes, but probably the funniest 6 1/2 hours ever on televised, (“Don’t mention the war”) and after that, the feature film “A Fish Called Wanda”. This bloody brilliant film has “KKKKKK-Ken”, the stuttering hit man/animal lover botch killing an elderly lady three times in a row, instead accidentally picking off her prized Yorkshire Terriers, one at a time until there were none… Hilarious stuff, don’t you think?!
Saturday nights show was about 2 hours long, and included a 20 minute break in which Cleese instructed everyone to “go get a drink”. In it (the show, not the drink) he covered much of his personal history, revealing several interesting facts that even die-hard Python fans may not have known. So as a public service to those fans, I present a few of them for your educational pleasure:
10 Fun Facts You May (Or May Not) Know About John Cleese” (polite clapping)
- His last name is pronounced KLEE-ZE (his name rhymes with “sneeze”, not “peace” as I’ve been incorrectly pronouncing it for years)
- Was 6 Feet Tall by age 12; claims he was still bullied by shorter boys, and that the eventually learned to use humor to be accepted by them
- His mother was born in 1899 and lived until 2001 – in other words, she lived through the history of the entire 20th century; and according to J.C., she managed to miss all of it.
- During his eulogy for Graham Chapman (A Python member died of cancer in 1989) John fondly said “Good riddance to him, that freeloading bastard, I hope he fries”, following up by saying that “The reason I feel I should say this is that he would have never forgiven me if I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all (the mourners) on his behalf”
- Graduated from Cambridge University as a barrister
- Began his comedy career on “The Frost Report” with David Frost, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett; the latter who went on to form “The Two Ronnies”
- Graham Chapman also knew John before Python, and appeared with him in “The 1948 Show” with Marty Feldman (Young Frankenstein) and Tim Brooke-Taylor (The Goodies)
- In the late 60’s John and Graham contacted 3 performers (Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin) from a kid’s show (Do Not Adjust Your Set) to join them to form a new sketch comedy program, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born
- There was no ad-libbing on Monty Python; all lines were spoken as written to observe the tight filming schedule… expect the one time (in a live performance of “The Dead Parrot Sketch”) when Michael Palin was supposed to reply “not really” to John Cleese’s inquiry to whether or his slug talks, instead he said “Well, it’s muttering a bit tonight” just to make Cleese break character… and it worked
- Basil Fawlty was based on a real hotelier named Donald Sinclair, whom Cleese described as “the rudest man I’ve ever come across in my life”
So now you KNOW more about Cleese; but if you’ve never SEEN him in action, here’s your chance, but I warn you – if you have a seriously warped sense of humour, (the blacker the better) than I promise that you are about to fall in love, and don’t be at all surprised if you wind up spending the rest of the night on YouTube searching out Python skits.
So without further adieu, may I present “The Dead Parrot Sketch” and “The Ministry of Silly Walks”… ENJOY~!