John Marwood Cleese, widely recognized as John Cleese, is a highly accomplished English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. He initially gained acclaim at the renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a skilled writer and performer on “The Frost Report.” His iconic contributions include timeless masterpieces such as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “The Meaning of Life,” and “Life of Brian.” Additionally, he showcased his vocal talents by portraying Samuel the Sheep in “Charlotte’s Web.” Notably, Cleese has specialized in various genres, including political and religious satire, dark comedy, sketch comedy, and surreal humor. His comedic brilliance was acknowledged in a 2005 Channel 4 poll where he ranked as the second-best comedian ever according to his fellow comedians. Furthermore, he co-founded Video Arts, a production company that created engaging training films and organized “The Secret Policeman’s Ball” benefit shows to support Amnesty International, a human rights organization. Recently, in April 2022, he secured a role in Roman Polanski’s upcoming drama film titled “The Palace.” Moreover, it was announced in October that Cleese will co-host a news show on GB News in 2023 alongside Andrew Doyle, with a mission to foster “proper argument.” His influence extends to social media platforms, where he boasts an impressive following of 240K on Instagram, 5.6M on Twitter, and 36.2K subscribers on YouTube.
John Cleese Background
John Cleese, originally named John Marwood Cleese, was born in Weston-super-Mare, England on October 27, 1939. He holds British nationality and belongs to the British-white ethnic background. At the age of 83, he celebrates his birthday every year on October 27th, being a Scorpio according to his horoscope. In a 2015 interview with Der Spiegel, Cleese expressed his views on organized religion, stating that he doesn’t hold much regard for it and does not commit to any specific belief system, but he does have a vague sense that there is more to existence than what materialistic reductionism suggests. Thus, his race is white. His father, Reginald Francis Cleese (1893-1972), worked as an insurance salesman, and his mother, Muriel Evelyn (nee Cross, 1899-2000), was the daughter of an auctioneer.
In terms of Cleese’s education, he attended St Peter’s Preparatory School, which was funded by his mother’s inheritance. During his time there, he excelled in English, cricket, and boxing, even earning a prize for his proficiency in English. At the age of 13, he was granted an exhibition at Clifton College, an esteemed English public school located in Bristol.
John Cleese’s Career (Movies & TV Shows)
- John Cleese embarked on his career as a scriptwriter and performer, making significant contributions to the 1963 Footlights Revue called “A Clump of Plinths.” This production garnered immense success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, prompting its renaming to “Cambridge Circus.”
- It subsequently enjoyed runs in London’s West End, as well as tours across New Zealand and Broadway. In October 1964, the talented cast even showcased some of the revue’s sketches on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
- His writing abilities caught the attention of BBC Radio, where he was offered various writing opportunities, notably as a sketch writer for “The Dick Emery Show.” Capitalizing on the triumph of the Footlights Revue, Cleese and his colleagues recorded a series of popular half-hour radio programs called “I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again.” The program’s success led the BBC to commission a regular series with the same title, which aired from 1965 to 1974.
- In 1965, he and Chapman embarked on a writing journey for “The Frost Report”. This iconic show assembled a talented writing staff, including numerous writers and performers who would later establish themselves as notable figures in the world of comedy. They collaborated on writing episodes for the initial series of “Doctor in the House.” Additionally, Cleese individually penned six episodes for “Doctor at Large” in 1971.
- From October 1969 to December 1974, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” captivated audiences with its four series on BBC Television. However, Cleese made the decision to leave the show after the third series. Within the show, Cleese showcased his talent through two distinctive characterizations: a sophisticated persona and a comedic, eccentric character. The former was depicted through his roles as an announcer, TV show host, and government official.
- Despite Cleese’s departure from the “Monty Python” television show, he maintained a friendly relationship with the group. All six members reunited to collaborate on writing the legendary film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Cleese’s contributions to the film, particularly the iconic Black Knight scene, have become widely quoted and celebrated.
- Subsequently, he rejoined the troupe to co-write and co-star in two more iconic Monty Python films, namely “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” and “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.”
- From 1970 to 1973, Cleese held the esteemed position of rector at the University of St Andrews, a tenure that brought about significant changes and modernization to the role. His election as rector marked a milestone for the university, transforming the post in revolutionary ways.
- During this period, Cleese took on various acting roles, including starring in the low-budget parody of the Sherlock Holmes detective series titled “The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It” (1977).
- In this film, he portrayed the grandson of the renowned consulting detective. Cleese also made a cameo appearance in the 1981 film “The Great Muppet Caper” and received the prestigious TV Times award for Funniest Man on TV for the years 1978-1979.
