Monday, July 19, 2021

Me and Mr. Cleese

 Me and Mr. Cleese.

We got a thing going on.

We both know that it's wrong

But it's much to strong

To let it go.

Actually I'm the one that has the hot Jones for Mr. John Marwood Cleese.  I'm sure he'd be squicked out to know that my 61 year old ass was still crushing on him, but I am.  And I will.  I've told my children that he should have been their real father, and they were both grossed out by my frank admission of thwarted carnal love, and said 'Too much information, ew."  

I bought a buddleia because it was named 'The Black Knight'.  Fine, it's also beautiful, but if it had been named 'Really Dark Purple' or something else, I would have walked by.  The 'Holy Grail' reference was the kicker for me. 

 I've seen John Cleese perform live.  One man show.  I still have the ticket stub.  

He is glorious.

And yesterday out of nowhere, the Biker presented me with a t-shirt with a picture on it of the Black Knight himself, bleeding all over hell, proclaiming 'Tis but a scratch!'  and I slept in it. I am wearing it now.  It smells.  I should wash it. I should change shirts. I won't, though.

I've had this crush going since 1973, when PBS began broadcasting 'Monty Pythons' Flying Circus.'  At first, I was all about Eric Idle, but Johnny...was it the tar-black vitriol, the mania, or the genius?  I submit that it was all three, plus I am a sucker for a cute, balding, long, tall drink of water with a British accent.  The fact that he'll get naked without a second thought is just...well, nowadays it'd be icky, but back then, I was  just all like daaaaaaaaaamn, six foot four and a half, and worth the climb! Yeah baby, yeah!

It hasn't been a smooth ride.  I've been mad as hell at him on and off for years.  He'll say something or do something so shitty that I'll just go on a Cleese strike.  Fuck'im.  But I always come crawling back.  I even watched a children's animated movie recently because he did the voice of an evil walrus in it.

The thing I like about the Black Knight is the fucker has no quit in him.  Not an ounce.  Cut off all his limbs, he'll gnaw on your ankles.  And that's a lot like me.  I'm absolutely indifferent to the futility of my situation, but I have no quit in me, and I will gnaw on your ankles.  So I will wear this shirt until it rots off me, just like I wore my John Cleese concert t-shirt until it rotted off me.  

That's not an overstatement. I was forbidden to wear that shirt off the property.  I did anyway.  My psychiatrist remembers watching it age over the years.  I finally had to consign it to the flames, because there was more hole than shirt.  I could not just throw it away, no. NO no no.  I gave it a Viking funeral. (Well, a Sumas funeral, burned in a tractor wheel covered in waste paper with some gasoline to get things whuppin'.)

I don't know how he's thought about in in the UK, particularly since he defected to our side of the pond.  What I know is that in 1973, all we here in America had to hang onto in the way of smart, funny comedy was the Flip Wilson Show.  One show.  One. 


...until the public access station started playing Doctor in the House and Monty Python's Flying Circus.  And you had to stay up until 10:00 on a Thursday, I think it was, to catch them.  

My mother adored Doctor in the House.  I have her to thank for turning me on to British Comedy, in fact!  She had a crush on the character Michael Upton.  I liked the Eric Idle character, the ridiculously wealthy 'who gives a fuck' professional student.  And the Monty Python show came on right after Doctor In The House.  That came right at moms' bedtime.  It was a long while before she ever saw 'The Queen Victoria Races' or  The Battle of Pearl Harbor by the Batley Townswomen's Guild.'  

I owe a good part of my sanity to John Cleese.  Remember that 'funny' and 'smart' were for the most part mutually exclusive terms on this side of the Atlantic back in 1973.  We had shit like 'Green Acres' and 'My Mother The Car' and 'Gilligans Island' over here.  Y'all had The Goon Show, The Two Ronnies and Marty Feldman.  

