Have you ever met someone really interesting and intelligent that you enjoyed talking with and listening to? Maybe you've come out of a presentation or seminar and said, "I could have listened to him all day." That's the feeling you get from reading So, Anyway. John Cleese tells the story of his life, including everything from how his parents met to the first filming of the "Flying Circus" series. Tales of his schooldays are brutally honest about how awkward he could be socially and how he learned to use comedy to redirect potential bullying. And the description of how he came to choose a life of writing and performing comedy rather than a legal career is an almost unbelievably random string of opportunities. Through it all Cleese offers explanations of his choices and his theories on what worked best, and why, for each TV or radio show, script, or screenplay.
If you are expecting the book itself to be one long Python sketch, it is not. Instead of a 400-page running gag, it is an honest and often amusing recollection of a very busy life. The number of different projects that Cleese has worked on as writer and/or performer staggers the mind. He lists a sample from the time period of March 1966 to November 1967 which includes 41 radio show episodes, 80+ TV show episodes, another 12 TV appearances, 1 film appearance, and work on 2 film scripts and 1 TV pilot script. (And just think - it was all done before the days of cell phones, e-mail, and video conferencing.) It is also awe-inspiring to stop and think about all the other comedic greats he has known and worked with, such as Peter Sellers and Marty Feldman (just to name a couple).
The photos of Cleese along with his friends and family help you to imagine the scenes he describes. In a similar way, the inclusion of script excerpts from different projects gives a taste of what the performances were like. While I would have wished for more details on his time with Monty Python, that would probably fill another book of its own. This is a very enjoyable read and feels like a humorous monologue about the author's life and what he has observed and learned along the way. It has been like a visit with a dear and very funny friend, and when the book ended I was sad that the visit was over.
Check the publisher's website for more information about the author or the book.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.