John Cleese

John Cleese

born on 27/10/1939 in Weston-super-Mare, England, United Kingdom

John Cleese

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
John Cleese
Cleese in 2008
Birth name John Marwood Cleese
Born October 27 1939
North Somerset, England
Medium Film, television, radio,
stand-up comedy
Years active 1961present
Genres Surreal comedy, Dark comedy, Physical comedy
Influences Stephen Leacock, Spike Milligan, The Goons, William Shakespeare
Spouse Connie Booth (196876) (divorced)
Barbara Trentham (198190) (divorced)
Alyce Faye Eichelberger (1992-2008) (divorced)

John Marwood Cleese (pronounced /kliz/; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, comedian, writer and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and as a scriptwriter on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s he became a member of Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films: And Now for Something Completely Different, Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.

In the mid 1970s, Cleese co-wrote and starred in, with first wife Connie Booth, the British sitcom Fawlty Towers. Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He also starred in Clockwise, and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films, two Harry Potter films, and three Shrek films.

With Yes Minister writer Antony Jay he co-founded the production company Video Arts, responsible for making entertaining training films.

Early life

Cleese was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, the only child of Muriel (née Cross), an acrobat, and Reginald Francis Cleese (b. 1894), who worked in insurance sales.[1] His family's surname was previously "Cheese", but his father changed it to "Cleese" in 1915, upon joining the Army.[2][3]

Cleese was educated at St Peter's Preparatory School where he was a star pupil, receiving a prize for English studies and doing well at sport including cricket and boxing. At 13 he received an exhibition to Clifton College, an English public school in Bristol. He was tall as a child and was well over 6 ft when he arrived there. While at the school he is said to have defaced the school grounds for a prank by painting footsteps to suggest that the school's statue of Field Marshal Earl Haig had got down from his plinth and gone to the toilet.[4] Cleese played cricket for the first team, and after initial indifference he did well academically, passing 8 O levels and 3 A-Levels in mathematics, physics and chemistry.

After leaving school, he went back to his prep school to teach science before taking up a place he had won at Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied law and joined the Cambridge Footlights Revue. There he met his future writing partner Graham Chapman. Cleese wrote extra material for the 1961 Footlights Revue I Thought I Saw It Move,[5][6] and was Registrar for the Footlights Club during 1962, as well as being one of the cast members for the 1962 Footlights Revue Double Take![5][6] He graduated from Cambridge in 1963 with a 2:1 classification in his degree. Despite his successes on The Frost Report, his father would send him cuttings from the Daily Telegraph offering management jobs in places like Marks and Spencer.[7]



Cleese was one of the script writers, as well as being a member of the cast, for the 1963 Footlights Revue, A Clump of Plinths,[5][6] which was so successful during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that its name was changed to Cambridge Circus and was taken to the West End in London and then on a tour of New Zealand and Broadway, with the cast also appearing in some of the revue's sketches on The Ed Sullivan Show in September 1964.[6]

After Cambridge Circus, Cleese briefly stayed in America, performing on and off-Broadway. While performing in the musical Half a Sixpence,[6] Cleese met future Python Terry Gilliam, as well as American actress Connie Booth, whom he married on 20 February 1968.[6]

He was soon offered work as a writer with BBC Radio, where he worked on several programmes, most notably as a sketch writer for The Dick Emery Show. The success of the Footlights Revue led to the recording of a short series of half-hour radio programmes, called I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, which were so popular that the BBC commissioned a regular series with the same title which ran from 1965 to 1974. Cleese returned to England and joined the cast.[6] In many episodes, he is credited as "John Otto Cleese".

In 1965, Cleese and Chapman began writing on The Frost Report. The writing staff chosen for The Frost Report consisted of a number of writers and performers who would go on to make names for themselves in comedy. They included future Goodies Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor, and also Frank Muir, Barry Cryer, Marty Feldman, Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Dick Vosburgh and future Python members Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. It was while working on The Frost Report, in fact, that the future Pythons developed the writing styles that would make their collaboration significant. Cleese and Chapman's sketches often involved authority figures, some of which were performed by Cleese, while Jones and Palin were both infatuated with filmed scenes that open with idyllic countryside panoramas. Idle was one of those charged with writing David Frost's monologue. It was during this period that Cleese met and befriended influential British comedian Peter Cook.

Such was the popularity of the series that in 1966 Cleese and Chapman were invited to work as writers and performers with Brooke-Taylor and Feldman on At Last the 1948 Show,[6] during which time the Four Yorkshiremen sketch was written by all four writers/performers (the Four Yorkshiremen sketch is now better known as a Monty Python sketch). John Cleese and Graham Chapman also wrote episodes for the first series of Doctor in the House (and later Cleese wrote six episodes of Doctor at Large on his own in 1971). These series were successful, and in 1969 Cleese and Chapman were offered their very own series. However, owing to Chapman's alcoholism, Cleese found himself bearing an increasing workload in the partnership, and was therefore unenthusiastic about doing a series with just the two of them. He had found working with Palin on The Frost Report an enjoyable experience, and invited him to join the series. Palin had previously been working on Do Not Adjust Your Set, with Idle and Jones, with Terry Gilliam creating the animations. The four of them had, on the back of the success of Do Not Adjust Your Set, been offered a series for ITV, which they were waiting to begin when Cleese's offer arrived. Palin agreed to work with Cleese and Chapman in the meantime, bringing with him Gilliam, Jones and Idle.