- In 1979, he starred in a television special called “To Norway, Home of Giants,” which was produced by Johnny Bergh. Throughout the 1970s, Cleese’s creative endeavors extended to producing and acting in successful business training films, notably including titles like “Meetings, Bloody Meetings” and “More Bloody Meetings,” which were produced under his company, Video Arts.
- Cleese’s fame soared in the United Kingdom thanks to his portrayal of the neurotic hotel manager, Basil Fawlty, in the highly acclaimed comedy series “Fawlty Towers.” The show, co-written by Cleese and his wife Connie Booth, consisted of two series that was originally broadcast in 1975 and 1979.
- Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he shifted his focus towards the film industry, while still undertaking notable television projects. In 1980, he collaborated with Peter Cook for a one-off television special titled “Peter Cook and Co.”
- Additionally, Cleese showcased his acting prowess by portraying Petruchio in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” as part of the BBC Television Shakespeare series in the same year. Continuing his ventures in film, Cleese starred as Robin Hood in Terry Gilliam’s acclaimed movie “Time Bandits” in 1981, directed by the visionary Gilliam.
- In a later stage of his career, he took on a supporting role in Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” in 1994, sharing the screen with Branagh and Robert De Niro. Alongside English psychiatrist Robin Skynner, Cleese co-authored two books focused on relationships: “Families and How to Survive Them” and “Life and How to Survive It.”
- During a later phase of his career, Cleese embraced a supporting role in the 1994 film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” directed by Kenneth Branagh. In this project, he shared the screen with accomplished actors Branagh and Robert De Niro. Additionally, Cleese collaborated with English psychiatrist Robin Skynner to co-author two insightful books centered around relationships. Titled “Families and How to Survive Them” and “Life and How to Survive It,” these books adopt a distinctive format, presenting a dialogue between Cleese and Skynner.
In 2001, Cleese landed a role in the comedy film “Rat Race,” portraying the eccentric hotel owner Donald P. Sinclair. Interestingly, the character was based on the Torquay hotel owner who had served as the inspiration for Cleese’s iconic Basil Fawlty.
- During the same year, he also made an appearance as Nearly Headless Nick in the first installment of the Harry Potter film series, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (2001). Cleese would go on to reprise this role in the sequel, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002). In 2004, he received credit as a co-writer for a DC Comics graphic novel titled “Superman: True Brit.”
- In a 2005 poll called “The Comedians’ Comedian,” Cleese was honored by comedians and comedy insiders who voted him second only to Peter Cook. Additionally, in 2006, Cleese ventured into the realm of music by releasing the song “Don’t Mention the World Cup.” He also lent his voice to the character Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard in the BioWare video game “Jade Empire.”
- Continuing his involvement in the film industry, Cleese participated in the filming of “The Pink Panther 2,” the sequel to the original film, alongside Steve Martin and Aishwarya Rai in 2007.
- In late March 2009, Cleese marked his debut as a “Contributing Editor” for The Spectator by publishing his first article titled “The real reason I had to join The Spectator.” As well, he took on the role of hosting comedy galas at the Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival, both in 2006 and again in 2009. In October 2010, Cleese became a prominent figure in the launch of an advertising campaign for a new home emergency response product by The Automobile Association.
- He secured a role in the heist comedy “Hunting Elephants” in 2012, directed by Israeli filmmaker Reshef Levi. Furthermore, Cleese was interviewed and made an appearance as himself in the 2013 documentary film “The Last Impresario” by filmmaker Gracie Otto. Demonstrating his versatility, Cleese took on the task of writing “Bang Bang!,” a fresh adaptation of Georges Feydeau’s renowned French play “Monsieur Chasse!” This adaptation was specifically crafted for the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, showcasing Cleese’s talent as a writer.
- In 2021, he decided to cancel his scheduled appearance at Cambridge University upon discovering that art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon had been blacklisted by the student union due to his impersonation of Adolf Hitler.
- Cleese’s intended visit to the university was meant to be a contribution to a documentary focusing on the concept of wokeism. He humorously remarked that he was “blacklisting myself before someone else does,” demonstrating his wry perspective on the situation.
- In April 2022, he was cast in Roman Polanski’s upcoming drama film “The Palace”. In October, it was announced that Cleese will present a news show on GB News in 2023, alongside Andrew Doyle. He said he wanted to promote “proper argument”.
