Tuesday, November 4, 2014

So, Anyway…by John Cleese

John Cleese. So, Anyway....New York:Crown, 2014.

Cleese learned when young that humor was a useful tactic in dealing with bullies.

Cleese was involved in theater in Clifton College. In his first straight acting performance, the sight f him in tights as the supposedly fearsome Satan drew audience laughter instead of the intended fear. Cleese never worked in straight acting again for 37 years.

Cleese met Graham Chapman at Cambridge. They performed in theater together. He learned his strength was comedic timing. He notes comedic timing “depends on confidence; you cannot o great comedy if you are not relaxed...any anxiety, any tension. and the flow goes wrong, you snatch at the joke, you force too hard, you lose the rhythm.” He notes “the greatest cure for anxiety is familiarity. The better you know the sketch...the more effortly it starts to flow.”

Cleese worked at BBC Radio. He wrote for an early evening magazine show. He then wrote comedy sketches.

He then toured New Zealand for six weeks with “Cambridge Circus”. During one performance, a bell tester did his job testing the bell. “Cambridge Circus” played on Broadway. He later appeared on Broadway in “Half a Sixpence”.

David Frost asked Cleese to work on his sketch show “The Frost Report”. Cleese also helped work and perform on a David Frst comedy series “Frost Over Britain”.

David Frost was listed as the lead writer of his shows although some wondered if he wrote any of his shows. It was noted by another writer “how greatly David has always improve our punctuation.”

Cleese worked on “The Frost Programme” that aired three times a week. Terry Gilliam was hired to sketch guest Shirley Bassey. From that show, Cleese learned “ that when you stop concentrating on avoiding mistakes, you relax a bit, and consequently...you actually make fewer” mistakes.

Frost offered Cleese his own show. He did 13 episodes of “At Last the 1948 Dhow”. He included fellow writer Marty Feldman, who had not acted in awhile, and Graham Chapman.

Cleese notes wen Graham Chapman told Cleese that Chapman was homosexual, Cleese was surprised but it did not affect their writing relationship in any way. hey wrote several movie and numerous TV scripts together.

Cleese appeared in the move “The Magic Christian” with Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. Cleese states Sellers and director Jimmy Burrows were two geniuses that he worked with.

Chapman liked the TV show “Do Not Adjust Your Set” which starred Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam animation. Chapman ased the, if they wanted to work with him and Chapman. The idea of all these people working together was approved without a pilot.

Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989 at age 48. Cleese noted Chapman “had a priceless, quite uncanny knack of knowing what the audience was going to laugh at.”

Clleese notes most of Monty Python were primarily writers rather than performers. They never fought over casting seeking instead to put the wrong person with the right role.

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