Monty Python

Monty Python's Flying Circus ran for four seasons from October 1969 to December 1974 on BBC Television, though with only limited participation of Cleese in the last six shows. Cleese's two primary characterisations were as a sophisticate and a stressed-out loony. He portrayed the former as a series of announcers, TV show hosts, government officials (for example, "The Ministry of Silly Walks"). The latter is perhaps best represented in the "Cheese Shop", and by Cleese's Mr Praline character, the man with a dead Norwegian Blue parrot and a menagerie of other animals all named "Eric". He was also known for his working-class "Sergeant Major" character, who worked as a Police Sergeant, Roman Centurion, etc. he is also seen as the opening announcer, with the now famous line: "And now for something completely different" a phrase that premiered in the sketch, "Man with Three Buttocks".

Partnership with Graham Chapman

Along with Gilliam's animations, Cleese's work with Chapman provided Python with its darkest and angriest moments, and many of his characters display the seething suppressed rage that later characterised his portrayal of Basil Fawlty.

Unlike Palin and Jones, Cleese and Chapman actually wrote togetherin the same room; Cleese claims that their writing partnership involved him sitting with pen and paper, doing most of the work, while Chapman sat back, not speaking for long periods, then suddenly coming out with an idea that often elevated the sketch to a different level. A classic example of this is the "Dead Parrot" sketch, envisaged by Cleese as a satire on poor customer service, which was originally to have involved a broken toaster, and later a broken car (this version was actually performed and broadcast, on the pre-Python special How To Irritate People). It was Chapman's suggestion to change the faulty item into a dead parrot, and he also suggested that the parrot be specifically a Norwegian Blue, giving the sketch a surreal air which made it far more memorable.

Their humour often involved ordinary people in ordinary situations behaving absurdly for no obvious reason. Like Chapman, Cleese's poker face, clipped middle-class accent and imposing height allowed him to appear convincing as a variety of authority figures, such as policemen, detectives, Nazi officers, or government officialswhich he would then proceed to undermine. Most famously, in the "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch (actually written by Palin and Jones), Cleese exploits his stature as the crane-legged civil servant performing a grotesquely elaborate walk to his office.

Chapman and Cleese also specialised in sketches where two characters would conduct highly articulate arguments over completely arbitrary subjects, such as in the "cheese shop", the "dead parrot" sketch and "The Argument Sketch", where Cleese plays a stone-faced bureaucrat employed to sit behind a desk and engage people in pointless, trivial bickering. All of these roles were opposite Palin (who Cleese often claims is his favourite Python to work with)the comic contrast between the towering Cleese's crazed aggression and diminutive Palin's shuffling inoffensiveness is a common feature in the series. Occasionally, the typical Cleese-Palin dynamic is reversed, as in "Fish Licence", wherein Palin plays the bureaucrat with whom Cleese is trying to work.

Though the programme lasted four series, by the start of series 3, Cleese was growing tired of dealing with Chapman's alcoholism. According to Gilliam, Cleese was the "most Cambridge" of the Cambridge-educated members of the group (Cleese, Chapman and Idle), by which Gilliam meant that Cleese was the tallest (6' 5") and most aggressive of the whole group. He felt, too, that the show's scripts had declined in quality. For these reasons, he became restless and decided to move on. Though he stayed for the third series, he officially left the group before the fourth season. Despite this, he remained friendly with the group, and all six began writing Monty Python and the Holy Grail; Cleese received a credit on episodes of the fourth series which used material from these sessions, and even makes a brief appearance in one episode as the voice of a cartoon in the "Hamlet" episode, though he was officially unconnected with the fourth series. Cleese returned to the troupe to co-write and co-star in the Monty Python films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, and participated in various live performances over the years.


From 1970 to 1973 Cleese served as rector of the University of St Andrews.[8] His election proved a milestone for the University, revolutionising and modernising the post. For instance, the Rector was traditionally entitled to appoint an "Assessor", a deputy to sit in his place at important meetings in his absence. Cleese changed this into a position for a student, elected across campus by the student body, resulting in direct access and representation for the student body for the first time in over 500 years. This was one of many changes that Cleese brought in.

Cleese achieved greater prominence in the United Kingdom as the neurotic hotel manager Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, which he co-wrote with his wife Connie Booth. The series won three BAFTA awards when produced and in 2000, it topped the British Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes. The series also featured Prunella Scales as Basil's acerbic wife Sybil, Andrew Sachs as the much abused Spanish waiter Manuel ("...he's from Barcelona"), and Booth as waitress Polly, the series' voice of sanity. Cleese based Basil Fawlty on a real person, Donald Sinclair, whom he had encountered in 1970 while the Monty Python team were staying at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay while filming inserts for their television series. Reportedly, Cleese was inspired by Sinclair's mantra "I could run this hotel just fine, if it weren't for the guests." He later described Sinclair as "the most wonderfully rude man I have ever met," although Sinclair's widow has said her husband was totally misrepresented in the series. During the Pythons' stay, Sinclair allegedly threw Idle's briefcase out of the hotel "in case it contained a bomb," complained about Gilliam's "American" table manners, and threw a bus timetable at another guest after they dared to ask the time of the next bus to town.

