Riff-raff welcomed as comedy giant Cleese finally comes to town


On the tram en route to see John Cleese in Budapest, my mind was taxed most of the time with the question: would the capricious Basil Fawlty be there in full swing that night? If so, I wondered, and perhaps secretly hoped, would I be allowed to enter the premises without being kicked out by the former hotelier and prized snob for being too unwanted?

I was going to the MomSport venue on June 12th when I had this premonition which distinctly relates to the 1970s sitcom “Fawlty Towers”, specifically Cleese’s crazy creation of Basil, who was, and possibly still, obsessed and full of disgust for what he called the “scum” who dared enter his hotel and then, as we all know, wished they hadn’t for legendary reasons.

Comedy king Cleese was due to perform his ‘Last Time To See Me Before I Die’ across Europe in 2020 and then 2021, but both were postponed due to the COVID crisis. Fortunately, the star of ‘Monty Python‘s Flying Circus’ – the singular minister of Silly Walks and other hilarious creations – has clearly defied old age, pestilence and death itself to return to what he does best. And that is being on stage where his life and reputation unfolds before him, to the delight of sold-out audiences here in Budapest last weekend June 11-12.

Luckily my fears did not materialize and remarkably all peasants like me were welcomed to this live event hosted by a very easygoing and sweeter than expected Cleese who honestly seen it all as good as does a lot and always remains funny and continues his profession. And like the Rolling Stones of today, both are far from retiring.

He started with how he managed to escape the legal profession in his early days and eventually turned into show business, managing to complete an illustrious career spanning over 50 years which he has spoken about for the first hour of the evening. This led him to say “What makes comedy and jokes funny and what is not working? This means that there need not always be a “victim” in the narrative; one can be “playful and affectionate” without being too harmful to anyone if the anecdotes are handled intelligently.

All of this and more covered vintage “Python” and its surreal and bizarre touches that weren’t to everyone’s taste. In particular, there was the controversial “Life of Brian”, which always sold as a kind of comedy, like all the others.

In addition to Cleese’s presentation, there were film clips highlighting his career, and it was all then wrapped up with his take on modern traits of political correctness and woke culture, which he clearly hates and views as incredibly not funny. “All the humor is taken out of them,” he said, to which the audience clearly concurred and cheered enthusiastically.

It would have been great to delve more into “Fawlty Towers” and its later films had time permitted, but the second half of the show was devoted to audience questions, which could have easily dragged on late into the night. Yet everyone was grateful for this fun, relaxed and fascinating evening, which ultimately made me wonder, when his time comes, who will take his place? And when will all this end? How ironic it would be if the comedy genius dropped dead in front of the next audience on his European tour.

I’m sure such an event would make plenty of lush new material for Monty Python’s remaining team to honor Cleese with a fitting tribute from a remake of the “Dead Parrot” skit, this time featuring the man himself. same. Cleese would laugh to the grave, that’s for sure.


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