John Cleese on the world needing comedy, Brexit and his new BBC sitcom
(17 Aug 2017) JOHN CLEESE TALKS COMEDIANS, BREXIT AND HIS NEW BBC SITCOM
"We have never needed comedians more." That was veteran British comedian and actor John Cleese's verdict on the world, as he collected an honorary Heart of Sarajevo award on Wednesday (16 AUGUST 2017)
Comedians, Cleese claims, "often feel a bit more strongly about things than actors because after all comedians create their own material, actors very seldom do, and I think that makes them a little more comfortable with sticking their neck out."
Cleese's latest project sounds anything but comic - he says he's writing a show called "Why There Is No Hope." It's based on the psychology of the human brain.
Speaking in Sarajevo the day after receiving his award, the comedian offered his advice on becoming happier.
"Get rid of a lot of economists who have taught us to think that the only important thing in life is money. And you see that in London now I think, you see these very driven people racing around looking grim and anxious and then you come here (Sarajevo) and you see people in the streets with a much less luxurious kind of life looking a lot happier."
Cleese was part of the iconic Monty Python troupe, who rose to fame in the 1960s. He has starred in many Hollywood films, including most famously, "A Fish Called Wanda."
Most recently the 77 year old made headlines in his native Britain when he advocated "Brexit," although he now says he didn't vote in the U.K. Referendum, as he was abroad.
"The problem is we have no idea what the effect of Brexit will be," Cleese points out. "I mean the Governor of the Bank of England a few years ago, he's now retired, called Lord Mervyn King, said recently that he thought it would be another five years before we knew whether it was basically a good thing or a bad thing and I think that's the gist of what he said, and I've always felt that, and one of the disappointing things about England is that the two side are so entrenched and are really just rude about the other side and I say to everyone, 'We don't know, we don't know what's going to happen, don't tell me that I'm a bad person' because I advocated at one point, I said I would vote for Brexit because I'm fed up with the European Commission."
Cleese also has advice for American comedians trying to navigate political uncertainty in their own country:
"What you can do sometimes is you can make fun of certain people and certain attitudes, attitudes is important, and make them less tenable for a lot of people and I think that's the good that we can do, and I think the late night shows, of course, they are what we say 'preaching to the converted', preaching to the choir the Americans say, but nevertheless I think it creates a bit of an atmosphere."
The comedian is also much loved for his part in the classic 1970s BBC sitcom, "Fawlty Towers," where he played irate hotel owner Basil Fawlty. Cleese has returned to the BBC to make a new sitcom, "Hold the Sunset", although he found filming a more gruelling experience at his age.
"It's the first thing I've wanted to do in terms of a sitcom for over 40 years, " he explains. "It was a very happy experience because I liked the crew and the cast so much they were lovely people, but it was not terribly efficient and I think we shot very long days and at 77 I don't want to work from seven in the morning 'til seven at night, because after two days I'm tired and I'm not doing my best work, so the process was unsatisfactory and the people were lovely. But I gather the results are very good."
"But otherwise to do money, I do stage shows as it's the most reliable form of income, you don't have to wait for anyone to telephone you, you can set it up in advance," he adds.
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