John Cleese; is he funny?

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Still waiting for Phil Oakey's answer. Me say no.

Billy Dods, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I say not really. Hes no Terry Gilliam who should have gotten the fucking Harry Poter movies.

anthony, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

He's the greatest man who ever lived, besides Nicholas Cage.

Ally, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I'm sorry, this is the abuse thread. If you're looking for the argument thread, it's down the hall, to your left...

Geoff, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

not as good as nicolas cage?

this is a horrible insult. and quite possibly true

gareth, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

IS funny? Not judging by the last 20+ years.

WAS funny? Not so much with Python but was with Fawlty Towers.

Tom, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Nicholas Cage had that great accent in the movie about his mandolin or whatever, even better than Christian Bale's Greek accent. "Hey, mama mia, that's a spicy meatball-ah!" CLASSIC. Too bad I have to go murder him for the waste of about 8 hours of my life spent watching that movie.

Ally, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

"Bella bambina, twelve o'clock-a!" Christ.

Cleese was funny, once upon a time. But why is it that most comedians from TV shows always end up in the shittiest movies? Or become "serious" - hi, Jim; stop acting, would ya? Bill Murray's the only one that's bucked the trend. Of course, Bill Murray's classic, without a doubt.

And why Ally gives me lip about Mira when she's touting Nic Cage as GRATE boggles my mind.

David Raposa, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Not as funny as he thinks he is, for sure. A Fish Called Wanda is pretty good, but Kevin Kline was funnier in it. Am I the only person on earth who finds Fawlty Towers terrifyingly unamusing?

Mark Morris, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

No. Rising Damp/porridge/dad's army far funnier.

Billy Dods, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Why anyone would think I was serious about Nick Cage being anything but the worst person that ever lived is beyond me.

Ally, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Blimey. I thought everyone liked Fawlty Towers.

Richard Tunnicliffe, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Cockfarmer is on the money again. BUT Clockwise seemed good in 1984.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Fawlty Towers is a good 70s sitcom which was declared the platonic ideal of the sitcom throughout the 80s, based mostly on there only being 12 of them and hence the idea that each of them was a well- polished jewel and Cleese was a comedy perfectionist. There's since been an entirely reasonable backlash given that yes, Rising Damp and Dad's Army and Porridge often were funnier.

But it's still a good series. It gets praised a lot of the time for its character work but all the above, not to mention Likely Lads, are much better on character comedy - Fawlty Towers though is one of the few sitcoms that works as farce. There's not been much demand for sitcom-as-farce recently (Father Ted is a recent example) after Allo Allo and Terry And June pretty much killed it in the 80s so maybe thats why its reputation seems to be sinking a bit now.

Tom, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I am BITTER, that is why.

(Christ, I'm turning into Ally's bitch. I'll shut up now.)

David Raposa, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

It could be worse, folks, it could be Are You Being Served? -- which clearly Fawlty Towers is NOT, happily.

My first encounters with Mr. Cleese were Muppet-related, actually -- hosted an episode of the show and has a brief, quietly funny role in the second movie -- and then there was his hilarious turn as Robin Hood in Time Bandits. A couple of years after that I first started watching Python, and there we are. Fish Called Wanda is genius, but I was never bothered to see Gentle Creatures or whatever it was called.

My favorite Cleese story happened in 1989, when in fact he stopped by UCLA to pick up the Jack Benny award, given out every year to 'a comic legend' or something of the sort. That they've given it out to a few hacks along the way is unfortunate, but hey, Cleese got it that year and I was attending UCLA at the time, so off I went to the award ceremony and question and answer session. Had some great tales and funny stories, the best being this extemporaneous riff on Alexander the Great. Reason: somebody had asked if the Pythons were getting back together to do a bio of said historical figure (uh, no), and that was enough! "He was taught by Aristotle! Can you imagine what that would have been like? 'Master Aristotle, what are we learning today?' 'Oh, zoology, biology, history, geography, psychology...'"

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Whatchu talkin' about Ewing? Terry & June didn't kill anything.

I find the idea of Ally thinking Cleese is the second best man who ever lived funnier than the majority of his actual work. But 'Clockwise' and 'Fawlty Towers' were good.

Nick, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Allo Allo = much funnier than Fawlty Towers, and all w/o sleb so-called comic geniuses...

