John Cleese – Life
Few comedians receive the titanic status that British actor, writer, and sketch artist John Cleese has attained. The tallest of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus comedy troupe, John Cleese is often the most recognizable face among the Pythons.
He played Sir Lancelot in the troupe’s 1975 Arthurian parody Monty Python and the Holy Grail, among a number of other infamous roles: the Centurion from The Life of Brian, and The Minister of Silly Walks.
John Cleese was born 27 October 1939, in Somerset, England. An avid prankster in his primary school days, he was alleged to have defaced school grounds at his school in Bristol. No doubt, he always had a knack for making others laugh.
John Cleese has been married four times, and divorced three. He has two daughters.
John Cleese – Work
John Cleese has made his mark across the spectrum of comedy. John Cleese co-wrote many of Monty Python’s most famous sketches with Graham Chapman, such as, “The Argument Sketch,” “The Cheese Shop,” and “The Parrot Sketch.” His work with Monty Python, often as spastic, obnoxious, and boorish characters, is what he is best known for, but his career spans much more.
For some time Cleese was a part of The Frost Report, a satirical comedy show hosted by fellow Cambridge alumnus David Frost. This was Cleese’s introduction to television acting, which he took to right away. He appeared again on Frost’s show Frost on Sunday.
From 1975 to 1979 Cleese and his then-wife Connie Booth wrote and starred in the British comedy show Fawlty Towers. The British Film Institute declared in 2000 that Fawlty Towers is the best British television programme of all time, and that’s no laughing matter.
John Cleese wrote and starred in the 1988 film A Fish Called Wanda, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
A bit of a recluse, John Cleese has refrained from touring with the other surviving Monty Python members, or appearing with them onstage, preferring to keep his work separate. As Cornell University’s Provost’s Visiting Professor he makes occasional appearances on the university campus.
An interesting fact: Cleese has donated generously to the support and conservation of lemurs. One wonders if his fellow comedian and Cambridge alum Sacha Baron Cohen‘s character King Julian from the Madagascar movies inspired Cleese to do so.
John Cleese at Cambridge
John Cleese read Law at Downing College, University of Cambridge. In contrast to his most serious study he joined the Cambridge Footlights, a student comedy group, where he met his future writing partner and co-star, Graham Chapman.
Cleese graduated in 1963.
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