Python Process Class Redux…

…Chicago-area comedy fans may be interested to hear that I will be coming to the iO Chicago for what may be an annual event: my Python Process writing class. The official announcement should be coming soon, but the last one filled up awfully quickly, and I want everyone who has been following this to get a fair shot at it. It’s going to be fun for fans of Python, comedy, and you’ll hopefully even learn something about how the Pythons managed to create all of their great material through rewriting and collaboration. I really enjoy teaching this class, as it’s a great way to combine my two loves–Monty Python and improvisational comedy. Michael McCarthy has done an amazing job putting together the writing program at the iO Chicago, and I’m delighted to be a part of it!

Forty years ago this week (on December 5th, 1974, to be precise), the BBC broadcast Show 45, the last original episode of @montypython. John Cleese has since departed for more Fawlty Pastures, but to me, the opening sketch of the final show still ranks as one of their funniest. Take a look here and see if you agree…

#montypython #johncleese #soanyway

Last chance to see JC

That’s right, American fans. The So, Anyway… book tour is wrapping up in America. Friday night, Nov 21, JC will be at the Barnes and Noble at The Grove, interviewed by the wonderful Tim Meadows; come one, come all. Then John will be at the Miami Book Fair on Sunday the 23rd, then back to London for the final leg of the European tour.
And if you can’t make it to Miami or LA, you’ll be able to see him this week on Real Time with Bill Maher.
And best of all, you can spend a few hours with John with the very funny New York Times bestselling So, Anyway…!
And keep watching as I keep posting and tweeting @khowardjohnson
JC Book cover

Mike Nichols

We interrupt our regularly scheduled @johncleese #soanyway postings in observance of the passing of the great Mike Nichols.
Of course, Mike was the director of Monty Python’s Spamalot; Eric Idle has made no secret how much he learned from him during the production. Without Mike Nichols’ input, Spamalot would likely have been a much different show. He was, needless to say, a fan and a friend of the Pythons.
In the coming days, he will be the subject of numerous lengthy, amazing tributes to a life and career the likes of which we seldom see.
I crossed paths with Mike Nichols on a couple of occasions, and each time he was wonderful to me.
I had tried to reach him when I was writing my Del Close biography (The Funniest One in the Room), but hadn’t heard back.
Del had long talked about a rivalry between the two of them—Del always implied that it was a triangle involving Elaine May when they were performing as the St. Louis Compass Players. Del’s interest in Elaine was both romantic and professional, while Mike was primarily involved with the St. Louis Compass—and improvisation in general—because he wanted to work with Elaine. Of course, Mike eventually won out, and he and Elaine eventually went off to New York and Broadway fame. Del had always held a grudge and claimed that Mike had not behaved well.
Del’s version of the story was reported in Janet Coleman’s book. But the more I studied it, the less it added up—there were just too many contradictions.
And then, dear @ericidle invited me to the first public performance of Spamalot during its Chicago preview. There was a small party afterward, and at one point, I saw Mike Nichols waiting for his car. I approached him and introduced myself, not sure what to expect. He couldn’t have been more gracious, felt very badly at the thought of Del holding a grudge. I promised to email him a copy of that portion of my manuscript.
It took a while, but I eventually heard back from him. I had sent him what was, more or less, Del’s version of events. He disagreed, but in the most gentlemanly way imaginable. He pointed out the inconsistencies in Del’s version and walked me through his side of the story, which was rock-solid and fit all of the other facts that I’d gathered. He also admitted that they were both young, and he didn’t always behave as well as he might have. I made all of the necessary fixes, and I think he was happy with my work. (For more details, check out The Funniest One in the Room; it’s a long story.)
Among my other takeaways was the regret that Del hadn’t lived long enough to reconcile with Mike, which I’m confident would have happened sooner or later.
This has been a terrible year for comedy legends, in the last 12 months, we’ve lost improv founding fathers Bernie Sahlins, Sheldon Patinkin, Theodore J. Flicker, Garry Goodrow of The Committee, and too many others.
Mike Nichols’ career with improvisation and The Compass Players didn’t mean much on a bio like his, but it was tremendously important for improvisation.
He was a good man.
#johncleese #mikenichols #soanyway #montypythonlive #ericidle #ioimprov #spamalot #mikenichols

Cleeseheads update…

A funny thing happened on the way to blogging about the entire John Cleese So, Anyway… promotional tour: it’s moving way too fast for me to keep up with! Instead, I’ve turned to tweeting @khowardjohnson to try to keep up.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be posting photos, giving updates, and passing along comments here. But most of the more immediate material seems to be ending up on Twitter. Whenever we’re travelling, John will inevitably turn and say “Let’s send a few tweets,” which is how the whole “My Dad Shot Hitler” thread started.
I’m writing this in Vancouver, where John did a spectacularly successful signing last night at Chapters (and boy, is Vancouver a beautiful city!). We’re off to Victoria in a few minutes, and another show there tonight. Sunday is Seattle. Boy, this is going fast!
If you want to catch any of his West Coast appearances, don’t hesitate—most are sold out, but a few—including Nov. 21 at the Barnes & Noble at The Grove—are still available (check my earlier posts for details). Watch for John that same night on Real Time with Bill Maher.
And most of all, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of So, Anyway… You won’t regret it.
#johncleese #soanyway #montypythonlive #montypythonimage