John Cleese says he’s ‘surprisingly poor’ after five-decade career

Comedian gave a frank take on his finances

Nicole Vassell
Thursday 25 April 2024 08:20 BST
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John Cleese says he's 'too naughty' for a knighthood

John Cleese has joked about how his $20m divorce has resulted in him having to work in his eighties.

The Monty Python star and co-creator, 84, will soon celebrate the opening of a Fawlty Towers stage show in London’s West End, adapted from three episodes of his and Connie Booth’s seminal British sitcom.

In addition, Cleese is also working on a stage show based on the Monty Python film Life of Brian, a musical version of A Fish Called Wanda, and recently hosted a programme on GB News called The Dinosaur Hour.

In a forthcoming interview with Saga, the comic discusses his reasons for working on new projects as opposed to resting – and mentions the costly end of his third marriage as one of the main motivations.

Cleese was married to Alyce Faye Eichelberger, an American psychotherapist, for 16 years before their split in 2008. Eichelberger received a $20m (£16m) divorce settlement, after which Cleese travelled the world with “The Alimony Tour” to raise the money.

When the interviewer notes Cleese’s continued busy work schedule despite his elevated age, he refers to Eichelberger in his response: “Well, you're quite right, but there’s only one person responsible for that.”

Cleese continues: “Can you believe when I met her, I had a beautiful house in Holland Park and no mortgage and when I broke up with her, I had a flat in Sloane Square and a full mortgage? How they figured out she was worth $20m, I have no idea.”

John Cleese
John Cleese (Getty Images)

However, the TV star notes that he moved on from the previous negative feelings he has towards the situation.

“I had to let go of the anger and what helped me was that it was so ridiculous, so absurd,” he says.

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The interview also touches upon Cleese not owning a car or property, having handed over the short lease of his flat to his current wife, Jennifer Wade.

Although he states that this decision made “a huge difference” to Wade, Cleese’s view on the importance of assets differs to his wife. “But I’m surprisingly poor,” he said.

“I never thought it was necessary to own a great deal. The most important thing is to have enough money to have some really good food, buy clothes twice a year and have nice holidays.”

The May 2024 edition of Saga Magazine will be released next week.

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