FT is farce in a stricter technical sense, tho, isn't it (Feydeau => Rix): not just cheeky slapstick idiocy, but people running in and out of dfft doors the whole time, and hiding in cupboards

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I'd say his major talent has been in working with the right bunch of people from TWTWTW through Python, Fawlty Towers and up to Wanda.

Not that I don't think he hasn't been funny in some stuff - his waiter in Meaning of Life is a gem, but so much seems to be one dimensional mugging/overacting.
Fawlty Towers definitely more effective as a fly on the wall drama, rather than as a comedy/farce in that Basil's rage seems all too realistic. Best bit was always the anagram in the opening credits, flowery twats indeed.
Oh and the scene in Wanda where he speaks Russian and Jamie Lee Curtis has an orgasm is one of the most cringe inducing scenes I think I've ever seen in a movie.

Billy Dods, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

His scenes in Rat Race are really funny.

Otis Wheeler, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I wish I saw Rat Race.

David: Sooner or later, I turn everyone into my bitch. You might as well go for it now.

Ally, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Dud on the 'Eh, he was kind of funny...' BS. Total classic.

Joe, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

His last few years have been *cringe-worthy* with his attempt to instruct us how to be happy. On top of that he also had a program where he expanded on beauty and related subjects. Dud.

But ...WHATEVER YOU DO DONT MENTION THE WAR! classic.

nathalie, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Mrs. Slocumb! How's your pussy doing?

David Raposa, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Desperate though I am to damage my comedy cred further by reinstating Are You Being Served? next to Hi-De-Hi in the pantheon....I can't do it. Sigh.

Tom, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I seem to recall that Cleese himself doesn't like much of his work - apparently he's only satisfied with a few episodes of Fawlty Towers and Fish Called Wanda - the rest he finds disappointing. I could be wrong, but that's the impression I got.

Croooooow, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Yes, he's very self-critical -- and based on some of the responses here, the folks who find him less than stellar might actually be more in line with him than the fans! He admits he gets tired of things fairly quickly, which is why he only really enjoyed the first two seasons of Python and left after the third.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I preferred 'Fierce Creatures' to ' A Fish Called Wanda'.

And his last series on the Beeb, that human face thing, I know the BBC fucked him over on it, but God! I just found it embarrassing.

DavidM, Tuesday, 21 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I'm unbitchable. John Cleese hasn't been funny since A Fish Called Wanda. And I don't plan on seeing Rat Race.

Tadeusz Suchodolski, Wednesday, 22 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Christ, I saw Rat Race last night. Cleese was dreadful, but not as bad as Rowan Atkinson who gave what must be among the worst performances in the history of cinema. Unbelievable.

Mark Morris, Wednesday, 22 August 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

ten years pass...

The irony being that Cleese has been here recently scrounging up some cash to pay his alimony (or some other BS).

Ned Trifle X, Friday, 2 September 2011 15:09 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

Short Q&A, including:

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Tchaikovsky's 1812, sung by Barry Manilow.

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 21 October 2012 19:20 (nine years ago) link

six years pass...

Just saw that he was in a series Charles McKeown wrote this year. Is it any good? Reviews are quite poor.

akm, Tuesday, 23 October 2018 13:39 (three years ago) link

six months pass...

Saw him 'perform' last night and the answer to the question in the thread title is emphatically, painfully "no"

One Eye Open, Tuesday, 21 May 2019 14:19 (three years ago) link

he's nearly 80. Chaplin wasn't funny then either.

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 14:42 (three years ago) link

Even accounting for his age, his long routines about how annoying it is that "the blacks and mexicans" want to be called 'people of color' but you can't say 'colored people' anymore, or about how hotel maids need to learn to speak english, made for one of the most queasily uncomfortable shows I've ever sat through. Afterward my GF confessed that she initially thought he was doing an 'old clueless racist guy' character bit, and then began to have the sinking realization that no, this was his actual material. Super depressing.

One Eye Open, Tuesday, 21 May 2019 14:54 (three years ago) link

hooo boy

is this the Basil Fawlty tour?

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 14:55 (three years ago) link

was this dinner theater in Youngstown?

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 14:55 (three years ago) link

I only saw a couple of episodes, but the sitcom he did with Alison Steadman a couple of years ago wasn’t the long awaited return to form.

