Life of Cleese: W5
Catalogue Number: CTV788
Producing Agencies: CTV
Subject: Biography, Documentary, Drama, Family Studies/Home Economics, Guidance, Health and Medicine, Politics, Social Issues, Sociology
Grade Level: 9 - 12, Post Secondary, Adult
Country Of Origin: Canada
Copyright Year: 2019
Running Time: 20:00
When John Cleese was attending the elite Clifton College in Bristol, England, he was studying under a math scholarship. Something much less orthodox, however, was turning his crank. On Saturday nights in his residence, Cleese was discovering he could be funny. Really funny. He’d perform sketch comedy, mime to records, and listen to a BBC radio show for lessons on how to be quirky, subversive, and very, very silly. “The Goon Show” was unlike anything else in mid-1950s Britain.
Comedians Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan were lampooning politicians, religious orthodoxy, the class system, everything that had been held as sacrosanct until they came along. And it lit a fuse under Cleese that is still burning hot as he turns 80.
In our interview he touches on the fact that while he has been helping people laugh his whole adult life, he has been chasing his own happiness, and often finding it elusive. There is a very serious side to Cleese. He campaigned in Britain for better journalistic standards, proportional representation, and a better level of political debate. None of it happened, so a few months ago he very publicly and pointedly left England, saying he would only return to live full time when its leadership improved. He fully expects that will be never in his lifetime. The mess of Brexit isn’t making him homesick in the least.
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