Candid and brilliantly funny, this is the story of how a tall, shy youth from Weston-super-Mare went on to become a self-confessed legend.
En route, John Cleese describes his nerve-racking first public appearance, at St Peter's Preparatory School at the age of eight and five-sixths; his endlessly peripatetic homelife, with parents who seemed incapable of staying in any house for longer than six months; his first experiences in the world of work, as a teacher who knew nothing about the subjects he was expected to teach; his hamster-owning days at Cambridge; and his first encounter with the man who would be his writing partner for over two decades, Graham Chapman. And so on to his dizzying ascent via scriptwriting for Peter Sellers, David Frost, Marty Feldman and others to the heights of Monty Python.
Punctuated from time to time with John Cleese's thoughts on topics as diverse as the nature of comedy, the relative merits of cricket and waterskiing and the importance of knowing the dates of all the kings and queens of England, this is a masterly performance by a former schoolmaster.
©2016 John Cleese (P)2016 Random House Audiobooks
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"Laugh Out Loud!"
This is all you'd expect from John Cleese - not just wildly funny, but sharp and shrewd with insightful analysis of family relationships and the nature of comedy and comedy writing. He makes his childhood as the only child of ill-sorted parents in various parts of the west country both funny and gently tragic with his mother's titanic tempers and crippling anxiety, and himself as a lanky wimp. It's a wonderful recreation of those class-conscious times (was he middle class / lower middle class/ lower middle middle class.....?) and his career through prep school and Clifton College is filled with brilliant and eccentric cameos. Cambridge, where he was actually studying Law which he found mind-numbingly boring, was for him the Footlights and the beginning of what has been fifty years of comedy.
What makes this download so enjoyable is of course Cleese's exaggerated, wildly zany expression with torrents of consecutive adjectives building to a crescendo, or where he pulls out the craziest analogies and descriptions. (When he is teaching at his old prep school whilst at Cambridge, trying to get a boy to understand that the River Congo is in the Congo and the River Niger is in Nigeria, is like 'transferring the principle of anti-matter to the brain of a hamster'). Much of the comedy in all the shows he was involved in (Fawlty Towers, Monty Python etc) would now be censored, and part of their appeal now is their outrageous incorrectness as well as their anarchic inventiveness.
The other winning element is that Cleese himself reads with masses of recreations of conversations with his writing teams, and from sketches from the shows with all his manically energetic voices. Best of all I liked his dissolving into infectious laughter as he reads and on one occasion he actually collapses into that stomach-clutching body wheeze of laughter.
SO ANYWAY, download and enjoy it!
"Nothing Fawlty With This One!"
John Cleese, possibly one of the most important figures in British comedy. Thirteen hours spent in his company listening to the story of his life from his early memories up towards his time in Python. Plus, as it happens an add-on to discuss the 2014 Monty Python Live Shows. Hearing story after story replayed by the man himself what shines out is his massive affection for comedy and many of the people he worked with. There is a warmth and a depth to what we are told and how we are told it.
While I don't read many autobiographies it is an obvious area where in some cases the audiobook format is superior to the printed word. The experience is so much more intensely intimate listening to Cleese telling his own story. Hearing him laugh as he recalls particular funny moments is a real joy. In addition when sketches are discussed in the later chapters this audiobook actually includes the recordings of them.
The book intro and "oohtro" feature amusing interjections from another special guest in the form of mini-sketches. After that as John takes up the story it's clear that his voice was not at its best at the start. However, he improves as things go along and while those vocal chords may not be what they once were he becomes a joy to listen to.
The one word of warning I would give about the book is that it is not a complete autobiography. There is almost nothing about Fawlty Towers and only the later chapters start talking about Monty Python including an afterthought chapter talking of the re-union stage show. There is a lot about Cleese's early life and some fantastic anecdotes covering almost every step of his development into a young man.
So, as long as you are aware that the book isn't a complete autobiography and does only lead up to a bit of Python it will not disappoint. There are lots of laugh out loud moments, fantastically funny anecdotes and witty opinions. The dying rabbit story will live with me for some time. If you like John Cleese, you will almost certainly love this book, I just hope there is something coming to carry the story through Fawlty Towers and beyond!
"It was ok."
Lots about him growing up, which was amusing in places, but it ended when I thought it should just be getting going.
"Great to hear the Great JC!"
John's reading of his book really makes it special particularly when he breaks into spontaneous laughter showing his genuine enjoyment of his recollections. Some interesting insights into his early life and I never realised he did so much writing before MP. Look forward to the next instalment!
I always know that I love a book when I get upset as it comes to the end and this was the case with this. A great look into his life and thoughts and know a lot more about him now. Will be one that I will be checking out for many years had a great flow and feel to it
read by John Cleese him self. This book is informative as well as funny.
A Cleese classic
"1st half amazing 2nd half rubbish"
such a pity started out amazing. so interesting and funny then for some reason from the part where we all could have enjoyed so many stories just about everything. was brushed under the carpet. 30 odd years in maybe an Hour.
very disappointed that he seemed to just get fed up with writing and knocked the second half of his life out in an afternoon.
still at least he will earn a fortune anyway
A great read. Thoroughly enjoyable. Read by John himself which is good as no one else could carry it off!
funny, well read nearly, start and finish a nice touch. you must have get this.
"An amazingly enjoyable listen"
It is rare in my experience for me to re-listen to a book. I would make an exception for this one. Initially before the the book started I wondered if it would work if read by the author but only a few minutes of so in, I could see it would work well indeed. I was quite surprised that the book contained a few recordings of some of the sketches. That is something you can do in an audio book and if this book has a paper equivalent then I have no idea how that would occur.
It was immensely enjoyable. What surprised me and this is common I think in members of an audience, like me, that we often think much of it is made up on the hoof and there is a certain spontaneity. The truth though is that everything was scripted and John and his colleagues worked hard, not only writing the material but delivering it as well.
My favourite piece amongst many was the sketch of the inept train driver delivered by Marty Feldman, a great comic who died far too young.
I also took away, as is common feature in biographies, that happenstance played a big part in the coming together of the comic geniuses that gave us Monty Python and its earlier cousins.
If you want to listen to a thoroughly illuminating, engaging and comic book then pick this.
Thank you so much Mr Cleese.
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