“Hello Mormons,” John Cleese said to the crowd in the opening moments of his Q&A at Eccles Theater Sunday night.
The crowd, religion unknown, had just watched a screening of Cleese’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail from their seats in the theater—and in this age of IMAX screens and reclining theater seats, from where I sat in orchestra level row K the screen seemed small. Pity the balcony-sitters. Perhaps it didn’t matter. I can’t imagine anyone paid to see Cleese without having seen his work—though the people around me laughed uproariously as if they’d never seen the film before.
After the film, Cleese appeared onstage with radio personality Bill Allred for what was supposed to be an audience-provided question and answer session with the comedy legend. Instead, it seemed to be an opportunity for Cleese to air dirty laundry about his former wives (“I’ve been married for 47 years,” he said. “To four different women.”), an ongoing feud with Terry Gilliam that may or may not be real and to diss on the Midwest—specifically Cleveland, Ohio. (ed note: Cleveland is lovely. Go Tribe!)
He spoke the most about his days with Monty Python and only a little bit about his career after that—touching on A Fish Called Wanda but hardly at all on Fawlty Towers. In fact, though the questions were read from cards from the crowd, it seemed clear that Allred had been told that Cleese wanted to conversation to go in particular directions. So there were plenty of awkward segues to include Cleese’s thoughts on cats, hotel stays, eating dog (no really), the Utah Jazz and setting up clips he had on the ready—all as Allred tried to keep the train on the rails.
Indeed, the biggest axe Cleese had to grind was with on of his ex-wives, whom he said, “She took me for 20 million. We didn’t even have children or anything. That is why I am in Salt Lake today.”
It seemed that his feelings on child-rearing weren’t much better. “We worry about you everyday,” he said to the children in the audience, “and then you turn out like your mothers.”
And then, seemingly mid-sentence he exclaimed, “It’s past my bedtime!” and the show was over. It was a fitting end to a night that was designed to never go any deeper than a late-night talk show interview.