On October 27, 1939, a legend of British comedy was born. John Cleese, the exceptionally tall member of Monty Python, has just turned seventy-one years old. We are pleased to report that he is not dead yet.
While Monty Python was successful because it was such a brilliant ensemble, Cleese was undeniably essential to the character of their humor: Consider that, of the most popular Python sketches, nearly all of them have Cleese front-and-center: He’s the customer in the Dead Parrot and Cheese Shop sketches, and played both Dennis Moore and the Minister for Silly Walks. Had he been in the Spanish Inquisition sketches, he’d have the set. And he played many roles, including the remarkably tenacious Black Knight, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is by any reasonable standard one of the funniest movies ever made.
Of course, Cleese’s brilliance has not been limited only to Monty Python. His writing on Fawlty Towers and his portrayal of Basil Fawlty thereon were so hysterical that, despite having lasted for only twelve episodes, it is thought of by many as the best sitcom ever made. And who could forget his performance as Archie Leach in A Fish Called Wanda, or his guest-starring appearance on The Muppet Show?
So from all of us at GeekDad: Happy birthday, Mr. Cleese! Remember to always look on the bright side of life.
[A version of this article appeared a year ago on GeekDad.]