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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs

John Cleese: The Alimony Tour

Liverpool Empire

May 31, 2011
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins


John Cleese


It must be difficult having to kiss goodbye to $20 million simply because you’ve allegedly “kissed hello” to somebody else and got caught in the act once too often and once too passionately. Yet this is what John Cleese has been forced to endure and so, to make ends meet, has been forced out onto the road to help finance the payment of his “unjust” fine.

Is the effort worth it? Well, it certainly is for man once dubbed by Mel Smith in Not The Nine O’clock News as “The Comic Messiah” (“Look, even the initials, JC, are exactly the same”), what with signed posters the size of a hanky, key rings and other memorabilia being knocked out for at least five quid a pop and with tickets selling at £35.  Not such good news is the fact, however, that this one night only offering had originally been booked in as two but the several empty seats cast judgement on that particular plan. Perhaps £35 a throw tells its own story?

Still, on with the show and the appearance of a man who quite rightly enters the pantheon of British comic wonders pretty near the top thanks to the helping hands of David Frost (The Frost Report), Graham Chapman (Monty Python) Connie Booth (Fawlty Towers) and Charlie Crichton (A Fish Called Wanda); subjects on which Cleese waxes lyrical for very nearly an entire hour that is stretched to very nearly an entire hour and twenty minutes thanks to the array of the all too often seen video excerpts that pepper the talk throughout.

Though even to cite this as a “talk” would be something of a misnomer in truth as Cleese – this fine example of English middle-class education, wit, humour and sarcasm – is, courtesy of three vast auto-cues hanging from the not-so-packed balcony above, not even bothering to learn his lines – those being the same the lines from his own life at which and during which he was and is presumably present – but is instead reading to the audience who are paying for the privilege to be read at the princely sum of £35 per throw.

Yes, okay, there are some genuinely funny moments and yes, okay, Cleese does have a style, charisma, skill and out-and-out ability to engage with complete ease, but the whole thing really does stink of nothing more than being a “money (lots of it) for old rope” exercise of gargantuan proportions. There is also the fact that, doubtlessly like many others gathered here this evening at £35 per throw Cleese is revered as the archetypal comic genius of a generation and to see that he has had to stoop to this is not only disappointing but also extremely saddening.

Yet never fear. Wanda, Python and Towers were all huge in America so a couple of gigs each in New York, LA and Washington DC should result in $20 million warming the inside of Mr. Cleese’s bank account pretty darn quickly. After all, you’ve got to have it to lose in the first place to ever appreciate its gone.

Chris High


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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