So, Anyway …

So Anyway … by John Cleese, published by Random House (which seems completely appropriate to me)

I was sad to get to the last chapter of “So, Anyway…” by John Cleese. It takes me a long time to read a book, especially one I intend to review and I had spent two weeks inside the mind and life of John Cleese – a funny, calm and thoughtful place. There I was treated with respect and gently urged to think about my own life as I learned things about his.

Once I closed the book I felt lonely. I then reopened the book and read the Index. Yes. The Index.

My first taste of Cleese Art was watching the forbidden “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” in college (I went to a Christian college, therefore it was forbidden). No alcohol allowed in the dorm, so we would smuggle blackberry brandy down to the basement TV room and eat popcorn and watch whatever was on late at night – 10:30 p.m. to be exact – Saturday night. One day, a non-Python friend asked about the show and I invited her to our next hoopla sans liquid refreshment (she would have “told” on us).

After the half-hour was finished she said, “Huh.” In the pause following I braced myself for the inevitable judgmental comments. She merely asked one question: “Which one was Monty Python?”

Next was Faulty Towers, then A Fish Called Wanda, then several cameos, then, happily, the ghost, Nearly Headless Nick, in Harry Potter … and on it goes. Cleese pops up everywhere in the most unexpected places.

This autobiography does not dwell on Python too much; rather it links all the rest of the Cleese Life leading to the resulting Python sketches. It helps immensely to have seen “Monty Python” before you read the book, but it is not necessary. I do, however, recommend it. You can rent the videos or buy them online. You won’t be sorry. If you don’t like them, I’m sure your best friend from high school will buy them from you.

Cleese describes the people in his life in a rich, gently funny way – so real, you would recognize them if you met them. He describes one such gentleman: “To be fair,” writes Cleese, “Williams was not a pompous man. He would like to have been, but he was so tiny he simply couldn’t pull it off. It’s tough being weighty when people can knee you in the head. So he had to make do with the kind of Cromwellian joylessness that banned Christmas puddings.”

I was surprised by how much I did NOT know about John Cleese. Did you know he was a school teacher? Wouldn’t that have been a hoot? Learning English and History from the tallest teacher in the world? Maybe we’d be tested on our walk.

And did you know he went to New Zealand? And did you know he was an only child? And did you know he much prefers writing over acting and that he gets incredibly nervous before he performs?

And that’s just a few of the surprises in “So, Anyway …”

I highly recommend this book for three reasons: 1) The book has not been Americanized, but retains its British flavor; 2) It is a challenge to read – grab your Oxford Dictionary (or maybe it’s just me); 3) It is just plain fun!

I started reading it the minute I checked it out and the librarian told me to take my boisterous laughter outside.

It was raining.

“So, Anyway …” can be attained by checking it out of your local library (don’t forget your card) or by going to Barnes and Nobel and hobnobbing with the bright minds of our century or by going online to Amazon or by patronizing other fine book outlets or going directly to the publisher here

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