John Cleese: Star's life in the limelight

IT has taken four marriages, two children and a rumoured Monty Python reunion to finally bring John Cleese to Tasmania - the first time in his 74-year life.

Although his voice may now have more rattle than his all-too-familiar recordings from the mid-1970s, Cleese is continuing to work as tirelessly as ever on a lengthy string of projects - including a two-part autobiography.

"I think I get bored a little more quickly than some people," Cleese said from his London home. "That does cause problems, but I think it's part of the artistic temperament - not that I particularly think of myself as an artist.

"I think if you have the artistic temperament you'll always try and move ahead or find something new to excite yourself as opposed to just doing the same thing all the time."

Cleese has led a famously controversial life of success, however his highly publicised divorces, lawsuits with past directors and outspoken statements in the media have only kept him in the limelight as he pushes on to the next big thing.

Recent announcements will see Cleese teaming up with other Python greats - Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones - for a much-anticipated reunion next year.

"The great fans, I'm afraid, do not want us to do new material," Cleese said, recalling a show at Albert Hall, London, where Neil Diamond was booed off stage for performing new songs.

"We know that the audience that's coming is going to be very keen to see the golden oldies, the challenge is to see if we can present them in an interesting and slightly surprising way."

Cleese described his latest shows as "a professional autobiography" and said his Launceston appearance could present fans with a chance to ask questions that were "a little bit more blunt".

"I talk a little bit about my childhood, my parents and how I managed to get into Cambridge and how I got into showbiz by accident," he said.

"A little bit about my early career with David Frost and the two Ronnies but I really start talking about writing movies with Peter Sellars, then about how Monty Python originated - I talk quite a lot about that - then a lot about Fawlty Towers and I finish up with quite a lot about A Fish Called Wanda.

"I think the advantage if we do do the Q&A at the end is that it gives a chance to address very specific questions from the audience, which means that at least you're talking about something that one person in the audience is interested in.

"To me it's a little more fun when I get a question that I haven't answered before, I enjoy that because there's a give and take between the audience - it can be great fun, it's something real and happening."

Cleese's view on his own history leaves room for improvement and, despite his long list of achievements, is adamant that it was his way of thinking that led him to fame. "I haven't really [achieved] you know. I just happen to have a talent for making people laugh, I'm good at that, both at writing and performing it.

"I think I'm quite good at being a chairman at a meeting, I think I'm quite good at that, I'm also quite good at a certain kind of thinking, which was useful when I was doing law at Cambridge.

"I'm good at seeing whether a set of events falls into this category or that category, there's a whole range of other things that I'm absolutely no good at at all.

"I'm very, very bad at technology, I cannot think in three dimensions, I'm extraordinarily unobservant, I don't speak any languages very well."

Although he puts it down to age, Cleese said his philosophical view of the world was beginning to take a path of realism - something he occasionally raises in performances.

"I think that's right, I think that as you get older you realise basically what a complete mess everything is and that there's very little chance of ever improving anything in a dramatic way," he said.

"I don't mean that I know what I'm talking about, but that's my experience over the years.

"I mean, in my own business, I can say quite categorically that most of the things that I've done that have been really successful were not, in any way, embraced by the people in charge at the start of things.

"I have to say I think that's fairly misleading, particularly the idea in the US that anyone can become president, you know it's very harmful and a lot of American psychiatrists have said that to me.

"I mean, I think it's always been like this, we shouldn't suddenly get depressed, I just think what we can actually achieve is very, very limited - to be realistic.

"What we can do is try to be reasonably nice and pleasant to the people around us, and I'm not so sure that the great religious traditions don't say something pretty much like that."• An Evening with John Cleese will be held at Launceston's Albert Hall on Saturday and Sunday, February 22 and 23.

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