The first series was screened from 19 September 1975 on BBC 2, initially to poor reviews,[9] but gained momentum when repeated on BBC 1 the following year. Despite this, a second series did not air until 1979, by which time Cleese's marriage to Booth had ended, but they revived their collaboration for the second series. Fawlty Towers consisted of only twelve episodes; Cleese and Booth both maintain that this was to avoid compromising the quality of the series.

In December 1977, Cleese appeared as a guest star on The Muppet Show. Cleese was a fan of the show, and co-wrote much of the episode. He appears in a "Pigs in Space" segment as a pirate trying to hijack the spaceship Swinetrek, and also helps Gonzo restore his arms to "normal" size after Gonzo's cannonball catching act goes wrong. During the show's closing number, Cleese refuses to sing the famous show tune from Man of La Mancha, "The Impossible Dream". Kermit The Frog apologises and the curtain re-opens with Cleese now costumed as a Viking trying some Wagnerian opera as part of a duet with Sweetums. Once again, Cleese protests to Kermit, and gives the frog one more chance. This time, as pictured opposite this text, he is costumed as a Mexican maraca soloist. He has finally had enough and protests that he is leaving the show, saying "You were supposed to be my host. How can you do this to me? Kermit  I am your guest!". The cast joins in with their parody of "The Impossible Dream", singing "This is your guest, to follow that star...". During the crowd's applause that follows the song, he pretends to strangle Kermit until he realises the crowd loves him and accepts the accolades. During the show's finale, as Kermit thanks him, he shows up with a fictional album, his own new vocal record John Cleese: A Man & His Music, and encourages everyone to buy a copy.[10]

This would not be Cleese's final appearance with The Muppets. In their 1981 movie The Great Muppet Caper, Cleese does a cameo appearance as Neville, a local homeowner. As part of the appearance, Miss Piggy borrows his house as a way to impress Kermit The Frog.

Cleese won the TV Times award for Funniest Man On TV  1978 / 1979.

1980s and 1990s

During the 1980s and 1990s, Cleese focused on film, though he did work with Peter Cook in his one-off TV special Peter Cook and Co. in 1980. In the same year Cleese played Petruchio, in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew in the BBC Television Shakespeare series. In 1981 he starred with Sean Connery and Michael Palin in the Terry Gilliam-directed Time Bandits as Robin Hood. He also participated in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982), and starred in The Secret Policeman's Ball for Amnesty International. In 1985, Cleese had a small dramatic role as a sheriff in Silverado, which had an all-star cast that included Kevin Kline, with whom he'd star with in A Fish Called Wanda 3 years later. In 1986, he starred in Clockwise as an uptight school headmaster obsessed with punctuality and constantly getting in to trouble during a journey to a headmaster's conference.

Timed with the 1987 UK elections, he appeared in a video promoting proportional representation.[11]

In 1988, he wrote and starred in A Fish Called Wanda, as the lead, Archie Leach, along with Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. Wanda was a commercial and critical success, and Cleese was nominated for an Academy Award for his script. Cynthia Cleese starred as Leach's daughter.

Chapman was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1989; Cleese, Michael Palin, Peter Cook and Chapman's partner David Sherlock, witnessed Chapman's passing. Chapman's death occurred one day before the 20th anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus, with Jones commenting, "the worst case of party-pooping in all history." Cleese's eulogy at Chapman's memorial servicein which he "became the first person ever at a British memorial service to say 'fuck'"has since become legendary.[12]

Cleese would later play a supporting role in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein alongside Branagh himself and Robert De Niro. He also produced and acted in a number of successful business training films, including Meetings, Bloody Meetings and More Bloody Meetings. These were produced by his company Video Arts.

With Robin Skynner, the group analyst and family therapist, Cleese wrote two books on relationships: Families and How to Survive Them, and Life and How to Survive It. The books are presented as a dialogue between Skynner and Cleese.

In 1996, Cleese declined the British honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). The follow-up to A Fish Called Wanda, Fierce Creatureswhich again starred Cleese alongside Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Palinwas also released that year, but was greeted with mixed reception by critics and audiences. Cleese has since often stated that making the second movie had been a mistake. When asked by his friend, director and restaurant critic Michael Winner, what he would do differently if he could live his life again, Cleese responded, "I wouldnt have married Alyce Faye Eichelberger and I wouldnt have made Fierce Creatures."[13]

In 1999, Cleese appeared in the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough as Q's assistant, referred to by Bond as "R". In 2002, when Cleese reprised his role in Die Another Day, the character was promoted, making Cleese the new quartermaster (Q) of MI6. In 2004, Cleese was featured as Q in the video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, featuring his likeness and voice. Cleese did not appear in the subsequent Bond films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

2000 to present

Cleese is currently Provost's Visiting Professor at Cornell University, after having been Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large from 1999-2006. He makes occasional, well-received appearances on the Cornell campus, but he lives in the town of Montecito, California.