And Python.  Let's all sing:

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table
David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as sloshed as Schlegel
There's nothing Nietzche couldn't teach ya
'Bout the raising of the wrist
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed
John Stuart Mill, of his own free will
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill
Plato, they say, could stick it away
Half a crate of whiskey every day
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle
Hobbes was fond of his dram
And René Descartes was a drunken fart
"I drink, therefore I am"
Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed
A lovely little thinker
But a bugger when he's pissed!

Never in a million years would something like that have made it on to television in the U.S.  Oh, maybe Steve Allen might make a quick reference to Paracelsus or something, and Dick Cavett might host a wry, witty soul and banter a bit, but it was for the main part all pratfalls and pies in the face here, Hee Haw and Dukes of Hazard, without relief.  Now perhaps if you lived in New York you might have gotten some broadcast that appealed to the intellect, but I did not live in New York, and neither did most people, as I dimly recall.  To this day, New York can only hold so many people.

In a way, MPFC saved the sanity of a whole generation over here.  

It was and still is to a large extent a very 'Gentleman C' culture, where being smart and showing your intelligence is considered rude, and making a joke that requires advance book larnin' to get is just rude.  Now right here my impulse to assure everyone out there that I am by no means a genius is - see?  I just slipped it in under cover.  I'm not even talking about college level stuff here - just anything a high school senior might get.  Our popular culture was under the pall of the advertisers creed for so long (all viewers, generally taken, average out as about eight years old in terms of sophistication and learning, so aim that high and no higher) that it poisoned our outlook and, I'll argue, our culture at large as well. When it came to television, nobody had to be educated. Nobody had to try.  Nobody was in danger of feeling stupid.  All in the name of selling Rice a Roni, the San Francisco Treat, or what have you.  My parents were fed that shit, and I grew up on it.  And then, suddenly, miraculously, in the middle of all that horror there was a funny, quirky show that only the Public Access Station would dare show, late at night, and every single kid and adult that could keep their eyes open (in Oregon) would stay up just so they could watch this amazing, miraculous, insane prodigy of wtf humor, nailing the 1970's zeitgeist, and satisfying our hunger for something that wasn't approved by a fucking committee.  I saw my first televised full frontal nudity on MPFC.  God Bless Them.

So anyway I love John Cleese.  Would I have him as a neighbor?  Oh fuck no.  Imagine the complaints. ("This woman threw a deceased snail over my fence.  Am I allowed to hire someone to beat her or shall I simply set her garage on fire?") I imagine him lighting firecrackers and throwing them on my roof.  Or buying a sack of ammonium nitrate and sprinking the word 'bitch' in large letters on my lawn (do this at night, and come the morning sure, try and wash it off.  It will come up in block letters greener and taller than the rest of your lawn for about three years.  If you have a neighbor you hate, take note.)  I know he is that petty and devious.

But oh Lordy the crush I still have on him!  Even as the godhorrid bastard Basil Fawlty.  I LOVE THIS MAN GOD HELP ME.  His mind!  His humor!  His ability to throw his entire self into getting a laugh!  And that he did a good part of it in that cultured, educated accent just melts my shorts, y'all.

Here is how much I love John Cleese:

Back in the 1980's I printed out a picture of 'The Announcer Wearing A Bikini' , folded it into four and put it into my wallet.  It's gone with me on ever job interview and into every difficult situation for years now, because when you have a picture of John Cleese in a bikini in your wallet, nothing more insane can happen to you, in America.  I'd think of that picture, sitting waiting for a job interview or a doctors appointment or what have you, and it would smooth me right out.  

I still have it, in fact.  And it still helps.



  1. I briefly dated a British man but all he was good for was introducing me to endless hours of Fawlty Towers. I love that show.

  2. Cleese is a "national treasure" over here - although he does get a lot of stick for some of his "political" comments. Monty Python and Fawlty Towers are so ingrained in our psyche that even now, I can recite whole sketches (and in the case to "Flowery Twats", whole episodes) word-for-word.

    I have never worn a t-shirt till it rotted, however. Jx