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John Cleese’s huge comedic influence has stretched across generations; his sharp irreverent eye and the unique brand of physical comedy he perfected with Monty Python, on Fawlty Towers, and beyond now seem written into comedy’s DNA. In this rollicking memoir, So, Anyway…, Cleese takes readers on a Grand Tour of his ascent in the entertainment world, from his humble beginnings in a sleepy English town and his early comedic days at Cambridge University (with future Python partner Graham Chapman), to the founding of the landmark comedy troupe that would propel him to worldwide renown.
Cleese was just days away from graduating Cambridge and setting off on a law career when he was visited by two BBC executives, who offered him a job writing comedy for radio. That fateful moment—and a near-simultaneous offer to take his university humor revue to London’s famed West End—propelled him down a different path, cutting his teeth writing for stars like David Frost and Peter Sellers, and eventually joining the five other Pythons to pioneer a new kind of comedy that prized invention, silliness, and absurdity. Along the way, he found his first true love with the actress Connie Booth and transformed himself from a reluctant performer to a world class actor and back again.
Twisting and turning through surprising stories and hilarious digressions—with some brief pauses along the way that comprise a fascinating primer on what’s funny and why—this story of a young man’s journey to the pinnacle of comedy is a masterly performance by a master performer.
From the Hardcover edition.
women around: that somehow even talented comediennes didn’t ultimately want to make fools of themselves—they always seemed to be holding something back. It wasn’t until Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders came along in the 1980s that I saw female comedians on television who whole-heartedly “went for it.” It was wonderful that for the first time the best women were funnier than the best men. I was genuinely thrilled. As we planned our show, therefore, few if any names came immediately to mind.
medicinal cheese idea. Now I’ve been trying throughout this book to convey to you some kind of portrait of the extraordinary being that was Dr. Graham Chapman. Having just told a tale of him at his wisest, therefore, I need to say there was another side to him that I felt was unknowable, at least to me. So here’s a tale of Gra at his oddest. During the first series, the Pythons were on the Yorkshire Moors one hot afternoon, filming a Mike-and-Terry piece about an upper-class shooting party,
Edinburgh before we said au revoir. Our first laugh came when we arrived (with twenty-two clues uncompleted) and saw the magnificent house Edinburgh University had lent us for our stay. Unfortunately that’s all it was—a magnificent house. It was completely empty. Not a stick of furniture to be seen, though we found marks showing where chairs and tables and sideboards had once been. We were each handed a pillow, an inflatable lilo and a sheet, and given the news that there were three bathrooms
just stared. I think he quite genuinely could not believe his ears. He hit a different note. I made another noise. He looked a little shaken and then nodded a lot. “John,” he said. “You’re right. You can’t sing.” “Sorry, Stanley.” “Never mind! Just learn the words, and mime …” Because, of course, I was only in the chorus numbers, surrounded by trained singers, so who would ever know? I wandered back to the main room and was astonished to see just how many people had gathered. A Broadway
retractable? To this, I believe that the answer is a resounding “Yes!” All in all, Dad had a wonderful time in India (not least because he was not present when Wodehouse made his discovery), and he always talked of the Indians in tones of total affection. But there’s no doubt that it was very much a colonial, master-servant relationship. Dad spoke some Hindi, but he once admitted that the only part of a Hindi verb that he ever knew was the imperative. He and his pals were a high-spirited