In 2001, Cleese was cast in the comedy Rat Race as the eccentric hotel owner Donald P. Sinclair.[14]

In a 2005 poll of comedians and comedy insiders The Comedian's Comedian, Cleese was voted second only to Peter Cook. Also in 2005, a long-standing piece of Internet humour, "The Revocation of Independence of the United States", was wrongly attributed to Cleese.

In 2006, Cleese hosted a television special of footballs greatest kicks, goals, saves, bloopers, plays and penalties, as well as footballs influence on culture (including the famous Monty Python sketch, Philosophy Football), featuring interviews with pop culture icons Dave Stewart, Dennis Hopper and Henry Kissinger, as well as football greats including Pelé, Mia Hamm and Thierry Henry. The Art of Soccer with John Cleese[15] was released in North America on DVD in January 2009 by BFS Entertainment & Multimedia.

Cleese recently lent his voice to the BioWare video game Jade Empire. His role was that of an "outlander" named Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard, stranded in the Imperial City of the Jade Empire. His character is essentially a British colonialist stereotype who refers to the people of the Jade Empire as savages in need of enlightenment. His armour has the design of a fork stuck in a piece of cheese.

He also had a cameo appearance in the computer game Starship Titanic as "The Bomb" (credited as "Kim Bread"), designed by Douglas Adams. When the bomb is activated it tells the player that "The ship is now armed and preparing to explode. This will be a fairly large explosion, so you'd best keep back about 22 miles (35.405568 km)". When the player tries to disarm the bomb, it says "Well, you can try that, but it won't work because nobody likes a smart=arse!"

In 2002, Cleese made a cameo appearance in the movie The Adventures of Pluto Nash, where he played "James", a computerised chauffeur of a hover car stolen by the title character (played by Eddie Murphy). The vehicle is subsequently destroyed in a chase, leaving the chauffeur stranded in a remote place on the moon.

In 2003, Cleese also appeared as Lyle Finster on the US sitcom Will & Grace. His character's daughter, Lorraine, was played by Minnie Driver. In the series, Lyle Finster briefly marries Karen Walker (Megan Mullally).

In 2004, Cleese was credited as co-writer of a DC Comics graphic novel entitled Superman: True Brit. Part of DC's "Elseworlds" line of imaginary stories, True Brit, mostly written by Kim Howard Johnson, suggests what might have happened had Superman's rocket ship landed in Britain, not America.

From 10 November to 9 December 2005, Cleese toured New Zealand with his stage show, John CleeseHis Life, Times and Current Medical Problems. Cleese described it as "a one-man show with several people in it, which pushes the envelope of acceptable behaviour in new and disgusting ways." The show was developed in New York with William Goldman and includes Cleese's daughter Camilla as a writer and actor (the shows were directed by Australian Bille Brown). His assistant of many years, Garry Scott-Irvine, also appeared, and was listed as a co-producer. It then played in universities in California and Arizona from 10 January to 25 March 2006 under the title "Seven Ways to Skin an Ocelot".[16] His voice can be downloaded for directional guidance purposes as a downloadable option on some personal GPS-navigation device models by company TomTom.

In June 2006, while promoting a football (soccer) song in which he was featured, entitled Don't Mention the World Cup, Cleese appears to have claimed that he decided to retire from performing in sitcoms, instead opting to writing a book on the history of comedy and to tutor young comedians.[17] This was an erroneous story, the result of an interview with The Times of London (the piece was not fact checked before printing).

In 2007, Cleese appeared in ads for Titleist as a golf course designer named "Ian MacCallister", who represents "Golf Designers Against Distance".

In 2007, he started filming the sequel to The Pink Panther, titled The Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin and Aishwarya Rai.

On 27 September 2007, The Podcast Network announced it had signed a deal with Cleese to produce a series of video podcasts called HEADCAST to be published on TPN's website. Cleese released the first episode of this series in April 2008 on his own website,

In 2008, Cleese collaborated with Los Angeles Guitar Quartet member William Kanengiser on the text to the performance piece "The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha". Cleese, as narrator, and the LAGQ premiered the work in Santa Barbara.

According to recent reports, Cleese is currently working on a musical version of A Fish Called Wanda with his daughter Camilla. He also said that he is working on a new film screenplay for the first time since 1996's Fierce Creatures. Cleese collaborates on it with writer Lisa Hogan, under the current working title "Taxing Times". According to him, it is "about the lengths to which people will go to avoid tax. [...] It's based on what happened to me when I cashed in my UK pension and moved to Santa Barbara."[18]

At the end of March 2009, Cleese published his first article as 'Contributing Editor' to The Spectator: "The real reason I had to join The Spectator".[19]

On 6 May 2009, he appeared on The Paul O'Grady Show. Cleese has also hosted comedy galas at the Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival in 2006, and again in 2009. He had to cancel the 2009 appearance due to prostatitis, but hosted it a few days later.[20]

Towards the end of 2009 and into 2010, Cleese appeared in a series of television adverts for the Norwegian electric goods shop chain, Elkjøp.