Dan Worsley, Tuesday, 21 May 2019 15:04 (three years ago) link

Xp Alfred Close, it was a fancy theater in my upstate ny town. it was billed as a one-man show/monologue thing, presented as a kind of ted talk format with slides, lots of him talking about popular social science books that he'd recently read, really strange. We were expecting something super halfassed like you usually get with old showbiz lions doing shows like this & would have been fine with that, just kind of wanted to see him live before he croaks, but was not expecting all the racial stuff. (He also did another weird digression about how evolution alone cant explain consciousness that was very hard to parse but seemed like was going to get into creationist stuff?) Also lots of pandering anti-Trump jokes, but then he seemed totally unaware that his routine about how Mexicans are invading the US could have been lifted straight from a MAGA rally. Just a really bizarre night.

One Eye Open, Tuesday, 21 May 2019 15:14 (three years ago) link

He’s been like it for ages

shhh / let peaceful like things (wins), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 15:15 (three years ago) link

the early funny stuff was largely written by others but he did have a good bodyshape for physical comedy once upon a time

mark s, Tuesday, 21 May 2019 15:19 (three years ago) link

fawlty towers was a documentary

michael keaton IS jim thirlwell IN ‘foetaljuice’ (bizarro gazzara), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 15:21 (three years ago) link

I use to piss myself watching this bit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwqJzCG9qr0

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 15:21 (three years ago) link

"He also did another weird digression about how evolution alone cant explain consciousness that was very hard to parse but seemed like was going to get into creationist stuff?"

lolled at reading this, so I guess that makes it a form of comedy - but i don't think i'd listening to it 1st hand would have had the same effect

calzino, Tuesday, 21 May 2019 15:22 (three years ago) link

Haha yes true, i did spend the whole show confused and baffled with no idea of where things were going to go next from moment to surreal moment, so in that sense it could be located within a grand python tradition

One Eye Open, Tuesday, 21 May 2019 16:00 (three years ago) link

so, the trend I'm seeing in these answers would be "is funny? no. was funny? yes.".

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 16:09 (three years ago) link

It’s been, what, 30 years since he was even a bit funny? Closer to 40?

shhh / let peaceful like things (wins), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 16:15 (three years ago) link

A Fish Called Wanda was his last successful fling at funny. Calculate from there.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 16:19 (three years ago) link

i checked my numbers and they're in fact correct

mark s, Saturday, 5 March 2022 17:50 (five months ago) link

(xp) He is a twat but Cleese is a thousand times worse.

Alfred Ndwego of Kenya (Tom D.), Saturday, 5 March 2022 17:51 (five months ago) link

I had no idea woke was a noun now.

the new sound in retro-prog (Matt #2), Saturday, 5 March 2022 18:22 (five months ago) link

everything is a noun

Nordle (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 5 March 2022 18:44 (five months ago) link

Worst thing about Cleese's current steez is he still pretends he's exploring the issues with an open mind, the cowardly sniveling cunt

Nordle (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 5 March 2022 18:45 (five months ago) link

Are wokes bothered by the lack of diversity in Putin's army ?

Just another open-minded guy askin' questions

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Saturday, 5 March 2022 18:50 (five months ago) link

I checked Tom’s numbers and they're in fact correct

bad luck banging, or Lorna Doone (sic), Saturday, 5 March 2022 21:12 (five months ago) link

always despised the hideous cunt. ha ha ha I'm going to hit a car with a branch and shout very loudly - instant brit comedy classic. Him and Baddiel should be dropped from a helicopter into a volcano before they make any more tv programs.

calzino, Saturday, 5 March 2022 23:10 (five months ago) link

fawlty towers is good and that falls within the 50-year range but i suspect the good things about it are mostly due to connie booth

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 5 March 2022 23:21 (five months ago) link

Fawlty Towers is good and I think a lot of it is due to John Cleese but nonetheless he is still a dick.

Alfred Ndwego of Kenya (Tom D.), Saturday, 5 March 2022 23:28 (five months ago) link

Controp: the latest series of The Righteous Gemstones is far funnier than anything Cleese ever did, including with Python.

calzino, Saturday, 5 March 2022 23:41 (five months ago) link

but this puts me in the invidious position of admitting that comedy is good... grr!

calzino, Saturday, 5 March 2022 23:43 (five months ago) link

cleese is for sure some of why fawlty towers is funny -- bcz connie booth knew how to deploy his silly walks and moves and also his obnoxious and stunted persona (aka the real him)

mark s, Sunday, 6 March 2022 12:01 (five months ago) link

Person who is a dick unsurprisingly good at portraying a character who is a dick.

