Thursday, November 05, 2009

Concert Review - John Cleese

I saw comedic genius John Cleese last night in Eugene with frankly low expectations. I had seen Cleese in some interviews over the last few years and thought he was funny but not rip-roaring funny. I thought, well, maybe the man has lost his edge and his best work is behind him.

Well, call me all straightened out. Last night Cleese did what amounted to a two-hour monologue in front of a sold out theater. He used hilarious slides on a screen behind him to help drive the jokes home, and he showed various clips from his career as well.

He started off saying that he was so old, one of his teeth fell out when he was brushing his teeth that morning. “I am so old that pieces are literally falling off of me.” He continued on by saying he had to do this tour because he was recently divorced and has to pay his ex $20 million dollars. He continued saying that by other divorce settlements, he could have married Pamela Anderson 8 and a third times (accompanied by a graphic of eight and a third Pamela Andersons), and other similar comparisons of what $20 million can get you these days.

He talked about his mother, who was afraid of everything. “The only two things my mother and I had in common were that we were not raised by wolves and that we both loved black comedy.” He went on to say that his remedy for her complaining that she was depressed was to offer to have someone come to her house and kill her. When she said "You'll forget about me when I am gone," Cleese said "No I won't because when you die I am going to have you stuffed by a taxidermist, and I will put you in a glass case by my door so when I grab my hat to go outside, I will see you." This promise, according to Cleese, upped her status at the nursing home.

It went on and on and soon focused on how he got into comedy, with of course lengthy segments on Python, Fawlty Towers, his late writing partner and fellow Python Graham Ghapman, and the Fish Called Wanda movie. Then he said, “since my career has been dead for the past 19 years, let’s go to the Q&A,” and took a few questions from the audience.

I was dying laughing all night and immediately wished that every one of my friends were there with me to see this. One was – one of my oldest friends Brendan. Brendan runs the production house that puts shows on in the Theater, so we watched the show from the soundboard. And Steve, the house sound guy, had a 30-odd page script that was basically everything Cleese was saying. There were some improvised parts but I was very impressed that Cleese basically had written a two-hour comedy skit about his life, complete with props, slides and films. And he delivered it flawlessly.

Cleese brings the show to his home state of California next week, with various shows (mostly in Southern California). Do some Googling and see if you can see this. And while you’re there, get the tour shirt (yes, he has merch) that says “I saw John Cleese Live. Before he died.”

There is a pretty good interview with Cleese in the Glendale Press as well, here.


Serena said...

How cool that you got to see the script like that. I only saw the second half of the show because I was watching the world series, but it was just enough for me. I am not a longtime fan of John Cleese, but became an admirer through reporting on his Eugene stop. I was struck by how much the show seemed to mean to so many people. When I casually mentioned that his family name used to be Cheese (back in that day, before he was born) one of his fans looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "He was probably pulling your leg." I think anyone who can attract that much passion from fans has to be a genius. It was like everyone there felt they had their own special relationship with him. Anyway, I hope the lady Googled the Cheese name change.
Nice review,

Isorski said...

Thanks, Serena! Good to share a little Cleese fever with you and the Reg Guard!

Dan said...

FANTASTIC STORY about meeting KISS backstage. Great photos too.

-Dan Kelleher