John Cleese

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John Cleese, 2008

John Marwood Cleese (born October 27, 1939 in Weston-super-Mare , Somerset , England ) is a British comedian , actor , screenwriter and voice actor who became famous as a member of Monty Python . He was also successful with the television series Fawlty Towers and films such as A Fish Called Wanda and Clockwise - Right, Mr. Stimpson .


John Cleese's parents belonged to the middle class and gave their son a private education. His father Reginald Francis Cleese was originally Cheese (German: cheese ), but changed his last name in 1915 after the army had occurred. At the age of twelve, John was 183 cm tall, a year later even 196 cm and therefore fully grown. The many jokes about his size were good training for his humor and quick wittedness. Cleese collected jokes and was a loyal listener of the radio comedy Goon Show , on which Peter Sellers appeared, among others .

John Cleese studied law at Downing College , Cambridge . He was a member of the successful Cambridge Footlights , where he was able to live out his comedic talent, as was the later Monty Python member Graham Chapman . After graduating from university, Cleese wrote for the BBC and toured New Zealand and the United States with the Cambridge Footlights Revue . There he met Terry Gilliam , another later Monty Python member. Upon his return from the States, Cleese appeared on the BBC's radio comedy I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again , which ran successfully for several years.

First television appearances followed, he worked with Marty Feldman and the other later Monty Python members Eric Idle , Terry Jones and Michael Palin . In 1969, Monty Python's Flying Circus was broadcast for the first time. The group had overwhelming success with their farcical and grotesque humor. Cleese appeared in well over a hundred different roles, but mostly parodied the distant, uptight, emotions-fearing Englishman of better society.

After three seasons, Cleese left the show, but worked on other Monty Python projects outside of the TV format. In 1975 he produced the sitcom Fawlty Towers , which was just as successful. In it he played a stiff, worried hotel manager who is constantly trying to make the house appear to be functioning, but constantly gets into embarrassing situations.

Cleese then founded the production company Video Arts and was successful with witty-ironic training videos for managers. Together with family therapist Robin Skynner , he wrote psychological guides. To this day, he also develops popular science television programs.

Cleese at the 1989 Academy Awards

He had his greatest success in 1988 with the written by him and co-staged feature film A Fish Called Wanda (A Fish Called Wanda) , in which he again plays the typical feeling inhibited Englishman. The gangster comedy was well received by critics and audiences alike and received a number of major awards (including an Oscar nomination for Cleese for best screenwriter; its supporting actor Kevin Kline received the Oscar for best supporting role). His second feature film Wilde Kreaturen (Fierce Creatures) was released in 1996. As in A Fish Called Wanda , Cleese starred alongside Kevin Kline , Jamie Lee Curtis, and Michael Palin , but the film didn't get nearly as much acclaim. Cleese didn't write another feature film script after that, and has repeatedly called it a mistake to have made Wilde Kreaturen . When asked in 2008 by his friend, director and restaurant critic Michael Winner , what he would do differently if he had the chance to live his life again, Cleese went so far as to say, “I would have Alyce Faye Eichelberger [his third wife] didn't marry and I would n't have shot Wilde Kreaturen . "

Cleese is also known for two other roles: that of Almost Headless Nick in the film adaptations of the Harry Potter novels and the role of R , the weapons developer James Bonds and successor to Q in two films in the series.

As his television documentaries show, he is very interested in education and knowledge transfer. From 1970 to 1973 he was Rector of St Andrews University and is still visiting professor at Cornell University in New York . Cleese is committed to preserving the endangered lemurs . To thank him for his commitment, a species of lemur was named after him in 2005 ( Avahi cleesei ) .

The New Zealand city of Palmerston North named a landfill after him in 2007. The comedian had previously described the city as "New Zealand's suicide capital". Palmerston North, which has an average New Zealand suicide rate, renamed the heap Mount Cleese .

In 2008 he started working with his daughter Camilla on a musical version of his feature film A Fish Called Wanda . For the first time since the 1996 film Wild Creatures , he also wrote a screenplay again (working title: Taxing Times ). Co-author was Lisa Hogan from Ireland , with whom he has been friends for a long time and who has already appeared in Wilde Kreaturen . According to Cleese, it is about “the efforts some people make to avoid paying taxes. […] [The book] is based on what happened to me when I had my British pension paid off and moved to Santa Barbara . ”In 2014, his autobiography So, Anyway… was published .