Being cheap is expensive (snoball), Sunday, 6 March 2022 12:28 (five months ago) link

I could never stand that show. So shouty.

Sam Weller, Sunday, 6 March 2022 12:35 (five months ago) link

I think someone else could have played Fawlty - Leonard Rossiter for instance. The physical comedy would have been slightly different and the class based humour would have played differently but it would have been just as funny.

Being cheap is expensive (snoball), Sunday, 6 March 2022 12:37 (five months ago) link

this crop of aging famous dudes who stroke out over woke-ism are so limp and lazy with their “zings” it seems like they mostly end up undermining their point. but then I remember who the intended audience is and it’s like oh right you really can’t fumble this

OG Bob Sacamano (will), Sunday, 6 March 2022 13:08 (five months ago) link

yeah, its not worth getting too het up about an eighty something yr old comedian lads if anyone that matters is listening its to stoke their own rage reactors

Ár an broc a mhic (darraghmac), Sunday, 6 March 2022 14:43 (five months ago) link

Idle posted several tweets about how electing Corbyn would lead to communism and how creators like him would him would have all their property and wealth stolen. He also called him a cunt. All around the 2019 election. Idle is dead to me.

glumdalclitch, Sunday, 6 March 2022 15:13 (five months ago) link

None of us has any idea how the Fawlty Towers scripts were written and which of Cleese and Booth, if any, was the dominant one in the writing partnership.

joni mitchell jarre (anagram), Sunday, 6 March 2022 15:20 (five months ago) link

i know exactly how they were written (the good funny stuff: all connie booth)

mark s, Sunday, 6 March 2022 15:21 (five months ago) link

electing Corbyn would lead to communism and how creators like him would him would have all their property and wealth stolen


jfc these fucking dorks

OG Bob Sacamano (will), Sunday, 6 March 2022 15:38 (five months ago) link

Unless you were in the room with them while they were writing it, which I doubt, I don't think you do. xp

joni mitchell jarre (anagram), Sunday, 6 March 2022 17:35 (five months ago) link

no i do

mark s, Sunday, 6 March 2022 17:37 (five months ago) link

there's actually going to be a whole episode of Cleese's new podcast about wokes where he confesses to this

Nordle (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 6 March 2022 17:41 (five months ago) link

it's clearly contrarian to write Cleese's career off. I think everything he did through a Fish Called Wanda is pretty excellent, and that includes some of the odd films he appeared in like Clockwise and Privates on Parade. His drop off post-Wanda was precipitous though. Anyway I'll just pretend he died after making that film.

akm, Sunday, 6 March 2022 17:44 (five months ago) link

Connie Booth supposedly had more to do with the plotting and making sure the scripts made sense. I imagine Cleese did the shouty bits

Alfred Ndwego of Kenya (Tom D.), Sunday, 6 March 2022 17:45 (five months ago) link

Wonder which of them was responsible for the badly-dated caricature that is Manuel?

the new sound in retro-prog (Matt #2), Sunday, 6 March 2022 17:48 (five months ago) link

didn't he start getting therapy at some point? I think I've seen people theorize that he stopped being funny because the therapy made him better adjusted and therefore less shouty and stunted etc.

soref, Sunday, 6 March 2022 18:02 (five months ago) link

xps to anagram afraid this is true, Connie Booth’s ghost appeared to me in a dream and confirmed it

mardheamac (gyac), Sunday, 6 March 2022 18:06 (five months ago) link

he went through tons of therapy in the late 80's I believe, he wrote two books with his therapist. I read one of them (families and how to survive them).

akm, Sunday, 6 March 2022 18:09 (five months ago) link

And he's emerged from therapy a king-size wanker.

Alfred Ndwego of Kenya (Tom D.), Sunday, 6 March 2022 18:10 (five months ago) link

who knew therapy made you a senile unfunny bigot?

