Tuesday, January 19, 2016

So, Anyway..., by John Cleese

So, Anyway..., by John Cleese

John Cleese is hilarious. Anyone that has seen him perform (Monty Python, Fawlty Towers are the best known) has seen his genius, but this memoir shows his true talent is writing. He covers his life from his earliest days right up to the forming of Python; while this is fascinating, it was a bit disappointing as well. Of course I'd love to hear the stories behind one of the funniest shows I've ever seen, but understand that could probably fill an entire book by themselves and that wasn't the issue. The disappointing part was the hints at his life after 1969 that we don't get to see. For instance, Cleese mentions three wives, but is still married to his first throughout the text. That nit aside, this is still a great read.

Cleese has always been known for farce, but I always found his humor very sharp as well, and his wit and wisdom come off well here. I especially appreciated his take on religion: "All the vital questions have been dumped in favour of half-baked, po-faced rituals which are basically a form of middle-class rain dance. Still, it did give me the chapel scene in The Meaning of Life." Cleese nails political correctness as well, saying it "may have started as a kind intention, but was soon hijacked and taken ad absurdum by a few individuals without any sense of proportion—which means, by definition, that they are without any sense of humour either." He believes that if political correctness existed in his early career at the same level it does today, much of the comedy he wrote wouldn't have seen the light of day. Makes you wonder how many laughs we are missing now because comedians are hampered by society's race to mental austerity...

First Sentence:
I made my first public appearance on the stairs up to the school nurse's room, at St. Peter's Preparatory School, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, on September 13, 1948.

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