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Monday, July 20, 2015

So, Anyway... By John Cleese

If you are looking for a history of Monty Python this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a peek inside the lifelong journey of one of the great minds of comedy, British or otherwise, this book is required reading.

In So, Anyway John Cleese lets us in on a secret -- he is not an actor, he's a writer-performer, a very important distinction in his mind. In fact, as he points out in the final chapter, this was the secret to the astounding success of Monty Python's Flying Circus: Not one of the troupe was an "Actor." No inflated egos demanding screen time, no prima donnas screaming for top billing, just a group of writers dreaming up brilliant sketches and zany non sequiturs punctuated with off-the-wall animations. According to Cleese the gang would write their sketches first, revise them to perfection, then decide who should perform them.  The focus was on making the bit, from The Cheese Shop to the Fish Slapping Dance, as funny as possible, end of story.

As Cleese says throughout the book, comedy is hard work, requiring thought, effort and, yes, self doubt and second guessing. Is this sketch funny? Can it be funnier? Will people laugh? Will they laugh at the right time? So many things to worry about, so many things that can go wrong. Comedy is like launching a rocket -- ten thousand things can go wrong, only one can go right.

Thankfully John, Graham, Michael, Eric, Terry, and Terry were all willing to put in the time, to do the work, to sweat the blood necessary to bring their unique comedic twist to the world.

Thanks for choosing comedy over law, John. The world has enough lawyers but not nearly enough funny men.

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