"John Cleese is very, very tall. He also has a very Silly Walk."John Marwood Cleese
— TeeVeePedia article on John Cleese
(October 27, 1939-) is a British actor. He is most famous for his work in Monty Python
, where he played a lot of authority figures. His leaving the show before the fourth season is widely seen to be the moment when it Jumped the Shark
. Beyond that, he, along with his then-wife Connie Booth, created and starred in Fawlty Towers
, co-wrote and starred in A Fish Called Wanda
, helped write a Superman Elseworld
, made cameo appearances all over the place
, and gave a rather famous
eulogy to friend and fellow Pythonite Graham Chapman
He is the straightest Straight Man
possible, without having to resort to Asimo or attaching girders to one's back. Except when he's playing a raving lunatic. Although even then he manages to be the straightest raving lunatic you've ever encountered (see Basil Fawlty
, and Tim the Enchanter)
Partial list of roles:
Tropes associated with him include:
- Badass Mustache: It's something of a trademark of his in the post-Python years, with the exception of some appearances like A Fish Called Wanda.
- The Big Guy: His tall length is often used as a source for his comedy. He plays authoritarian characters or is pitched against smaller comedians. One can simply quote from the Archaeology Sketch: "Because I am six-foot five, and I eat little twerps like you for breakfast!"
- Creator Backlash: Despite being the most famous member of Monty Python he is the only one who grew dissatisfied with the format early, left the series after the third season because of Seasonal Rot and to this day still thinks most of what they did could've been a whole lot better if they had more time and money to perfectionize some stuff. He is also the only Python who once complained to the BBC about one of their sketches he deemed too vulgar and managed to have it cut.
- Deadpan Snarker: Cleese is very well known for saying odd stuff while remaining straight faced.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Graham Chapman.
- I Am Very British: It may be difficult to find another British comedian who embodies all the stereotypical ideas about the Quintessential British Gentleman more than Cleese. Peter Sellers could, though he is more famous as a French detective.
- Only in It for the Money: Cleese has a reputation for being very intent on earning money. Eric Idle complained a lot about this, especially because Cleese only wanted to do the post-Python projects (like the movies) if they brought in a lot of cash. Many of the films and TV sitcom appearances Cleese has done in the later years of his life have been criticized as this too.
- Precision F-Strike: Believes that profanity has its place, but it must be handled carefully or it loses its effect. He abhors works that use it simply for the sake of being vulgar.
- Sad Clown: Like most comedians, he suffered from depression with his failed marriages. His conversations with psychiatrist Robin Skynner led to the popular books Families and How To Survive Them and Life And How To Survive It.
- Silly Walk: Not the Trope Namer, since other comedians before him have had silly walks, but he could be the Trope Codifier. A famous Monty Python sketch has him as the Minister of Silly Walks and he goosestepped another funny walk in the Fawlty Towers episode The Germans. It's one of his trademarks, though he doesn't particularly like the fact that he is pigeonholed for "such a ordinary and simple joke."
- Stiff Upper Lip: Talks a lot between his teeth while remaining straight faced.
- Type Casting: He's pretty much the same in every movie. He often says "Jolly good", "Right!", "Marvelous" and "(sucking wind between teeth)...Still!" Since A Fish Called Wanda he is also cast too often in films and TV series as somewhat of a Chick Magnet.
- Write What You Know: He based Basil Fawlty on a very rude hotel manager called Donald Sinclair. The other Pythons left the hotel, but John chose to stay and study Donald's behavior.