John Cleese is in town for Last Chance to See Me Before I Die

John Cleese is in town for Last Chance to See Me Before I Die

John Cleese, the legendary actor, comedian, and writer, is gracing Chicago with his presence as part of his tour titled “Last Chance to See Me Before I Die.” At 84, Cleese remains a towering figure in the world of comedy, known for his iconic roles in “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Fawlty Towers,” “Life of Brian,” and “A Fish Called Wanda,” among many others. His upcoming performance at Chicago’s Vic Theatre promises to be a memorable event for fans and comedy enthusiasts alike.

In a recent phone interview with the Tribune, Cleese shared some insights about his tour and his life. Reflecting on a previous conversation from election night in 2000, Cleese humorously recalled being informed that Al Gore had won the election, only to later find out the results were far from certain. This anecdote set the tone for a conversation filled with wit and nostalgia.

Cleese’s daughter, Camilla, is now working alongside him, adding a unique dynamic to his performances. He noted that her humor is darker than his, which often results in higher-pitched laughs from the audience. This collaboration between father and daughter adds a fresh layer to Cleese’s already rich comedic repertoire.

When asked about his plans for the stage, Cleese admitted that he wasn’t entirely sure what the evening would entail. He mentioned that he had been furiously writing and rehearsing, and the show would likely include a mix of prepared material and spontaneous moments. Audience interaction is a key part of his performances, and Cleese enjoys the unpredictability of the questions he receives. From the absurd to the deeply serious, the questions keep him on his toes and add an element of surprise to each show.

Cleese shared a particularly memorable moment from a performance in Florida, where a well-dressed woman asked if he thought the queen had killed Princess Diana. The absurdity of the question left Cleese in stitches, highlighting the unpredictable nature of his interactions with the audience.

Cleese’s tour has taken him to various cities, and he noted that his shows tend to fare better in more sophisticated locales. He fondly recalled a performance in Stuttgart, where the audience’s applause was so enthusiastic that he was asked to return to the stage for an additional bow. However, Cleese, ever the professional, declined, believing it was important not to overindulge in the audience’s adulation.

The conversation also touched on the stage adaptation of “Fawlty Towers” in London. Cleese observed that there is a genuine nostalgia for the characters and the era when people laughed together more freely. He lamented the current climate at the BBC, where employees are more concerned with job security than creativity, stifling the kind of innovative comedy that “Fawlty Towers” represented.

As co-director of the stage adaptation, Cleese offered small but significant pieces of advice during rehearsals, drawing on his extensive experience as both a writer and an actor. He acknowledged that seeing someone else play a role he created was not as strange as one might think, given his dual role in the original production.

Cleese’s reflections on his career and the enduring appeal of his work were both insightful and humorous. He recounted the challenges and triumphs of writing and performing in “A Fish Called Wanda,” and the unique blend of episodes chosen for the “Fawlty Towers” stage show, including “The Germans,” “Hotel Inspector,” and the hearing aid episode originally starring Bernard Cribbins.

The tour, “Last Chance to See Me Before I Die,” is a testament to Cleese’s enduring talent and his ability to connect with audiences across generations. The show promises to be a delightful mix of stories, film clips, and personal anecdotes, offering fans a rare opportunity to see a comedy legend in action.

For those lucky enough to attend, the evening with John Cleese will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience. His ability to blend humor with poignant reflections on his life and career ensures that audiences will leave both entertained and inspired. As Cleese continues his tour, fans around the world eagerly await their chance to see him before he takes his final bow.

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