He has been making people around the world laugh for more than 50 years. Initially with the British comedy group Monty Python, then as a Hollywood star in comedies such as A Fish Called Wanda. But John Cleese (82) is also at home on stage. Now he is on his tour in Germany.
The show’s title is chilling at first: Last Time To See Me Before I Die. The poster even has a tombstone predicting a date of death in the 1920s.
“Of course, that’s not meant to be taken seriously,” says John Cleese to BILD am SONNTAG. “But hey, I’m 82. The time I have is limited. I will definitely not live another 20 years.”
On the other hand, his mother turned 101. His father smoked himself to death at 79. “I’ll probably have ten years left. And there is a lot I still want to experience during this time. But my last divorce just cost me a lot of money.”
Cleese is said to have paid almost 20 million euros to his ex-wife Alyce Eichelberger (77) in 2008. That’s also the reason why he still has to work, he says with a grin.
But anyone who experiences him also knows that the man still has a lot of fun with what he does. This year alone he has made five films. At least.
When he’s not in front of the camera or on tour, John Cleese prefers to spend his time with his now fourth wife Jennifer Wade (50) on the Caribbean island of Nevis. “Especially in winter I like to be in the sun. And the ones I get most reliably are in the Caribbean. In addition, there were not many corona cases there.”
The entertainer used the time of the pandemic very productively. He has written a stage show of The Life of Brian, which is slated to premiere as early as next year. He is also preparing a comedy about cannibalism and, together with his daughter Camilla (38), wrote the book for a musical by “A Fish Named Wanda” and immediately afterwards also wrote some songs for it.
John Cleese loves to write. “There’s something so dignified about it. As an actor it feels like going back to school because you’re constantly being told what to do. When it comes to writing, I can work however and whenever I want.”
When he wasn’t at his desk, John Cleese wasn’t lying lazily in a deck chair. He learned German. In the early 1970s he had already produced two episodes of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” in German with Alfred Biolek († 87).
“Back then I learned phrases like ‘I can kill a bat with an egg spoon’. You never know when you might need it.”
Now he was picking it up again right there. “My accountant’s wife is German. She gave me lessons.”
And John Cleese’s German is actually not bad. Heavy British accent, but more than a few phrases. “You only really learn a language when you live in the country. I haven’t had that time in Germany yet. But that’s on my bucket list.”
Even John Cleese doesn’t joke about that
Not only in Germany and England, but all over the world, John Cleese sees his profession in danger. The reason is increasing political correctness.
“People with very little humor want to stop us comedians from saying things that might hurt people but are really fun for others. Being correct just isn’t funny. That’s terrible. It’s like the tail wagging the dog.”
Of course, people have different pain thresholds. But the whole woke madness would go too far.
“And I’m a lot cheekier with my stage show than when I appear on TV, for example. But no one has ever left my show. People know what to expect and that’s why they come.”
But even John Cleese has his limits. When it comes to Islam, he becomes reserved. “Would I joke about that? The answer is no, because I could get killed for it. But that’s the only reason.”