Date of Birth: October 27, 1939
Born in Somerset, England, Cleese would have had to introduce himself as
John Cheese, had his father not changed his surname. An only child and a bright
boy, Cleese spent five years, from 1953 to 1958, at Clifton College, then
taught at his old prep school for two years while waiting to go to Cambridge
University's Downing College to study Law.
While a student there he joined the Footlights Revue, where he met future
Monty Python writer and member, Graham Chapman. By 1963, he earned a law
degree, but opted to appear in a new Footlights Revue that eventually played
London's West End for five months. When hired by the BBC radio, Cleese dumped the job to work with Cambridge Circus, touring New Zealand and ending up on Broadway. He remained in the States for a time where he met another future Monty Python member, Terry Gilliam.
Returning to his native land, he started to write for the comedy The
Frost Report where he and Graham Chapman met other writers, Eric Idle,
Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Continuing his writing collaboration with
Chapman, Cleese soon was working on what would become Monty Python's
Flying Circus with Chapman, Idle, Jones, Palin, and Terry Gilliam.
The show, which first aired in 1969, was an iconoclastic look at British
society: its genius lay in its seemingly random, bizarre take on the
mundane facets of everyday life. The show was a hit with British
viewers, and continued to make people laugh when it was bought in
syndication in the States and around the world. Cleese left the show before
its final season to work on another series, Fawlty Towers, with his
American actress wife, Connie Booth. Another huge hit lasting five seasons,
Cleese reunited with his Monty Python team to make three films, Monty
Python and the Holy Grail, The Life of Brian and The Meaning
Spending the early '80s in films like The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
and Silverado (1985), Cleese got down to writing again and struck
gold with A Fish Called Wanda (1988). Not only did he write it, he
also produced and starred in it. The film won both commercial and critical
success, earning Cleese a BAFTA Award and an Oscar nomination for his
Since Wanda, Cleese has continued to work hard at numerous projects
including television commercials for Lexus, Comedy Central television
network and Schweppes beverages to name a few; lent his voice to a number of
video games; appeared in television films and series; and continued to be
cast in supporting roles in such movies as The Jungle Book (1994),
Parting Shots (1998), The Out-Of-Towners (1999), The World
is Not Enough (1999) and the Harry Potter films, as well as providing the voice of the King in the Shrek films. He also makes an appearance in the 2012 comedy A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman.
Cleese has also had a number of books published, including Families & How
To Survive Them and its sequel, Life & How To Survive It.
Thrice married with two daughters, Cynthia Caylor and Camilla, Cleese and his third wife, Alice Faye Eichelberger, whom he married in 1992, filed for divorce in 2010.