- In addition to his acting career, Cleese took a stance in 2020 regarding the BBC’s decision to remove the “Fawlty Towers” episode titled “The Germans” from the UKTV streaming service. This move came in response to protests following the tragic death of George Floyd. Cleese voiced his opposition, asserting that the episode was actually satirizing prejudice by featuring a character who used racial slurs. He expressed his frustration, stating, “If they can’t see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say.” Eventually, UKTV reinstated the episode with a disclaimer addressing its content.
- In November 2021, Cleese openly criticized what he perceived as cancel culture by taking matters into his own hands and blacklisting himself. This decision came in response to a controversy surrounding a Hitler impersonation at the Cambridge Union. By blacklisting himself, Cleese sought to draw attention to his concerns about the current climate of cancel culture and its potential impact on free expression.
Awards and Achievements
- BAFTA Film Award for his work in “A Fish Called Wanda” and “Fawlty Towers”
- Emmy Awards for his work in “Cheers”
- A lemur species called the Bemaraha woolly lemur (Avahi cleesei) has been given the honor of being named after John Cleese, which he has mentioned in various television interviews. This recognition is also documented in “New Scientist,” and Cleese has shared his response to this prestigious acknowledgment.
- Furthermore, an asteroid has been named 9618 Johncleese in tribute to him. In an interesting twist, there is a municipal landfill located just outside Palmerston North, known as the Awapuni landfill, where a 45-meter-high (148 ft) rubbish heap has been humorously named Mt Cleese. This unique naming originated after Cleese humorously referred to the city as the “suicide capital of New Zealand” during his stay there in 2005.
- The Rectorial Address of John Cleese
- Cleese Encounters: The Unauthorized Biography of Monty Python Veteran John Cleese
- The Human Face
- Time and the Soul
- Superman: True Brit
- So, Anyway…, 2014
- Professor at Large: The Cornell Years, 2018
- Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide, 2020
Who is John Cleese married to?
John Cleese, a married man, tied the knot with Jennifer Wade, an English jewelry designer and former model, in a beautiful ceremony held on the Caribbean island of Mustique in 2012. Their relationship continues to thrive. Prior to his marriage with Jennifer, John met Connie Booth in the United States, and they exchanged vows in 1968. In 1971, they welcomed their only child, Cynthia Cleese, who later appeared alongside her father in the films “A Fish Called Wanda” and “Fierce Creatures.” Cynthia’s marriage to writer/director Ed Solomon blessed Cleese with two grandchildren named Evan and Olivia. Cleese then married American actress Barbara Trentham in 1981, and their daughter Camilla, Cleese’s second child, was born in 1984. However, Cleese and Trentham divorced in 1990, which prompted his move to Los Angeles. In 1992, he entered into marriage with American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger, but their union came to an end in 2008. The divorce settlement awarded Eichelberger £12 million in financial and asset support, including £600,000 per year for seven years. He expressed his feelings about the situation, mentioning the disparity in inheritance between Eichelberger’s children and his own, highlighting the absence of contributions from Eichelberger such as children or meaningful conversations in the relationship. It is important to note that John identifies as straight in terms of sexual orientation.
John Cleese Net Worth 2023
John Cleese, a highly acclaimed English actor, comedian, writer, and producer, has achieved remarkable success in his career, resulting in a net worth of $20 million as of 2023. With an impressive annual salary exceeding $500K, he enjoys a lifestyle filled with luxurious amenities and comforts. Grateful for the blessings he has received, Cleese acknowledges the role of providence in his life. In addition to his earnings from his primary career, he also generates a substantial income from endorsement deals. Cleese has lent his talent and persona to endorse various brands, including Lowney’s Peanut Butter Cups, Magnavox TVs, Lexus automobiles, Melba Snack Crackers, Little Tikes, and Westinghouse Unplugged Vacuum Cleaner, further adding to his financial success. Nonetheless, his primary source of income remains his work as an actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer, a field to which he wholeheartedly dedicates himself. Cleese’s commitment to his craft and his ability to entertain and captivate audiences have undoubtedly contributed to his prosperous financial status.
How tall is John Cleese?
John Cleese stands tall with a height of 6 ft 5 in or 195.5 cm, and he maintains an average build with a body weight of 90 kg or 198.5 lbs. His distinguished gray hair adds to his charismatic appearance, while his hazel eyes exude warmth and charm. One of his most distinctive features is his towering height, which sets him apart in a crowd. Throughout his career, Cleese has frequently portrayed uptight or overbearing comic characters, showcasing his versatility as an actor. His notable presence and unique persona have made him a sought-after figure for brand endorsements, allowing him to extend his influence beyond the entertainment industry. Moreover, his body build type is average.