In January 2010, it was announced that Cleese was cast for a role in John Landis' Burke and Hare.[21]

In March 2010 it was announced that John Cleese would be playing the Butler in the video game "Fable III".[22]

In May 2010, Cleese announced his first ever UK tour, set for May 2011  dubbed the 'Alimony Tour', in reference to the financial implications of Cleese's recent divorce. The tour starts in Cambridge on 3 May visiting Birmingham, Salford, Liverpool, Oxford, Leeds, Edinburgh and finishing in Bristol.[23]

Personal life

1960s to 1980s

Cleese met Connie Booth in America during the late 1960s and the couple married in 1968.[9] In 1971, Booth gave birth to Cynthia Cleese, their only child. With Booth, Cleese wrote the scripts for and co-starred in both series of the TV series Fawlty Towers, even though the two were actually divorced before the second series was finished and aired. Cleese and Booth are said to have remained close friends since.[24]

Cleese remarried in 1981, to American actress Barbara Trentham.[25] Their daughter Camilla, Cleese's second child, was born in 1984. He and Trentham divorced in 1990. It was also during this time that Cleese moved from the United Kingdom to California.[26]

1990s to present

On 28 December 1992, he married American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger. In January 2008, the couple announced they had split. The divorce was settled in December 2008. The divorce settlement left Eichelberger with £12 million in finance and assets; by the time she has received an agreed £600,000 a year for seven years, she will be the richer of the two. Cleese stated that "What I find so unfair is that if we both died today, her children would get much more than mine".[27]

He had begun to date American comedienne Barbie Orr in November 2008[28] but they split up in January 2009.[29]

In April 2010, Cleese revealed on The Graham Norton Show on BBC One that he had started a new relationship with a woman 31 years his junior, Jennifer Wade.

He is a vegetarian.[30][31]

During the disruption caused by the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 Cleese became stranded in Oslo and decided to take a taxi to Brussels. The 1500 km journey cost £3,300 and was completed with the help of three drivers who took shifts in driving Cleese to his destination where he planned to take a Eurostar to the UK.[32]

Political views

Previously a Labour party voter, John Cleese switched to the SDP after their formation in 1981, and during the 1987 general election, he recorded a nine minute party political broadcast for the SDP-Liberal Alliance, which talks about the similarities and failures of the other two parties in a more humorous tone than the standard political broadcast. He has since supported the Alliance's successor, the Liberal Democrats, starring in a political broadcast for the 1997 general election and narrating a radio election broadcast for the party during the 2001 general election.[33] In April 2010, Cleese posted a Twitter status vouching his support for the Lib Dems after Nick Clegg performed strongly in the first leaders' debate on ITV1, stating: "Well, well, well. First leaders debate, and LibDems do so well. Good luck to them."[34]

Cleese expressed support for Barack Obama's presidential candidacy, donating US$2,300 to his campaign and offering his services as a speech writer.[35] He also criticised Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palinsaying that "Michael Palin is no longer the funniest Palin"[36] and wrote a satirical poem about Fox News commentator Sean Hannity for Countdown with Keith Olbermann.[37]

Radio credits

  • I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again
  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (197273)

Television credits

Major roles

  • The Frost Report (1966)
  • Frost on Sunday
  • At Last the 1948 Show
  • How to Irritate People (1968) with Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Connie Booth and Tim Brooke-Taylor
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-1974)
  • Sez Les (1971, 1974)
  • Fawlty Towers (1975, 1979)
  • Cheers (episode "Simon Says") (1987), he won an Emmy Award for best actor in a guest starring role
  • The Taming of the Shrew (1980) as Petruchio
  • True Stories: Peace in our Time? as Neville Chamberlain

As host

  • The Human Face
  • Wine for the Confused
  • We Are Most Amused: Master of Ceremonies for a stand-up comedy show celebrating Prince Charles's 60th Birthday.

Guest appearances

  • The Avengers (1968), guest appearance as Marcus Rugman (egg clown-face collector) in the episode Look (Stop Me if You've Heard this One)...
  • The Goodies (1973), guest cameo appearance as a Genie in the episode The Goodies and the Beanstalk
  • Doctor Who (1979), guest cameo appearance as an Art Lover in the episode City of Death as a favour to writer/script editor Douglas Adams
  • The Muppet Show (1977)
  • Cheers (5th Season) as Dr. Simon Finch-Royce, an acquaintance of Kelsey Grammer's character Frasier Crane and fellow psychiatrist, who offers pre-marriage counseling advice to Sam and Diane, much to his later chagrin.
  • Last of the Summer Wine (1993), guest cameo appearance in the episode Welcome to Earth.
  • 25 Years of Last of the Summer Wine (1997)
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun (1998-2001) as recurring character Dr. Liam Neesam.
  • Casper & Mandrilaftalen (1999) both as the repairman of the purple Gunrack, and as the Danish soccer coach Bosse Bo Johansson.
  • Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central) (2002) as Red
  • Will & Grace (2003-2004) as recurring character Lyle Finster.
  • Numerous commercials, including for supermarket chain Sainsbury's, snack firm Planters and a British government Stop Smoking campaign
  • Party political broadcasts for the Liberal Democrats and predecessor, the SDP-Liberal Alliance
  • In November 2009 commercials, in which he appears for Swedish electrical appliance chain "Elgiganten", began broadcasting in Sweden.
  • Song "Don't Mention The World Cup"animated video played on ITV, BBC and Channel 4 News June 2006
  • Batteries Not Includedgadget show on UKTV channel Dave (2008)


