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Monty Python's John Cleese at The Fillmore, 3 Things To Know
John Cleese has a long history of comedy success, starring in the award-winning British sitcom "Fawlty Towers" and in the hit film "A Fish Called Wanda," not to mention roles in the "Harry Potter" films and a pair of James Bond movies and voicework in the "Shrek" series.
But Cleese, 77, will always be known primarily as a part of Monty Python, creating indelible sketches such as "The Ministry of Silly Walks," "Dead Parrot" and "Cheese Shop," and as the BBC-style announcer during the troupe's "Monty Python's Flying Circus" TV show. Cleese has taken part in various Monty Python reunions and provided the voice of God for the stage musical "Spamalot," based on the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" film.
Cleese is currently on the road celebrating that movie, in fact, holding Q&As after screenings in various theaters and waxing elegantly, nostalgically and, of course, humorously about all things Python...
Cleese says that 48 years after Monty Python formed and 42 years after "The Holy Grail's" release, he's still surprised by the enduring popularity. "We never looked that far ahead," he says. "There was no question we wanted to do something new. I always thought a great force for creativity is boredom or even repression, which you can see through English history. I think there had been a very stuff atmosphere in England for a very long time, and people began to break through that in the very early 60s with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and David Frost and all sorts of political and social satire that was almost unheard of before. It was all very topical and edgy and really plowed the way for us. But we had no idea, not even a glimmer of an idea of the impact we would eventually make."
Cleese is responsible for some of the most memorable characters in Python history, including in "The Holy Grail," as well as his subsequent project. So what's the key to creating them? Beats Cleese. "Well, I think you often don't know what is a great character," Cleese says. "If you'd look at the response to 'Silly Walks' or 'Dead Parrot,' there's nothing very remarkable about the response, so how they became iconic I don't really know. When we first did them the audience reaction would never have told you or us there was anything particularly special going on. So what it is that suddenly takes over and raises things to this iconic status is a mystery, and you can't tell when it's going to happen."
The Monty Python troupe -- save for Graham Chapman, who passed away during 1989-- reunited for 10 shows during 2013 in London, yielding the film and video "Monty Python Live (Mostly)." After that Michael Palin announced the group would never perform together again, and Cleese, who does perform duo shows with Eric Idle, says that's likely to be the case. "I think you can be quite sure we're not going to do it," he says. "First of all, none of us wants to, and the second is we could never agree on anything. The whole reason (the reunion) went so smoothly is just one of us, Eric, was in charge. He did a terrific job, and if any of the rest of us had done the show, we would each of us have produced probably different shows but it wouldn't have been quiet a suitable as Eric's." Cleese adds that he couldn't see doing a Python show without Palin, either. "It wouldn’t occur to us to do that, really. I don't think it would be Python, you know?"
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail" featuring a Q&A with John Cleese
Thursday, Sept. 28. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.
Tickets are $66-$251.
Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.
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