He is best known as one of the members of legendary British comedy group Monty Python. John Cleese's extensive résumé includes the television series Fawlty Towers, numerous films including A Fish Called Wanda and countless supporting roles. He also served as a visiting professor at Cornell University and engages frequently with would-be trolls on Twitter. Cleese will appear in Buffalo Monday, May 20, to explain "Why There Is No Hope."
Cleese previously appeared in Buffalo as part of the University at Buffalo's Distinguished Speaker Series. While he says he found New York State to be "beautiful" while traveling through it, he unfortunately has not had enough time in Buffalo to observe the locals and compare it to, say, New York City.
"When I come in for a speech like that, I come in for about two days and I meet very courteous people who are usually connected with the university," Cleese explained.
His acting and writing career began as a student at the University of Cambridge. He later was hired as a writer at the BBC and worked on the radio program I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again and on the television shows The Frost Report and At Last, The 1948 Show. Following the latter show, Cleese and writing partnet Graham Chapman joined Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam to form Monty Python and create the television series Monty Python's Flying Circus and the films And Now For Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.
Working with then-wife Connie Booth, Cleese created the television series Fawlty Towers, which has been honored by Radio Times in recent years as Britain's best sitcom of all time. The program has aired internationally, including previously on WNED-TV in Buffalo.
His career is extensive but more diverse than comedy shows and films. In 1972 he co-founded Video Arts, which continues to produce numerous professional training videos and he served for many years as a guest professor at Cornell University. As a press note promoting his current tour states: "John is far from your garden variety entertainer. From the beginning of his career he has continually parlayed his enormous talents into advancing the political causes he believes in."
He offers political commentary on his Twitter account (spoiler alert: he's no fan of President Donald Trump and he's more than willing to spar with Trump supporters, whom he described to WBFO as "not very bright.") He also continues to love making people laugh, as his 80th birthday approaches in October.
"I feel happy now that I've spent my life trying to make other people laugh, because at this stage of our history, I think it's an important service," he said.
He also continues to enjoy silly things such as unusual names. Earlier this year, while appearing at a convention in Salt Lake City, he poked fun of the pro basketball franchise Utah Jazz for keeping the name it adopted when the team was founded in New Orleans yet continues to use in a market not exactly known for such music.
WBFO dared to ask, where does the name "Buffalo Bills" fit in his spectrum of silliness? Good news for local football fans, he doesn't consider it silly at all.
But he did offer a playful comment about living in Western New York.
"I don't know about Buffalo. All I know is I think of you as very, very courageous for anyone to live in a climate like that, particularly if you're not Canadian," he said.
(Note: During our interview with John Cleese, which is posted in its entirety on this page, a journalist scheduled to interview Cleese following WBFO's scheduled time slot dialed in prematurely and interrupted the interview. We've decided to include that portion, appreciating the humor of that unexpected turn.)