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3 Jun 2013

THE DICK CAVETT SHOW WITH JOHN CLEESE

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  08:00   STAGE

John Cleese in Faulty Towers If you've ever envisioned a tall, repressed, and gangly looking Englishman with a mustache, who have you thought about? Burt Reynolds? Tom Selleck? Joseph Stalin? Or what about that tall, repressed, and gangly looking comedian Dick Cavett spoke to in 1979, for about 60 minutes? He has a mustache!


Dick Cavett - John Cleese


THE STORY:

Now to some people he is a member of 'Monty Pythons Flying Circus'. To other's he is a very tall Englishman that likes to dress up in women's clothing. And to yet even more people he just likes taking the piss out of religion. But to Dick Cavett, he's none other than John Cheese... errr... I mean Cleese himself.

Yes. That's correct talk show fans. For two consecutive programs, Dick asks John a number of questions relating to his current film, 'The Life of Brian', as well as anything else that he can think off. Such as: (1) John's time acting on stage opposite Dicks wife, and his lack of a singing ability. (2) The whole religious controversy surrounding 'Brian', plus the nature of free speech both in America and England. (3) Why 'Python' took ABC to court because of an overzealous editor. And (4) British Television, the 'Flat Earth Society', the Royal Family, plus John's co-owned production company called 'Video Arts'.

Now without a stiff upper lip, John answers all of Dick's questions in a very straight forward and jovial manner. Granted, on occasion he does try to back up his opinions by paraphrasing pithy anecdotes or telling numerous tales of times past. Although, by in large Johns stance is mostly forthright and bold, saying it how he sees it, whilst interjecting here and there with an observation or a comment that's very 'Python' by default.

Furthermore, nearing the end of this televised tête-à-tête, John talks a little about the other members in his comedy troupe -- especially Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam -- plus his time as a failed journalist, his comedic inspirations, as well as what it was like growing up in the British costal town of Weston-super-Mare.

Here, before I go off and eat some Cheese, here are some quotes taken from this interview.

  • This is the second chat show I've been on in my life. The last one was in 1967. I just thought it best that I leave it for a little while before I did more, ha!
  • It was the BBC who first wrote the title 'Flying Circus' in print. So because the rest of us were pissed at the time, we just went along with it. We added the 'Monty Python' part later.  
  • The initial idea was that Brian was going to be Jesus' 13th disciple, and that he was always going to be late for everything because of his overbearing wife. But it didn't work. We found that we couldn't satirize Jesus because what of he stood for.
  • Every time 'Python' or 'Faulty Towers' is broadcast in New York, I get £2.
  • The first time 'Python' went out in England it was aired at 11pm on a Sunday night. No. It wasn't ideal.
  • You can't watch something like the news after you've watched 'Python'. Everything just seems silly somehow.
  • The world is comprised of two types of people -- the anal retentive and those who are comfortable with themselves.
  • As 'Python' went on we started to parody each others styles. So it's very hard for us to figure out who wrote what now.
  • The English are very vicious, yet we manage to hide it very well.
  • I find that there are two types of complaint. The personal complaint: where someone would approach you after the show, and tell you what they thought was offensive about your material. And then there are the heads of organisations: who would air their views because they think their members might be offended by something you've done.
  • My strength as a writer is a stern logic. I stick to one rule and follow it all the way through to the punch line.
  • The 'Parrot Shop' sketch started out as a man complaining to his mechanic about his damaged car. It then developed into something completely different.

And with that, my friends, both John and Dick got up out of their seats, and then frog marched out of the studio like a couple of loons. Say no more.


[ Not The Interview In Question ]


THE REVIEW:
Now what can I say about 'John Cleese on the Dick Cavett Show', that won't make me sound like some kind of Python obsessed freak? Errr? Nothing I suppose. I just loved watching this program to the max. It's all the things I love about Dick and Python plus much-much more.

John Cleese wining an award presented to him by Morecambe and Wise
Well, it's timely. They both talked about subjects I'm generally interested in. And whatever they had to say was one-half very revealing and one-half very funny. Honestly, I would have loved for the makers of 'Holy Flying Circus' to have watched this interview and inserted it into their dramatisation. Not only because it epitomised what John was really like during this time, but it also had a lot to say about the whole uproar relating to 'The Life of Brian'.

But do you know what the funniest thing about this is though? It isn't what John had to say about 'Brian' which was so poignant. No. As I heard most of that before. It's what Dick Cavett said instead. Especially when he just spurted out...

'Some people say that laughter is always the best medicine. So I don't see why someone should be upset about something that makes people happy and well'.

The Cast of Faulty Towers
Now doesn't that make sense to you, dear reader? I just don't understand why certain factions of seventies religiosity, were taken back with a form of entertainment that actually made people happy! Still, I think it best if I come off of my high horse about that particular subject, huh? Because this is a pretty good time to spill some John Cleese fact. (1) John Marwood Cleese was born on the 27th of October, 1939, in the municipal British borough of Weston-super-Mare. He isn't dead yet. (2) I kid you not; John's surname is 'Cheese' -- not 'Cleese' -- as it was changed by his Father, Reginald Francis, when he first joined the army. (3) Not only is John Cleese the tallest member of 'Monty Pythons Flying Circus', but he is the oldest member too. Only by a couple of inches and a couple of months though. (4) So far John has been married four times in his life. From 1968 to 1978, to his Faulty Towers co-writer: Connie Booth. From 1981 to 1990, to the actress: Barbara Trentham. From 1992 to 2008, to his psychotherapist: Alyce Eichelberger. And from 2012 to the present day, to the model: Jennifer Wade. (5) Sometime in 1972, the 'Yes Minister' co-writer, Sir Antony Jay, plus John and a number of other television 'pros', formed the video-based training company called 'Video Arts'. (6) Cynthia Cleese -- the daughter of John and Connie Booth -- is married to the film director, Ed Solomon, who was one of the writers on such movies as 'Men in Black' and 'Charlie's Angels'. (7) In 2005 Mister Cheese was voted the greatest comedian who ever lived by the British public. Furthermore, in exactly the same year he auctioned off a section of his own colon, after it was surgically removed from his person because of the advent of diverticulitis. (8) How could Johnny-boy not have a crazy website -- www.thejohncleese.com


Monty Pythons Flying Circus


John Cleese the Meaning of Life
Now apart from the stuff said about 'Brian', I have to say that there were a lot of other things I really enjoyed about 'John Cleese on the Dick Cavett Show' as well. For a start, I was engrossed by that latter segment, where John explained that he wasn't very good at being a journalist, and that he only left this profession because he wasn't getting the help that he needed. Then I'd have to say that I liked hearing John explain his own creative processes, and how he used both hard logic and juxtaposition to hone his writing talents. And finally, I loved whatever he had to say about Python. Like the origin of the name for example. The other members. The whole acting process. Whatever. To me, I couldn't help but smile whenever John said the word 'Python'. Interjecting it with a witticism or a proverb that made this show a must watch for any Python fan out there. Don't you agree Parrot shop sketch?




Ha! Say no more.

THE RATING: A

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