Wednesday, September 9, 2015

So, Anyway...So, Anyway... by John Cleese
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"I know that this book is supposed to be an autobiography, but the fact is that most of you don't give a tinker's cuss for me as a human being or feel for the many different forms of suffering that make me so special. No, you are just flipping through my heart-rending life story in the hope of getting a couple of good laughs, aren't you?"

While "So, Anyway..." (2014) is indeed John Cleese's autobiography, it would be more precise to classify the book as a 'partial autobiography' as the author covers the early years, from his birth in 1939 to the first Monty Python shows in 1969, and only a few of the later events are mentioned. Mr. Cleese, who has been called - with some justification - "the funniest man alive", writes about his childhood, school and college years, and beginnings of his show business career.

"So, Anyway..." is an interesting, light, and often funny read. Not only has Mr. Cleese been able to make millions of people laugh hysterically at his routines, not only is he an accomplished theoretician of humor, who clearly explains what makes a sketch funny or not, but he is a also a gifted autobiographer, with an understated and sharp sense of humo(u)r aimed at himself. By the way, if one wants to look for "messages" in books, I think Mr. Cleese wants to emphasize in his autobiography that he is primarily a writer of humor rather than just a performer. In my view, though, his wickedly funny sketches might not work equally fabulously with a different performer.

Monty Python's Flying Circus was by far the funniest show in the history of television, with Fawlty Towers also solidly in the top ten, thus it is disappointing that Mr. Cleese writes so little about his work on these shows. I would love to read much more about the team dynamics of the Pythons and I would appreciate at least a short chapter on the "Towers". The book feels incomplete - thus I am allowing myself an incomplete review as well. And half a rating for half a book.

Two and a half stars

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