John Cleese was married for ten years to the American actress Connie Booth , who also appeared in Monty Python's Flying Circus and played the maid Polly in Fawlty Towers . Their daughter, Cynthia Cleese, played a small role in A Fish Called Wanda and in Wild Creatures . Cleese and Booth worked together on the second Fawlty Towers season after their divorce and are friends to this day. Barbara Trentham - also an American actress - married Cleese in 1981. In 1984 the couple had a daughter, Camilla. The marriage ended in divorce in 1990.

On December 28, 1992, John Cleese married the American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger, and in 1999 he emigrated to California . The couple has no children together, separated in January 2008. The divorce proceeding was closely followed in the UK since Eichelberger a severance payment of 13.5 million euros received.

In August 2012, Cleese married Jennifer Wade, 31 years her junior, on the Caribbean island of Mustique .

Cleese has lived on Nevis in the Caribbean since 2018 .


  • The voice of John Cleese was mostly dubbed in Germany by Thomas Danneberg .
  • The most frequently used saying from the mouth of John Cleese in Flying Circus was: "And now for something completely different."
  • In Movie Park Germany , several video sequences with John Cleese were shot for the Time Riders attraction to guide visitors.
  • On April 14, 2015, John Cleese was a guest on Markus Lanz's talk show to present his biography.
  • Cleese has a passion for the German language. With his first self-earned money, he took German lessons.

Filmography (selection)

watch TV

Series, television films and shows


  • 2001: The Human Face
  • 2004: Wine for the Confused
  • 2005: Power of the Sun
  • 2006: The Art of Football from A to Z
  • 2011: John Cleese Live - The Alimony Tour 2011



  • Cleese also took part in Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells 2003 , where he announces the entering instruments at the end of the piece Finale .
  • Cleese also made a guest appearance in the piece Chomolungma on Alan Parsons' album A Valid Path (2004) .
  • In the Time Riders attraction in Movie Park Germany , which opened in 2005, he plays the scientist Dr. Wells
  • Cleese also speaks the butler named Jasper in the game Fable III , which was released in Germany on October 29, 2010.
  • Since October 8, 2016, he has been playing and speaking to the butler named Aldstone in the game Payday 2 .


watch TV

  • 1967: The Frost Report: Rose d'Or at the Montreux TV Festival as an actor
  • 1969: Monty Python's Flying Circus : Nomination for the British Society of Film and Television Arts Award (later BAFTA Award) as a screenwriter and actor
  • 1970: Monty Python's Flying Circus: Nomination for the Society of Film and Television Arts Award as an actor
  • 1975: Fawlty Towers : Nomination for the Society of Film and Television Arts Award for Actor
  • 1979: Fawlty Towers: BAFTA Award for Actor
  • 1986: Cheers : Emmy as a guest actor
  • 1991: Aftonbladet Newspaper Award for Most Popular TV Male Personality
  • 1997: Behind the moon just left (3rd Rock from the Sun): Emmy nomination as a guest actor
  • 2001: The Human Face: Emmy nomination for screenwriter and presenter
  • 2002: Sir Peter Ustinov Award of the Banff TV Festival
  • 2003: Will & Grace : Guest Actor Emmy Nomination
  • 2019: German Comedy Award (Lifetime Achievement International)



  • So anyway-- . Random House, New York City 2014.
    • German by Yvonne Bidal: Where was I again ?, an autobiography . Blessing Verlag, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-89667-505-7 .

See also

Web links

Commons : John Cleese  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. John Cleese on (English)
  2. John Cleese in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  3. John Cleese - Celebrities and their surprising degree choices
  4. Times Online - Michael Winner at Villa Principe Leopoldo, Switzerland
  5. ^ Daily Mirror: John Cleese's fling with a blonde HALF his age
  6. Second spring at 70, accessed on September 18, 2012
  7. ^ "Monty Python" star says yes for the fourth time, accessed on September 18, 2012
  8. Exclusive: John Cleese weds 'soulmate' in intimate Mustique marriage ceremony, accessed on September 18, 2012 (English)
  9. Jack Shepherd: John Cleese insists he is not a racist after saying London is 'not an English city any more'. The Independent of May 30, 2019 (English), accessed October 26, 2019
  10. Christoph Scheuermann, Barbara Supp: "Completely ridiculous". The English comedian John Cleese has a bad cough, but still gives an interview and at the end speaks German. In: Der Spiegel . No. 14 , 2015, p. 68-72 ( Online - Mar. 28, 2015 ).
  11. Day 2: The New Safe House! In: Announcements, Payday October 2 , 2016, accessed on February 11, 2018 .