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Friday, October 27, 2006

And Now For Something Totally Different

Today marks the 67th birthday of the comic English actor and writer John Cleese, whose work has delighted a new generation with the success of the recent musical "Spamalot."

“Spamalot” is based on the 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which in turn was based on the popular 1969-74 TV series, "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Cleese, who got his start writing for a Cambridge University Footlights Club revue called “Cambridge Circus,” moved on to the The David Frost Show and That Was the Week That Was, as well British radio and TV shows before “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” achieved international attention.

He is most remembered for two sketches in that series. In the “dead parrot” sketch Cleese tries to return his defective parrot to the pet store where he bought it. The other sketch, “Ministry of Silly Walks,” made great use of Cleese’s gawky appearance. The show changed TV comedy, as evidenced by the term "pythonesque," now found in the dictionary. It refers to something that is “fast-paced, surreal, and following stream-of-consciousness.”

Cleese went on to more TV success with "Fawlty Towers," as well as the Monty Python films. He wrote, produced and appeared in "A Fish Called Wanda" in 1988 and more recently appeared in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" as "Nearly Headless Nick."

Check out:

Cleese Encounters by Jonathan Margolis.

The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons.

Monty Python Speaks! by David Morgan.

The First 28 Years of Monty Python by Kim Johnson.

The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus by Graham Chapman.

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