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Thursday, December 3, 2009

When John Cleese Dies...

...I'm going to be very sad.

He's not my friend or a distant relative, and we're not even buds on Facebook but, when he dies, I am going to be devastated. Maybe not as much as when my allergist died, but that's a different story altogether.

I wrote John Cleese a letter once-- when I was twelve. It was my version of a "fan letter" I suppose, and I included a Python-inspired sketch and his agent wrote back, saying something to the effect that Mr. Cleese was "very busy" and didn't have time to write back to "children in America."

Quite fired up about that, I shot back a nasty letter asking what, exactly, John Cleese was so busy doing, back in 1992? "I find it hard to believe that John Cleese is so busy these days," I wrote in a letter to his agent, printed out on our ancient Dot Matrix printer, "all he does is gain weight and advertise Magnavox TVs."

That earned me a letter back from Cleese himself, which I have, of course, since lost.

I owe John Cleese a lot, and I'm sorry that, in my porn-filled adolescent angst I basically referred to him as a fat sell-out. He is, but Eric Idle, the purveyor of "Spamalot" and a thousand other Python-related reinventions and machinations designed at netting him a small fortune from nothing other than resting on his, and the other Pythons', laurels, is more of a fat sell-out than Cleese ever could be.

Incidentally, I also wrote to Eric Idle when I was twelve, and I've a good mind to do it again, now that I have a marginally better vocabulary.

Like lots of other boys my age, I grew up watching shows like "The Muppets" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Diff'rent Strokes." Unlike lots of other boys my age, I also grew up watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus," "Fawlty Towers" and films like "Clockwise" and "Time Bandits." Because I have a somewhat obsessive personality, I didn't just watch one or two episodes of MPFC or one or two British films, I engorged myself on all of them and, as I began acting onstage, I began incorporating bits of the actors whom I respected so much. As I grew older, the actor whose mannerisms and vocalities I adopted the most of was undoubtedly John Cleese.

Though you wouldn't know it to look at him now, (because he's a fat sell-out), in his hey-day, John Cleese was beanpole thin, with endless legs, which made him hilarious-looking. One night, after performing the Major-General's song in The Pirates of Penzance, one of the actors in the male chorus remarked to me, as he was changing from his pirate costume into his policeman's costume, that "you don't even need to open your mouth to get laughs-- they're rolling about in their seats just looking at you." And I said, embarrassed, "Well, this is when being funny looking is its own advantage. Didn't help me much in high school, though."

I realized, though, that it's my physical appearance that's funny, and that appearance is very similar to that of John Cleese. Tall, impossibly skinny, with forever legs that any runway model would kill Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn for. While I can thank my parents genetics for my "funny body" more than I can thank John Cleese, I can at least thank him partially for knowing what to do with it onstage.

Work it, girl.

A story came out a couple of years ago that John Cleese was almost killed in his chauffeur-driven car when his driver had either fallen asleep or had suffered some sort of medical emergency at the wheel. Cleese was fine, but I thought to myself, "God, what if he'd died?" What if? People die every day, don't they-- people far more important in the world than John Cleese. But I suppose it's the people in your own little corner of the world that matter the most, to you. Not that John Cleese resides in my own little corner of the world, though, with his move to California, he's a lot closer to my own little corner than he was back when he resided in England.

I definitely owe John Cleese my voice. My British voice, that is. Though it's been tweaked somewhat, whenever somebody (particularly an English somebody) congratulates me on my accent, I always make sure to credit the original source: John Cleese. He taught me everything I know, especially how to rip out a good, "BAAAAHSTARD!" whenever necessary.

I know it's morbid, and it's not like he's on a respirator or anything at the present moment but, when John Cleese dies, I'm going to be seriously bummed. I might even eat him, dig a grave, and throw up in it.

That's a... a... Monty Python... um... joke.

You know...

...Cannibalistic Undertaker... Sketch....

Episode 26...




  1. Hehehehehe...great post! Idle and Cleese were definitely my favorites too...

  2. OMG, the "Ministry of Funny Walks" skit?

    Anybody who doesn't appreciate Cleese, or Monty Python in general, can't really be my friend.

    At least, not in public.

  3. The Cartoons scared the crap out of me so I avoided Monty Python at all costs as a kid. I was like that with the early Simpsons and other cartoons too. I only recently saw a M.P movie where the fat man eats a mint and blows up! Very funny stuff! I have watched their stuff a bit over the years but no where near a fan like you!
    Anyways you made me talk out loud at my screen when you wrote that you lost your letter from Mr Cleese. I said No Way, You didnt!
    Thanks for another great post! Cheers!

  4. well, he's no Graham Chapman but John Cleese is very funny, indeed

  5. Do you have a face like his too though?

    His expressions...

    I'm definitely more of a Fawlty Towers kind of guy -- don't really dig the Python.

    Which is odd, considering I'm not really a fan of slapstick. But I like Bottom too, so maybe I do like slapstick, hm...


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