Year Title Role Notes
1968 Interlude TV Publicist
1969 Magic Christian, TheThe Magic Christian Mr. Dougdale (director in Sotheby's)
1969 Best House in London, TheThe Best House in London Jones Uncredited
1970 Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, TheThe Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer Pummer Writer
1971 And Now for Something Completely Different Various Roles Writer
1974 Romance with a Double Bass Musician Smychkov Writer
1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail Various Roles Writer
1976 Meetings, Bloody Meetings Tim Writer/Executive Producer
Documentary Short
1977 Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It, TheThe Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It Arthur Sherlock Holmes
1979 Monty Python's Life of Brian Various Roles Writer
1980 Secret Policeman's Ball, TheThe Secret Policeman's Ball Himself-Various Roles
1981 Great Muppet Caper, TheThe Great Muppet Caper Neville
1981 Time Bandits Gormless Robin Hood
1982 Privates on Parade Major Giles Flack
1983 Yellowbeard Blind Pew
1983 Monty Python's The Meaning of Life Various Roles Writer
1985 Silverado Langston His first line, as he walks into a bar to
break up a brawl, is, "What's all this, then?")
1986 Clockwise Mr. Stimpson Evening Standard British Film Awards Peter Sellers Award for Comedy
1988 Fish Called Wanda, AA Fish Called Wanda lawyer Archie Leach Writer/Executive Producer
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
NominatedAcademy Award For Best Original Screenplay
NominatedBAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
NominatedGolden Globe Award for Best Actor  Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1989 Erik the Viking Halfdan the Black
1990 Bullseye! Man on the Beach in
Barbados Who Looks Like John Cleese
1991 An American Tail: Fievel Goes West Cat R. Waul Voice Only
1992 Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Narrator
1993 Splitting Heirs Raoul P. Shadgrind
1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Professor Waldman
1994 Jungle Book, TheDisney's Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book Dr. Julius Plumford
1994 Swan Princess, TheThe Swan Princess Jean-Bob
1996 Wind in the Willows, TheThe Wind in the Willows Mr. Toad's Lawyer
1996 Fierce Creatures Rollo Lee Writer/Producer
1997 George of the Jungle An Ape Named 'Ape' Voice Only
1998 In the Wild: Operation Lemur with John Cleese Host Narrator
1999 Out-of-Towners, TheThe Out-of-Towners Mr. Mersault
1999 World Is Not Enough, TheThe World Is Not Enough R
2000 Isn't She Great Henry Marcus
2000 Magic Pudding, TheThe Magic Pudding Albert, The Magic Pudding Voice Only
2001 Quantum Project Alexander Pentcho
2001 Here's Looking at You: The Evolution of the Human Face Narrator
2001 Rat Race Donald P. Sinclair
2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone "Nearly Headless Nick"
2002 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets "Nearly Headless Nick" NominatedPhoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble Acting
2002 Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio The Talking Crickett Voice Only: English Version
2002 Die Another Day Q Second appearance in a James Bond film,
replaces Desmond Llewelyn as Q in the series
2002 Adventures of Pluto Nash, TheThe Adventures of Pluto Nash James
2003 Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle Mr. Munday
2003 Scorched Charles Merchant
2003 George of the Jungle 2 An Ape Named 'Ape' Voice Only
2004 Shrek 2 King Harold Voice Only
2004 Around the World in 80 Days Grizzled Sergeant
2005 Valiant Mercury Voice Only
2006 Charlotte's Web Samuel the Sheep Voice Only
2006 Man About Town Dr. Primkin
2007 Shrek the Third King Harold Voice Only
2008 Igor Dr. Glickenstein Voice Only
2008 Day the Earth Stood Still, TheThe Day the Earth Stood Still Dr. Barnhardt
2009 Pink Panther 2, TheThe Pink Panther 2 Inspector Charles Dreyfus
2009 Planet 51 Professor Kipple Voice Only
2010 Burke and Hare Himself Filming
2010 Spud The Guv Awaiting release
2010 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Ghost Voice Only
2010 Shrek Forever After King Harold Voice Only
2011 Happy Feet 2 Himself
2011 Catdog Movie Cat

Video game credits

  • Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time (1994) Lionhead
  • Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail (1996) 7th Level
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1997) Panasonic
  • Starship Titanic (1998) Simon & Schuster Interactive (voice of the Bomb)  (Credited as Kim Bread)
  • 007 Racing (2000) Electronic Arts
  • The World Is Not Enough (2000) Electronic Arts
  • James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (2004) Electronic Arts
  • Trivial Pursuit: Unhinged (2004) Atari
  • Jade Empire (2005) BioWare (as Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard)
  • Shrek the Third (2007) King Harold, Narrator
  • Fable III (2010) Butler


