For decades, I thought John Cleese was the funniest man ever. So did millions of his other fans. How, then, did he turn so sour, become one of the most annoying men ever?
Some of it is a rite of passage. Impatience and sulks set in as the body gets arthritic and starts to crumble. Stars and mere mortals all rage against the ageing process. But Cleese is not just another grumpy old man. Reading extracts from his new autobiography, he seems to have little capacity for real joy. Sure, he tells us about the Pythons and the fun they had, about the phenomenal success of Fawlty Towers, his fame and fortune. But after years of therapy, he seems to have become self-obsessed and full of Freudian angst.
Married now to his fourth, much younger wife, he still cannot get over what he thinks have been his problems with women. He blames it all on his mum, Muriel, now passed away. She was a “tyrant”, so he “walked on eggshells” around her and that made him uneasy with females and, presumably wrecked three marriages. Even now, as you read, you get the feeling that the sex and relationships are not about the partners, but about him. Sometimes I do wonder if therapy encourages deep misogyny. Too many practitioners dwell on mothers and too little on fathers.
Cleese writes that Muriel had “utterly egotistical impulses”. Like mother like son, then. She has the last laugh.
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