John Cleese

Founding member of Monty Python's Flying Circus & Fawlty Towers


Topics

Comedian/Comedienne, Entertainment, Humor


Full Bio


English actor, voice actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus. Along with his Python co-stars Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman, Cleese starred in Monty Python films, which include: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian (1979) and The Meaning of Life (1983).

In the mid-1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote the sitcom Fawlty Towers, and he starred in it as Basil Fawlty. The series resulted in Cleese receiving the 1980 BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance, and in 2000 the show topped the British Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes. In a 2001 Channel 4 poll Basil was ranked second on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters. Cleese co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda (1989) and Fierce Creatures (1997), both of which he also wrote; for A Fish Called Wanda, he was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. He has also starred in Time Bandits (1981) and Rat Race (2001) and has appeared in many other films, including Silverado (1985), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), two James Bond films (as R and Q), two Harry Potter films (as Nearly Headless Nick), and three Shrek films.

Emerging from the Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, Cleese specialises in satire, black comedy, sketch comedy and surreal humour. With Yes Minister writer Antony Jay, he co-founded Video Arts, a production company making entertaining training films. In 1976, Cleese co-founded The Secret Policeman's Ball benefit shows to raise funds for the human rights organisation Amnesty International. Although a long running supporter of the Liberal Democrats, in 1999 he turned down a life peerage offer from the party.

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