  • Academy Awards
    • (1988) NominatedAcademy Award for Best Original Screenplay / A Fish Called Wanda (shared with Charles Crichton)
  • Golden Globe Awards
    • (1988) NominatedGolden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy / A Fish Called Wanda
  • BAFTA Awards
    • (1970) NominatedBAFTA Television Award for "Best Light Entertainment Performance" / Monty Python's Flying Circus
    • (1971) NominatedBAFTA Television Award for "Best Light Entertainment Performance" / Monty Python's Flying Circus
    • (1976) NominatedBAFTA Television Award for "Best Light Entertainment Performance" / Fawlty Towers
    • (1980) WonBAFTA Television Award for "Best Light Entertainment Performance" / Fawlty Towers
    • (1989) NominatedBAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay / A Fish Called Wanda
    • (also 1989) WonBAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Primetime Emmy Awards
    • (1987) WonPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor - Comedy Series / Cheers (as Dr. Simon Finch-Royce)
    • (1998) NominatedPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor  Comedy Series / 3rd Rock from the Sun (as Dr. Liam Neesam)
    • (2002) NominatedPrimetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Nonfiction Special" / The Human Face
    • (2004) NominatedPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor  Comedy Series / Will & Grace (as Lyle Finster)
  • Writers Guild of America
    • (1989) NominatedWriters Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay / A Fish Called Wanda (shared with Charles Crichton)

Other credits

  • In 2003, John Cleese took part in Mike Oldfield's re-recording of the 1973 hit Tubular Bells, Tubular Bells 2003. He took over the "Master of Ceremonies" duties in the Finale part, in which he announced the various instruments eccentrically, from the late Vivian Stanshall.[38]
  • Cleese recorded the voice of God for Spamalot, the musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • Cleese narrated the audio version of C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters.
  • In the late-1990s, Cleese appeared in a set of poorly-received commercials for the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's. Around the same time, his Fawlty Towers co-star, Prunella Scales, appeared in more well-received commercials for rival chain Tesco.
  • He has enunciated a set of directions for the TomTom in-car navigation system. This allows itself humorous notes at non-critical moments, for instance when asking for a U-turn and when signing off: "I'm not going to carry your baggagefrom now on, you're on your own" and "Bear right..Beaver left."
  • He plays the voice of Samuel the Sheep in the 2006 adaptation of Charlotte's Web. Samuel repeatedly tells the other sheep to be individuals, not sheep. This is a reference to Monty Python's Life of Brian.
  • He has a speaking part at the end of the Alan Parsons song "Chomolungma" from the album A Valid Path.
  • In 2008, John Cleese appeared in a humorous TV commercial in Poland advertising a bank loan.
  • From 2006 to 2008 John Cleese has appeared in humorous TV commercials in Iceland advertising Kaupþing.

Honours and tributes

Wikinews has news related to: Rubbish tip named after comedian, John Cleese

  • A species of lemur, Bemaraha Woolly Lemur or the "Avahi cleesei", has been named in his honour. John Cleese has mentioned this in television interviews. Also there is mention of this honour in "New Scientist"[39]and John Cleese's response to the honour.[40]
  • An asteroid, 9618 Johncleese, is named in his honour.
  • Cleese declined a CBE (Commander of The British Empire) in 1996.
  • There is a municipal rubbish heap of 45 metres (Expression error: Missing operand for * ) in altitude that has been named Mt Cleese at the Awapuni landfill just outside Palmerston North after he dubbed the city "suicide capital of New Zealand".[41]
  • "The Universal Language" skit from All in the Timing, a collection of short plays by David Ives, centres around a fictional language (Unamunda) in which the word for the English language is "johncleese".


  • The Rectorial Address of John Cleese, Epam, 1971, 8 pages
  • Foreword for Time and the Soul, Jacob Needleman, 2003  ISBN 1-57675-251-8 (paperback)
  • The Human Face (with Brian Bates) (DK Publishing Inc., 2001, ISBN 978-0789478368)


  • The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation As We Know It, w/Jack Hobbs & Joseph McGrath, 1977  ISBN 0-352-30109-0
  • Fawlty Towers, w/Connie Booth, 1977 (The Builders, The Hotel Inspectors, Gourmet Night)   ISBN 0-86007-598-2
  • Fawlty Towers: Book 2, w/Connie Booth, 1979 (The Wedding Party, A Touch of Class, The Germans)
  • The Golden Skits of Wing Commander Muriel Volestrangler FRHS & Bar, 1984  ISBN 0-413-41560-0
  • The Complete Fawlty Towers, w/Connie Booth, 1988  ISBN 0-413-18390-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-679-72127-4 (paperback)
  • A Fish Called Wanda: The Screenplay, w/Charles Crichton, 1988  ISBN 1-55783-033-9
  • Fawlty's Hotel: Sämtliche Stücke, w/Connie Booth, (The Complete Fawlty Towers in German), Haffmans Verlag AG Zürich, 1995


