Monday, September 19, 2016

So, Anyway

So, Anyway...So, Anyway... by John Cleese

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In reading “So, Anyway,” an autobiography of John Cleese, one thing becomes clear:

John Cleese writing Monty Python comedy is hilarious.

John Cleese writing about writing comedy, life, school, work, New York, New Zealand, England, et cetera, is tedium with nagilium and feathers on the cover.

In other words: I have never read a more boring book about comedy in my life.

Cleese, I think, knows this, conceding at one point the reader would likely be much happier re-reading (or re-watching) Monty Python sketches than reading about their genesis. This is the most astute thing he writes in his book.

A few ironies: Cleese expounds on his love of psychology in a work wherein he reveals his own: Boredom with anything he regards as even remotely tedious and an undescribed rapt attention for what he finds fascinating.

I say undescribed because often Cleese writes about admiring someone or something – Peter Sellers, The Goon Show, Ealing comedies – while offering only a passing remark as to why. It’s clear his goal was to write a book that would sell copies to please a publishing house, and not a book that would fascinate and educate a fan of comedy.

And perhaps I’m being too harsh. Maybe on a second or third reading I might pick up on some of the book’s subtleties. And writing about Monty Python has got to be difficult – as fans already have YouTube for the shows and books containing the scripts for the most popular sketches. Cleese offers a peek at how a few of the sketches came about, but the peeks are fleeting and shallow. And maybe that tells us more about Cleese than anything else he could write in this book.

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