Recently John Cleese declared he had given up acting. And why not? He’s 74 and to paraphrase a recent statement of his, he only has a few years left to live anyway.
So the obvious thing to do is to write one’s memoirs. From the very beginning of Cleese’s life he lets the reader into the various curiosities of his upbringing that lead him to discover his comedic talent.
These days, John Cleese is more well known for bit parts in British made movies. There’s only so many British actors you can call on once you’ve used Hugh Grant ten thousand times. For me, Cleese will always be Basil Fawlty. With a good dollop of the albatross salesman from Monty Python. Maybe a splash of the lawyer he played in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’.
Sure, it was always nice to recognise him in Harry Potter or spot his voice in some animated flick, but the core of John Cleese was in those first appearances. So Anyway reveals more about those Cleese Classics and how the people of his youth helped shape and mould them. As well as spending time psychoanalysing some of the better character traits, Basil Fawlty’s anger for example.
If the purpose of this book was to make me wish Fawlty Towers was back on TV, then well done Mr Cleese, well done. So Anyway reads as though Mr Cleese simply sat down and typed out the first thing on his mind. But that is what makes it completely genuine and, most importantly, very John Cleese.
His dry humour and exceptionally sharp wit may, at times, trick you into thinking that he was bored, but that’s when he is at his best. If you are a fan of all things Cleese before 1990, the real Cleese, it shines through in this book. His passion for acting, for humour, and I guess also for himself, you will find in this book. He is British after all, and besides, anything else just wouldn’t be honest.