A memorable memoir

Hi everyone, I hope this month is faring better for you all. Despite the many restrictions here in New Zealand with the surge in the pandemic, life has a way of just trickling along by itself. I thought I’d share a review of a memoir I read some time ago which I enjoyed. Hope you have a similar reaction…

cover image of top half of face of man, John Cleese. white background with blue feathers floating beside yellow and dark letters reading John Cleese So, Anyway...
An illuminating memoir

Title: So, anyway…

Author: John Cleese

Genre: Biography

Publication details: Crown Archetype; NY, 2014

ISBN: 9780385348249   (Hardcover)

What this book is about: In this rollicking memoir, Cleese takes readers on a grand tour of his ascent in the entertainment world, from his humble beginnings in a sleepy English town and his early comedic days at Cambridge University (with future Python partner Graham Chapman) to the founding of the landmark comedy troupe that would propel him to worldwide renown. Cleese was just days away from graduating Cambridge and setting off on a law career when he was visited by two BBC executives who offered him a job writing comedy for radio. That fateful moment – and a near-simultaneous offer to take his uni humour revue to London’s famed West End – propelled him down a different path, cutting his teeth writing for stars like David Frost and Peter Sellers, and eventually joining the five other Pythons to pioneer a new kind of comedy that prized invention, silliness, and absurdity. Along the way, he found his first love with the actress Connie Booth and transformed himself from a reluctant performer to world-class actor and back again. Twisting and turning through surprising stories and hilarious digressions, this story of a young man’s journey to the pinnacle of comedy is a masterful performance by a master performer.

My review: An extremely funny and hilarious memoir of one of England’s leading comedic actors!! A rather modest beginning from Weston-super-mare on the west of England where Clesse grew up to accounts of his school days, his career path that led to where he is today was not always smooth. John Cleese talks of his relationship with his parents and it sounds quite fascinating. Being an only child, it was his father that he really connected with! His mother is portrayed as someone he had a strained relationship with. Cleese goes on to Clifton College in Bristol and then on to Cambridge to read law. For me what was fascinating was the ascent of his career into comedy writing through his university revue, brief interlude on Broadway and now finally as a Python and ‘Mr Fawlty’. To me he will always be Mr Fawlty, all arms and legs, loud, rude and a big idiot!! This book had me trying really hard to control my giggles that were trying really hard to erupt. John Cleese’s writing is quite unique. You sort of hear a very posh Mr Fawlty voice narrating his life story and try not to laugh at the various skits he and Graham did for 1945 Show and later for the Python series.  Absolutely enjoyed reading about his colourful life but I, along with a fair portion of Anglophiles everywhere, would have loved to know more of what making Fawlty Towers was like and about his other relationships to date.

My rating: 4 ⭐

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