An Evening With John Cleese
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For people like me who enjoy Comiccons, 80s conventions and live events, lockdown has been a nightmare. When I first heard that John Cleese was coming to Manchester for An Evening With John Cleese, I was overjoyed. Skeptical, I will admit, but also overjoyed. I hadn’t been in a room with many people for over a year, so how would Monopoly Events handle a closed event like this?
The answer was, perfectly.
I arrived at Manchester BEC Arena, and was so pleased to see the event itself was in a side area rather than the main hall. This new side area gave the 300 or so ticket holders enough space so nobody felt too close in the waiting area, and the area in which John’s Q&A was held was perfectly sized for the audience numbers.
Now, a bit of background about me; John Cleese was one of my idols when I was young. I was a huge Monty Python fan, I had Clockwise, The Life Of Brian, And Now For Something Completely Different on video, and most of the Fawlty Towers episodes memorised line for line which my friends and I would recite. John Cleese is a comedy genius. There is always a worry when you meet idols, in that they might not live up to your expectations. John, however, was fantastic.
To set the scene for the evening, inside the Q&A area there was a low stage with a huge screen surrounding it. There were a limited number of seats, maybe 300 or so max, and each seat was allocated to a specific ticket or group if tickets had been booked together.
The host for the evening was Tom Finkill who did a fantastic job of ensuring John didn’t go off track and of putting great questions to John. Tom seemed to know his stuff when it came to John’s career, which gave a friendly warmth to his hosting.
The schedule for the evening was for John to give an hour long chat, then take questions from the audience, before people were able to have items signed by him. There was also a John Cleese themed quiz between the talk and the signing, which anyone could take part in by downloading a quiz app for their phones.
Throughout the evening John shared a few of his favourite jokes, many anecdotes from throughout his life and hinted towards upcoming and future projects, one of which sounds deliciously Yummy!
John discussed his close friend Graham Chapman, and how he felt the best way to posthumously celebrate him at a Monty Python reunion. John and the other members on Monty Python had been invited to appear on TV in the US, and they felt it only right that Graham made an appearance too, despite having passed away 10 years previously. They group pondered getting a cardboard cut out of him, or commemorating him in some way, and they decided they would asked Graham’s former boyfriend if they could take Grahams ashes over to the US.
On the night of the TV appearance the five members walked out, sat down, and placed Grahams urn on the table. About ten minutes into the interview one of them “accidentally” kicked Graham’s urn over and his ashes spilled out onto the desk. It was an absolute gem of a story, and Johns telling of it really had the audience in fits of laughter.
He also joked about the Monty Python show in London having the tagline “1 Down 5 To Go”, because Graham has died a couple of decades earlier. He mentioned that now that Terry Jones had also passed away, he expected either Eric Idle or Terry Gilliam to be next as neither were in a good state, leaving it in a battle between him and Michael Palin for the owner of the Monty Python name.
On the subject of Fawlty Towers, John told a story of how Basil Fawlty was based on a genuine owner of a hotel that he and the Monty Python team stayed at. The owner was so bad that a few of the team actually changed hotels after a couple of days to avoid having to deal with him.
With the insights into Monty Python, Basil Fawlty, Life of Brian and A Fish Called Wanda, this was the perfect event for a John Cleese fan like myself. I could have listened to him and Tom talk for hours and hours.
Overall the evening was superb. The new side area in the BEC Arena is perfect for small, intimate gatherings and the evening was managed perfectly with everyone being shown to their seats and a small bar serving cold drinks. Also, everything was perfectly wheelchair accessible. This is a great, intimate venue.
The full interview has been uploaded onto the Monopoly Events YouTube channel, and it is something that any John Cleese fan would find interesting. Watch it now below!