Legendary British actor John Cleese brings ‘Holy Grail’ to F.M. Kirby Center
Comedy legend John Cleese promises to answer more than “these questions three” and allow “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” fans insider access to the movie’s world of humor.
The famed British actor, who co-wrote the Camelot farce and starred as its Sir Lancelot the Brave, appears on stage for a conversation and Q&A following a screening of the 1975 classic on Saturday at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre.
During a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, where he rested in the sun after an exhaustive 30-city tour with fellow Monty Python co-founder Eric Idle, Cleese revealed why people need a laugh now more than ever. As followers of his Twitter page know, Cleese closely follows world and American politics, and he has engaged in public discourse regarding the results of the recent presidential election.
“Eric and I said it was our jobs as Limeys to cheer the Americans up,” the 77-year-old said. “(President Donald Trump) doesn’t seem to have any of the qualifications. I wouldn’t immediately call him a gentleman, particularly regarding his remarks to women.
“I am worried he’s only taking one security briefing a week when (President Barack) Obama takes six. It’s an unnecessary risk to take.”
His distinct brand of absurdist comedy offers a timely departure from the post-election blues for many, especially those who established a cult following of the Monty Python movies and sketch-show bits.
“They often know the lines better than we do. It’s an extraordinary thought, it really is,” Cleese said. “What a nice bunch of fans we have. They don’t take life too serious. They’re sort of warm and friendly, so you couldn’t play for a better crowd.”
While diehards can quote his most celebrated jokes and lines verbatim, Cleese continues to evolve his comedy through innovative means. Whether it’s adapting his hit BBC show “Fawlty Towers” for the Australian stage or promoting a “Ministry of Silly Walks” app for mobile devices, he learned to rebrand the familiar for new audiences and mediums.
“People actually want to see the old stuff. The irony is, people — artists — always want to do something new, but people who put shows on want something old and familiar,” Cleese explained. “So we’re caught in a bit of a quandary: do stuff you want to do, and we try to find a way of doing some old stuff in a way that’s reasonably new.”
Incorporating the Q&A into his appearances is one way to guarantee a different, quality show every night. That, and getting plenty of sleep beforehand.
“You need to go rested, with energy. That’s how these things work, or else it doesn’t have that bounce,” Cleese said. “It’s much more interesting to interact than to stand and say the same thing you said in the past.
Audience members write out their questions, he added, and “we go through them to pick out the best ones.”
“We go off in all sorts of directions,” Cleese said. “We don’t know where we’re going. What is nice about it is the interaction.
“Some work is hard, some work is a bit of a grind, and some is just downright pleasant. And since I still have to make money, this is the nicest way to do it.”
— patrice wilding
If you go
What: Screening of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” followed by John Cleese on stage for conversation and a Q&A
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets start at $79.50, plus fees, and are available at the box office, online at www.kirbycenter.org and by calling 570-826-110.