Interlude (1968)

 The Magic Christian (1969)

The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer (1970)

The Statue/ La Statua (1971)

And Now For Something Completely Different (1972)

Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975)

Pleasure At Her Majesty's (1976)

Life Of Brian/ Monty Python's Life Of Brian (1979)

The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979)

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

Time Bandits (1981)

Monty Python Live At The Hollywood Bowl (1982)

Privates On Parade (1982)

The Secret Policeman's Other Ball (1982)

Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life (1983)

Yellowbeard (1983)

Silverado (1985)

Clockwise (1986)

The Secret Policeman's Third Ball (1987)

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

The Big Picture (1989)

Bullseye! (1989)

Erik The Viking (1989)

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)

Splitting Heirs (1993)

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein/ (1994)

Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1994)

The Swan Princess (1994)

Fierce Creatures (1996)

George Of The Jungle (1997)

Parting Shots (1998)

James Bond: The World Is Not Enough (1999)



This year marks the 20th anniversary of what unquestionably remains the funniest situation comedy of all time, Fawlty Towers. The twelve episodes, spread over two series four years apart, are the template by which all other comedies are judged. Perfectly structured, brilliantly performed, and never bettered. To this end, we demand you take a large stick to the next idiot who claims that Father Ted was “Fawlty Towers for the 90s”.

The man most directly responsible for Fawlty Towers’ success and comedic perfection is Mr John Cleese, former Python, advocate of psychotherapy, multi-millionaire businessman, and physical and intellectual giant. A complex man, both deeply serious and absurdly funny in equal measure, Bubblegun is proud to pay tribute to both Cleese and his greatest creation. Here are 25 – no, 30 – things you probably never knew about either.

