A Minute With: John Cleese on appeal of "Fawlty Towers"

Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:02pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - It's been more than 30 years since John Cleese made his television classic "Fawlty Towers" and the British comedian is just as proud of it now as when he helped create the series in the 1970s.

The 69-year-old, also well known for his part in the Monty Python phenomenon and the 1988 movie "A Fish Called Wanda," has been on tour in Norway with a one-man show.

The BBC is releasing "Fawlty Towers: Remastered (DVD)" later in the month. Cleese talked with Reuters about "Fawlty Towers," his career and the possibility of working with Michael Palin again.

Q: Why are you in Oslo with a one-man show?

A: "There's not much work around at the moment. My agent told me last week that it was the worst year for his clients that he could remember in films. You can do television, but unless you want to tie yourself up for five years, which is what the American sitcoms require, you basically can do interesting documentaries for which you don't get paid.

"Then the speeches that I normally do are drying up because of the economic climate. So short of busking in Covent Garden there is quite seriously a sort of (question): 'Where is the money going to come from?' So the answer is I resuscitated the one-man show because I got a very, very generous offer from Norway. I was a little surprised until somebody told me they'd got the best economy in Europe because they are sitting on all that oil. So I'm getting paid twice for a performance what I get for a show in California. Good old Norwegians."

Q: It sounds odd hearing a big name in entertainment talking about the lack of work.

A: "I don't think anyone is (getting work). In the old days the movie companies were owned by people who loved movies ... The independents who normally offer people interesting roles apparently don't have any money at all.   Continued...

<p>British actor John Cleese performs during dress rehearsals for his new one man show at the Oslo Concert House October 2, 2009. REUTERS/Bjorn Sigurdson/Scanpix</p>