  • Families and How to Survive Them, w/A.Robin Skynner, 1983  ISBN 0-413-52640-2 (hardc.), ISBN 0-19-520466-2 (p/back)
  • Life and How to Survive It, w/A.Robin Skynner 1993  ISBN 0-413-66030-3 (hardcover), ISBN 0-393-31472-3 (paperback)

See also

  • Declining a British honour


  1. John Cleese Biography (1939). Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  2. John Cleese's father. (2001-02-02). Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  3. John Cleese's Towering Legacy. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 23 Oct. 2009.
  4. San Diego Magazine, Silly Walks and Dead Parrots. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Footlights!  'A Hundred Years of Cambridge Comedy'  Robert Hewison, Methuen London Ltd, 1983, ISBN 0-413-51150-2.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 From Fringe to Flying Circus  'Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy 1960-1980'  Roger Wilmut, Eyre Methuen Ltd, 1980, ISBN 0-413-46950-6.
  7. Sunday Times, 16 October 1988.
  8. List of Rectors of University of St. Andrews
  9. 9.0 9.1 Cahal Milmo "Life after Polly: Connie Booth (a case of Fawlty memory syndrome", The Independent, 25 May 2007
  10. John Cleese appearance on the Muppet Show, as cited on Muppet Central Web site. Retrieved on 20 Dec. 2008.
  11. YouTube  John Cleese Explains Proportional Representation for Canada & Ontario changes Coming. Topix. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  12. Cleese continued to openly say the word, most notably reported in an interview hosted by Robert Klein in which Cleese remarked that Chapman is, "stone-fucking-dead!"Memorial eulogy by John Cleese for Graham Chapman
  13. Restaurant review: Michael Winner at Villa Principe Leopoldo, Switzerland, The Sunday Times, 6 July 2008. URL accessed on 03 Aug. 2008.
  15. Art of Soccer, The With John Cleese. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  16. Playbill. Playbill. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  17. Cleese 'retires from performing', BBC News, 13 June 2006.
  18. John Cleese's fling with a blonde HALF his age. Daily Mail (20 July 2008). Retrieved on 03 Aug. 2008.
  19. The real reason I had to join. The Spectator (2009-03-25). Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  20. The Canadian Press (2009-07-22). CBC News  Arts  John Cleese cancels Just for Laughs appearance. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  21. Major Casting Replacement for John Landis' 'Burke and Hare'. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  22. Brudvig, Erik (2010-03-11). GDC 10: Designing Fable III  Xbox 360 Preview at IGN. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  23. BBC  Ex-Python John Cleese goes on first UK tour, aged 71. BBC News (2010-05-20). Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  24. Our divorceymoon! What happened when Cleese and Winner invaded Switzerland on a six-day road trip. Daily Mail (21 July 2008). Retrieved on 03 Aug. 2008.
  25. John Cleese. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  26. Cleese Saved Daughter From Drugs. IMDB (21 Dec. 2008). Retrieved on 23 Aug. 2009.
  27. Pierce, Andrew, John Cleese in £12 million divorce settlement, The Daily Telegraph, 18 August 2009. URL accessed on 6 May 2010.
  28. Wheeler, Virginia (2008-11-21). John Cleese has been dating a busty blonde comedian called Barbie Orr | The Sun |Showbiz|Bizarre. The Sun. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  29. RICHARD KAY: Cleese gets rid of his Barbie doll | Mail Online. (2009-01-29). Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  30. John Cleese  Biography
  31. // Carrie Underwood and Kevin Eubanks Voted World's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrities. (2007-10-14). Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  32. John Cleese's non-flying circus. (18 April 2010). Retrieved on 18 April 2010.
  33. Lib Dems plan warmer homes, BBC News, 31 May 2001. URL accessed on 21 Jul. 2008.
  34. JohnCleese. "John Cleese  Twitter Status (15 April 2010)". Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  35. Michael Saul, "The Full Monty for Bam?: Cleese stumps to be his speech writer," New York Daily News, 2008-04-09 p3. (2008-04-09). Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  36. John Cleese (2008-10-14). John Cleese: Sarah Palin Funnier Than Michael Palin, 14 October 2008, 6:51 PM PDT by Erik Pedersen, eonline. Retrieved on 2010-06-14.
  37. "John Cleese Destroys Sean Hannity with Poetry"
  38. Mike Oldfield "Tubular Bells" reaches thirty years old...
  39. "New Scientist" comment about the lemur being named after John Cleese
  40. "New Scientist" and John Cleese's response to the honour
  41. Funnyman Cleese rubbishes NZ city. The Australian, 21 May 2007

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: John Cleese Wikimedia Commons has media related to: John Cleese

  • Official Website
  • Official Podcast
  • John Cleese on Twitter
  • Podcast to celebrate The Life of Brian (March 2008)
  • Daily Llama: John Cleese Visits Lemurs at San Francisco Zoo
  • John Cleese  Museum of Broadcast Communication website
  • John Cleese  BBC Guide to Comedy
  • John Cleese at the Internet Movie Database
  • John Cleese at the Internet Broadway Database

This page was last modified 08.09.2010 14:28:35

This article uses material from the article John Cleese from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.