John Cleese on Creativity

“If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And if I can persuade you to laugh at the particular point I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge its truth.”

In honour of International Monty Python Status Day, I wanted to re-share this video of John Cleese talking about his experience of the creative journey.

A few odd facts about John, which I hope are correct! Source: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000092/bio

  • When he first started acting his original goal was to be a classically trained Shakespearean actor.
  • Before becoming an actor, Cleese studied to be a lawyer. He went on to play a lawyer in A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and Splitting Heirs (1993).
  • According to Brian Henson, when Cleese guest-starred on “The Muppet Show” (1976), he enjoyed the show very much and became very close with the writers because he wanted to get involved in the writing. When he did get involved with the writing, he and the other writers came up with a concept where Cleese was being held against his will on the show and would try to get off the show while the Muppets were trying to get him to do his scheduled bits. Of course, in this case, life did not imitate art, as a few years later, Cleese appeared again with the Muppets in the film The Great Muppet Caper (1981).
  • Just to see if anyone would notice, during the early 1970s Cleese added one obviously fake film per year to his annual filmography listing in Who’s Who. For the record, these fake films were “The Bonar Law Story” (1971), “Abbott & Costello Meet Sir Michael Swann” (1972), “The Young Anthony Barber” (1973) and “Confessions of a Programme Planner” (1974). Although Cleese confessed to the gag in the 1980s, mentions of these bogus films still appear from time to time in scholarly works on Cleese, including the entry in the Encyclopedia of Television, 1st ed. (1996) edited by Horace Newcomb.
  • Is an Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University.
  • Who’s Who lists his recreations as “gluttony, sloth.”
  • Co-owns the Christine Schell Fine Objects antique shop in Montecito, CA.
  • In 2005, offered a part of his colon, removed due to diverticulitis, for sale on his official website. The proceeds are reportedly to be divided between Cleese himself and his surgeon.
  • A newly discovered species of lemur, avahi cleesei, was named after him in honor of his love of the endangered primates, which figure prominently in his movie, Fierce Creatures (1997).
  • The role of Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast (1991) was written with him in mind, and no other actor was considered for the role. But he still turned it down.
  • Appeared in a series of educational short subjects produced by the British company Video Arts designed to teach management and trainees how to handle stress and unusual situations. Cleese took advantage of his comic talents and portrayed events as absurd situations so that audiences would better remember their training.
  • Offered to write speeches for Democratic Presidential candidate ‘Barack Obama’. [2008]
  • My original post showing this video has the second highest visit stats of any post. At least my competition is top brass! There are very few other people I’d want to be outdone by… and 8 hours after this post has gone live, he’s overshadowing me again!


This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.