On the long list of TV series we simply couldn't imagine living without, Monty Python's Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers are near the top, thanks in part to the brilliant comedic sensibility of John Cleese. He's celebrating his 75th birthday today, an impressive life milestone alongside all his professional milestones spread out over an accomplished 50 years in show business. Cambridge-educated Cleese began his acting and comedy work at the college, his performing talent soon eclipsing his desire to study law. Growing up in a time where anarchy was on the loose in British comedy (particularly on radio, thanks to The Goon Show and talents like Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan), Cleese and his comic contemporaries were well-poised to continue the tradition and then establish their own creative beachhead the likes of which has never been equaled.
can read about Cleese's life all over the internet, and he's got So Anyway -- an autobiography of his first thirty years -- coming out next week. Finding out about his life is interesting and important, and you will probably quickly learn that he's maybe not the jolliest fellow or the nicest Python but possibly the smartest and definitely the most introspective, yet that in the long run means little. What he's going to remembered by are his comedic gifts, the moments he created either as a writer or as a performer, that will stay with us forever.
Here's a pre-Python TV-appearance by Cleese, alongside comedy great Marty Feldman, on At Last the 1948 Show (he was also a writer on the show) ca. 1967:
And here is a very random selection of some classic Cleese moments from Monty Python's Flying Circus:
Fans have kept the dozen episodes of John Cleese and (his wife at the time) Connie Booth's series Fawlty Towers at the top of their favorite lists since 1975, too.
There's so much more to his career, so many more clips on online, so many episodes that you must revisit!
Happy 75th Birthday to John Cleese, one of the world's most precious comedy assets!