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At Home With the Late John Cleese at The Factory Thrusday

John Cleese performing Thursday at The Factory in Saint Louis. Photo by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography.

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–by Randy Thompson

–photos by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography

 

We had a great time hanging out and chatting away the evening with comedy legend John Cleese and his daughter Camilla in the living room.  It was just a nice, intimate, cozy little conversation between them and us.  Or at least that is what it felt like when we saw them at the Factory in Chesterfield on Thursday night. It was a cozy group of 3,002 people.

John Cleese performing Thursday at The Factory in Saint Louis. Photo by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography.

The backdrop was basic, with a picture of the former Monty Python star and a message on it that said ‘An Evening With the Late John Cleese’. In the background, the image of the legs of a man on a toilet, pants around his ankles.  Two chairs and a table sat center stage.

His opening act happened to be his daughter Camilla, a well-seasoned and talented stand-up comedian who delivered a great set that involved jokes about how tall she is, how single she is, and what a crazy family she grew up with, including a few precious nuggets about her father. She is an advocate of women’s rights but still manages to make that topic hilarious as well. She has a casual yet insightful approach to her humor, strolling the stage pointing into the audience to illustrate her jokes “Tiny and petite, like you, ma’am.  I’m a monster.” It was a great way to start the evening, as she has a comfortable, relaxed approach to stand up performance that had the entire audience in a good mood from the start.

Camilla Cleese performing Thursday at The Factory in Saint Louis. Photo by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography.

At a certain point, she introduced her dad, then exited as he ambled on stage, sat down at the table, and started telling fabulous true stories as if we were together at the kitchen table.  John Cleese’s stories ranged across the years covering his extraordinary life as a comedian, businessman, philanthropist, activist, writer, producer, and actor. I felt like he was about to lean over and pat my shoulder as he regaled us with stories culled from experiences with some of the greatest comedians and rock stars ever to live. He spoke about how humor seems to work, giving tips and demonstrations on making the audience uncomfortable “Now we’ll talk about race. Oh, look how quiet you’ve all gotten!”  And in a very transparent way, the 84-year-old comedian described getting older and how that has affected him in personal ways. But he was able to laugh about it and so were we, whom he noted, we’re all pretty much older people as well.

John Cleese performing Thursday at The Factory in Saint Louis. Photo by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography.

During our conversation John would occasionally stop and show us clips from the Monty Python’s Flying Circus television series, starting with a fish slapping scene and moving through Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s Black Knight scene and an interesting story about how that character was played. We also were treated to a clip from the movie A Fish Called Wanda, followed by details on how some concepts came about during the writing process among the group.

Camilla Cleese performing Thursday at The Factory in Saint Louis. Photo by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography.

After a brief intermission, Camilla joined her father on stage to asked him questions from the audience and shared stories and experiences that she heard, and lived, growing up with this famous and unusual man. These discussions involved embarrassing episodes at Harrod’s department store, AI writing, and some strange events that occurred at the Aspen Comedy Festival.

John Cleese performing Thursday at The Factory in Saint Louis. Photo by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography.

But mostly, it was a dad and his daughter, (who happened to have extraordinarily hilarious and interesting experiences to share), sitting up on stage like any other pair of family members, jokingly getting into squabbles, good-humored teasing, and even interrupting each other at times in order to get in the last word. Mr. Cleese even waved his fingers up and down making a ‘chatty’ motion with his hand as his daughter spoke at one point, inviting us into the conversation as he smiled and winked. But it was all done with love and laughter. He even shared a story implying that his name very well could have been John Cheese, but you will have to see the show in case that topic comes. We feel like every show will be different since they take questions from the crowd and give honest, always entertaining answers.

Camilla Cleese performing Thursday at The Factory in Saint Louis. Photo by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography.

All of this was not only entertaining, but insightful, and educational as well. He delivered tasty side notes and delicious details about how the Troupe couldn’t finance the Holy Grail and Life of Brian initially, as no studios took interest. He shared all these stories and his daughter with us. I felt like I was getting part of an inside story shared with me and others in the room on the sly.  You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to sit in the living room with such a fascinating and humorous dead man.

John Cleese performing Thursday at The Factory in Saint Louis. Photo by Sean Derrick/ Thyrd Eye Photography.

 

One thought on “At Home With the Late John Cleese at The Factory Thrusday

  • karen shaw

    Great review, and so wish I would have been there.

    Reply

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