Nordle (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 6 March 2022 18:14 (five months ago) link

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2021/sep/19/miriam-margolyes-writing-my-memoir-was-terrifying-its-quite-revealing

Yes, the first person in the book she really doesn’t love is John Cleese who, with their fellow Footlights contemporaries (including Bill Oddie), she claims bullied and ridiculed her. At 19, “I’d not met studied cruelty like that before,” she writes, and the pain is still with her. “I feel awkward, admitting to such bitterness 60 years later… I should’ve got over it. But I haven’t.” She scowls, shaking her head. “They were horrid. Particularly Cleese, he’s a very unpleasant man.”

Sounds about right

the new sound in retro-prog (Matt #2), Sunday, 6 March 2022 18:48 (five months ago) link

there's a bit later on in the book where she meets Connie Booth and they co-write Fawlty Towers with no input from Cleese

Nordle (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 6 March 2022 20:16 (five months ago) link

I read one of them (families and how to survive them).

One of his relatives should write How to Survive John Cleese

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 6 March 2022 21:14 (five months ago) link

randos attack his adult daughter for his opinions on Twitter and she has to ask if they’re responsible for everything their dumbass parents say

so without checking, probably too busy with that this week

bad luck banging, or Lorna Doone (sic), Sunday, 6 March 2022 21:23 (five months ago) link

Cleese recorded some commentary tracks for one of the Fawlty Towers collection, and he goes in to quite a lot of detail about the writing, and his collaboration with Booth. These commentaries are actually really interesting on the mechanics of comedy and might be one of the few worthwhile things Cleese has done in the last fifty years.

Ward Fowler, Sunday, 6 March 2022 21:29 (five months ago) link

for the record, A Fish Called Wanda is risibly unfunny crap as well, I've never been able to get through more than ten minutes of it

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Monday, 7 March 2022 09:49 (five months ago) link

absolutely correct.

calzino, Monday, 7 March 2022 09:57 (five months ago) link

Yeah never understood the fuss about how funny it’s supposed to be…

AlXTC from Paris, Monday, 7 March 2022 10:49 (five months ago) link

yet more factual evidence that Connie Booth wrote all his lines imo

calzino, Monday, 7 March 2022 10:59 (five months ago) link

Aristotle was not Belgian.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 7 March 2022 10:59 (five months ago) link

if laughter is the best medicine I think I got the wrong prescription here, doc

calzino, Monday, 7 March 2022 11:09 (five months ago) link

I'm fond of Fish, particularly the last scene b/w Cleese and Palin when trying to figure out where Wanda has gone and whenever Kline sputters about limey fruits.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 7 March 2022 11:13 (five months ago) link

kline is the best thing about wanda, the last time i watched it well over ten years ago anyway

Ár an broc a mhic (darraghmac), Monday, 7 March 2022 11:17 (five months ago) link

The thing is, whether you like Fawlty Towers or not it's def a show that could've been on the air ten years before Monty Python, with only very minor adjustments. I'm as exhausted by the Python mythos as anyone else but I do think it's interesting that nothing Cleese did afterwards has any of the love for experimentation that Flying Circus did.

Speaking of, underrated sketch from that show and a moment where Cleese is undoubtedly funny for me: Mr.Hisler. "Not much fun in Stalingrad, no."

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 7 March 2022 11:27 (five months ago) link

Re: Python, for Connie Booth read Graham Chapman. Worth remembering that, while doing Python, Cleese and Chapman were also writing scripts for creaky old trad British sitcoms like Doctor In The House.

Alfred Ndwego of Kenya (Tom D.), Monday, 7 March 2022 11:42 (five months ago) link

xp I think there are moments of formal experimentation in Fawlty Towers, like in the 'Basil attacks the car with the tree branch' scene that was mentioned above where you get this long static shot of the car and the moment when Cleese unexpectedly turns on his heel and runs off camera leaving the car alone on the screen for a few seconds. I think what makes it funny is that it goes from looking like a standard 70s sitcom to looking like a Monty Python sketch, it's intentionally 'wrong' looking and makes you suddenly consciously aware that you're watching a tv show.

soref, Monday, 7 March 2022 11:43 (five months ago) link

the tree branch bit reminds of the end of the Bicycle Repairman sketch where the voice-over becomes increasingly feverish talking about the communist menace and then it actually cuts to John Cleese as the voice-over guy sitting behind a microphone ranting about the dirty reds, this also has him suddenly walk off camera

soref, Monday, 7 March 2022 11:51 (five months ago) link


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