  1. Cleese’s father Reg, an insurance agent, was born Reginald Cheese, but changed his name upon joining the army in 1915. He was worried that it would make him the target for asinine jokes, and lead him to be nicknamed “Cheesie”. Years later, his son John was deeply grateful for the change. It helped him to avoid potential mickey-taking when he befriended a boy at school named Barnabus J. Butter.
  2. John Cleese was born on October 27th 1939 in Weston-super-mare. School friends and neighbours remember him as a serious boy, and slightly eccentric. As an infant he once inhaled a chrysanthemum.
  3. He spent a brief period teaching at his old school before enrolling at Downing College, Cambridge. He joined the famous Footlights Dramatic Club, where fellow performers included David Frost, and Goodies Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie, Miriam Margoyles – most recently seen beating up Arnold Schwarzenegger in the dreadful End Of Days – and his future Monty Python collaborator Graham Chapman.
  4. During his time with Footlights, Cleese performed in a number of revues, including one entitled ‘A Clump Of Plinths’, and even toured the world with another called ‘Cambridge Circus’. It lead to him being employed as a writer/producer by the BBC. He was paid £30 a week – enough to a really nice car.
  5. During his Cambridge days, Cleese often claimed that his middle name was ‘Otto’. In fact it was ‘Marwood’. Otto would later be the name of Life Of Brian’s crack suicide squad leader played by Eric Idle, and Kevin Kline’s character in A Fish Called Wanda. The inspiration may have come from a Cambridge jeweller called Otto Wehrle.
  6. Before joining the BBC, he lived for a time in New York, where he briefly worked for Newsweek, and met the first of his three blonde, American wives, struggling actress and waitress Connie Booth. She introduced Cleese to the benefits of psychotherapy, of which he has been an advocate ever since (as well as writing a pair of books on it, and funding research). Of course, Booth would later appear alongside her husband in Fawlty Towers, as well as co-write the series with him.
  7. His early work for the BBC included writing and performing for That Was The Week That Was, and The Frost Report for television, and Emery At Large, starring Dick Emery, for BBC Radio. During this time he worked alongside Ronnies Barker and Corbett (later to appear in Fierce Creatures), Barries Cryer and Took, and his future Python team mates. Cleese had previously met animator Terry Gilliam in New York, where he appeared in a Gilliam-penned photo comic-strip about a man who fell in lust with his daughter’s “Barbee” doll.
  8. Cleese’s first film role came in 1968, in the movie Interlude. He played a television public relations expert. He next appeared in the Peter Sellers flop The Magic Christian, in which he appeared as a director of Sotherby’s. Around the same time he also appeared in The Love Ban, The Statue, and a short-film he co-wrote and starred alongside Connie Booth, Romance With A Double Bass. It was directed by Robert Young, who 20 years later directed most of Fierce Creatures. It also marked the first appearance of Cleese’s Basil Fawlty moustache.
  9. John Cleese claims it was his idea to get together with Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The others beg to differ,
  10. The first writing session of the Monty Python team was on Sunday 11th May 1969. Among the names suggest for the show at the time were ‘The Atomic Zoo’, ‘Arthur Megapode’s Flying Circus’, and ‘Cynthia Fellatio’s Flying Circus’.
  11. For the most part Cleese wrote with fellow Cambridge graduate Chapman. Cleese was responsible for writing down their ideas, due to Chapman’s scruffy handwriting.
  12. The success of Monty Python and Cleese’s rapid rise to celebrity, placed strains on his marriage. Connie Booth appeared a couple of times in the show – as boxing schoolgirl Sally Bent, and Palin’s girlfriend during the lumberjack song sketch – in an effort by Cleese to  appease her self-confessed envy.
  13. During the Monty Python period Cleese wrote episodes of ITV’s Doctor In The House, Doctor At Large, and several Les Dawson shows. The Doctor At Large episode ‘No Ill Feelings’ featured Roy Kinnear as a hen-pecked hotel owner and his overbearing wife; an unofficial pilot for what would become Fawlty Towers.
  14. During his final days on Python, Cleese set up his Visual Arts company, producing business training films. His Python team mates – staunch left-wingers – saw this as a sign that Cleese was “selling out to capitalism”.
  15. Cleese became increasingly restless during the third series of Monty Python. He felt the team were repeating themselves. Relationships became frayed, and on one occasion he and Chapman had a fight after a practical joke backfired; Cleese had hidden Chapman’s beloved pipe.
  16. Cleese left Monty Python after the third series – leaving his former associates to struggle along with a weak fourth series – but he returned for the movie, Monty Python And The Holy Grail and a series of live shows. Cleese and Booth were by this time formulating ideas for Fawlty Towers.
  17. This inspiration for Basil Fawlty came from a Mr Donald Sinclair, a real-life Torquay hotelier whom had treated the Python team with Fawlty-like manners during a location shoot. During their brief stay at his Gleneagles hotel, he hid Eric Idle’s football bag, claiming it was a bomb, abused his Spanish waiter Pepe, refused to serve them drinks, and reprimanded an American guest for using his cutlery “like an American”. The only difference between Sinclair’s relationship with his wife, and that of Basil Fawlty’s relationship with Sybil, is that Mr Sinclair was apparently small, whereas his wife was large.
  18. Cleese and Booth had hoped to research their writing by booking in for a stay at Gleneagles, but by 1974 the Sinclairs had moved to America.
  19. Upon its initial broadcast, the first series of Fawlty Towers was considered a flop. A repeat in the January of 1976 saw the start of Fawltymania. 
  20. The second series of Fawlty Towers didn’t appear until October 1979. By then Booth and Cleese had split, but said they got on “better than ever”. The first series had required Cleese to wear heavy make-up to ensure he looked older than his 35 years.
  21. The pair would work out the plot of each episode before they allowed themselves to begin work on the dialogue, planning the structure of episodes on huge sheets of paper. Each episode was rehearsed for a week before the 12 hour camera rehearsal and recording session. Cleese claimed this was “two days too few to get it slick”. Every episode consisted of around 400 camera shots – twice as many as most BBC comedy programmes of the time.
  22. In 1985 a Devon hotel manager changed his name to Basil Fawlty, and renamed his establishment after the TV hotel. However, unlike the fictional Fawlty Towers, the real-life copy was painted in a garish Union Jack colours.
  23. During the filming of the classic ‘Gourmet Night’ episode, John Cleese almost crashed Basil Fawlty’s car. It was only afterwards that he confessed to the director that he had never learned to drive.
  24. Andrew Sachs, who played Fawlty’s idiot waiter Manuel, was injured twice during filming the series – once when Cleese hit him on the head too hard with a saucepan (leaving him concussed for two days), and again when the kitchen fire in the ‘Germans’ episode left him with burns.
  25. There have been several attempts to remake Fawlty Towers for America, all of which have flopped. ABC’s Amanda’s By The Sea missed the point spectacularly by eliminating Basil from the programme completely, while Manuel was transformed into Mexican waiter Aldo.
  26. Contrary to popular belief, Cleese has never ruled out a third series of Fawlty Towers, and even toyed with the idea as recently as three years ago. An episode in which the hotel is visited by tax inspectors was discussed by Cleese and Booth, as were a pair of Fawlty Towers screenplay concepts. In one Basil visits a Spanish hotel that is even worse than his own, while in another he would have foiled an attempt to hijack a plane.
  27.  Cleese considers Fawlty Towers to be one of his three biggest successes, the others being Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, and A Fish Called Wanda. Though Wanda was a massive success, its follow-up, Fierce Creatures, was mauled by critics. Around 60% of the film had to be reshot after disasterous test screenings, adding millions to the budget.
  28. Cleese has since pondered whether he’s now too out of touch to be funny, questioning how a 60 year-old man can write anything relevant to a contemporary teenager. A brief 30th anniversary reunion of the Monty Python team last year proved that when the gloves are off, he can be as funny as ever. He opened an evening of Python-themed programmes by being drenched with gore from a flattened kitten.
  29. John Cleese has had several hair transplants. He used to hide his baldness beneath a toupee, but during rehearsals for a stage show in the early 1980s, his wig slipped revealing his scabby, mid-transplant scalp. He’s since enthused publicly about the procedure.
  30. That is all.

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