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So, Anyway... Paperback – September 29, 2015
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“So, Anyway... ambles along in loose fashion, taking its time, stopping to admire the view here and there, dispensing a little social commentary...and otherwise taking the scenic route through a mostly sunny landscape. The effect is a bit like having a long lunch with an amiable, slightly loony uncle. Who also happens to be John Cleese.” —Michael Ian Black, The New York Times Book Review
“John Cleese’s memoir is just about everything one would expect of its author — smart, thoughtful, provocative and above all funny… a picture, if you will, of the artist as a young man.” —Washington Post
“Give John Cleese points for candor...Give him additional points for graceful writing and sly humor..” —Philadelphia Inquirer
“The long-awaited story of the actor’s life, told how he wants to tell it.” —The Guardian
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
JOHN CLEESE cofounded the legendary Monty Python comedy troupe, writing and performing in the first three TV seasons of Flying Circus and in films that include Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian. He cowrote and starred in the sitcom Fawlty Towers, and wrote and costarred in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He has also coauthored two best-selling books on Psychology.
From the Hardcover edition.
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There is bitterness in it too, as if there is a grumpy old man sharing the same skull with the genius who delighted so many people around the world, and the grumpy man is wondering why he can't experience some of that delight for himself. That man seems to be searching for meaning, something I hope John will find eventually. Though I suspect had he found it earlier in life, he'd have been a happier man and we wouldn't have as much of his hilarious work to enjoy.
But there is also good fun peppered throughout the book -- a few stories you'll remember which I think were alone worth the price and the time. In the end, I was sorry the book ended, but given that John basically just covered the first half of his life, there's hope that one day we'll get part II.
"So, Anyway" is the story of the making of one of the greatest comedians ever. It tells of his childhood in the Somerset and Devon countryside with his gentle father and hyper-neurotic mother. ("Whereas Dad might prefer to sleep with the window open, Mother had to have it shut, because she just couldn't cope with the alternative.") There is also a great deal about Cleese's school days, including his adventures with the Cambridge Footlights Club, and his meeting the young performers who, like him, would soon become comedy legends. Naturally, there were a lot of hijinks. (The tale of a practical joke, played on Cleese by Marty Feldman on the island of Ibiza, appears on page 265 of this edition; it alone is worth the price of the book.) One of the most interesting tales is Cleese's complete and utter shock when Graham Chapman, his close friend and writing partner, came out as gay, at a time when it was still dangerous to do so. ("I had known Gra for over five years and he had always worn brogue shoes and cord trousers and a sports jacket with leather patches on the elbows, and he had been a beer-drinking, pipe-smoking, rugby-football playing medical student. In the '60s, if you were wondering if someone might be gay, these habits were not thought of as dead giveaways. Unless, of course, the person in question was female."
"So, Anyway" is both hilarious and engrossing. as well as wise. Cleese is a man who has thought long and deeply about the wellsprings of comedy, and he shares that wisdom with us in this book. He also, not incidentally, comes across as a genuinely nice man. If you're looking for a stocking-stuffer this year, you can do far worse than giving your friends and family the gift of the life story of the man who created Fawlty Towers, A Fish Called Wanda, and the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Tales of being a school teacher, not becoming a lawyer despite his family's insistence, writing for all those folks just mentioned, appearing as a standup comic, dancing (which he is actually totally incapable performing) and tales of Monty Python (which I have not gotten to yet).