Nfld. & Labrador

It's a mad, mad world, and John Cleese wants to make fun of it

Monty Python is more relevant now as the world gets "even crazier," says Cleese.

Monty Python is more relevant now as world gets 'even crazier,' says Cleese

Michael Palin, left, and John Cleese attend a special Tribeca Film Festival screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail at the Beacon Theatre on April 24, 2015, in New York. (Andy Kropa/Invision/The Associated Press)

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction, and the state of the world these days has one of the co-founders of legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python scratching his head.

"As I've got older, I've realized the world is, apparently, even crazier than it was in previous years," says John Cleese.

"It's mad!"

Nearing his 80th year, Cleese said he took a step back to really look at the world and his role in it.

That's when he decided to pen a solo stage show, Why There Is No Hope, as a way to take aim at the general mess of things, as he sees it.

Once you start thinking, 'Oh, I'm a very serious and important person,' I think you basically die inside.- John Cleese

"I think Python is very appropriate at the moment. I mean, the place has gone completely mad and that's what I'm making fun of in the Why There Is No Hope show, because if we take it all seriously … it can spoil your day," Cleese told CBC's On The Go.

"And this whole speech is about, don't let it spoil your day. If there are certain things that you can actually do something about, well, then, do that, have the courage to do that. But all the stuff you can't really affect, you really just have to push it out of the way, because it can really spoil your life."

Cleese said anyone paying attention to news across the world is likely having a hard time taking it all in.

The cast of Fawlty Towers. From left to right, Prunella Scales, Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs in 2009. (Edmond Terakopian/The Associated Press)

Between American politics and the Trump administration, and the Brexit fiasco, Cleese said, it's hard to stay positive.

But there is only so much an individual person can control, he said.

"Why does it worry us? We're lucky enough to be alive. I'm sitting here today, it's a beautiful morning and I just had a lovely cup of coffee," Cleese said during a phone interview from his home on the Caribbean island of Nevis.

"In a funny kind of way it doesn't affect me that much, but I do worry about the direction the world's taking. But I don't see that it's going to get any better at the moment."

Eventually, Cleese said, the issues in the spotlight today will be sorted out, making room for other problems.

"It always swings backwards and forwards."

Not familiar with Monty Python? Try Netflix. (Facebook/MontyPython)

'You can't take it seriously'

As for aging, Cleese said it's hard for him to wrap his head around the fact that he's doing his Why There Is No Hope tour months before he becomes an octogenarian.

"Every time I say I'm going to be 80, I start laughing. Because I know it's not me, it must be somebody else who's 80. I'm 52. It's just a rumour, this 80 business, it's just a rumour somebody started," he said, laughing.

"No, but you can't take it seriously."

Being a serious person, Cleese said, is not something he does well; Cleese and his wife spend half their time jumping out and trying to scare each other in their home.

"We behave in a way that I hope is childlike rather than childish, and if you have that sort of atmosphere around you, you really realize that you don't know, really, what you're talking about, and nobody else does anyway," he said.

Cleese performs on the closing night of Monty Python Live (Mostly) in London, England. (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

"It's kind of really releasing and I think the more childlike side of your personality comes out, and that's where all the laughter and the wonder and the ability to play comes from. Once you start thinking, 'Oh I'm a very serious and important person,' I think you basically die inside."

Cleese kicked off the tour's Canadian leg in Halifax on Sunday, with subsequent stops to include Saint John, Charlottetown, Toronto, Regina, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary over the next few weeks.

As for the tour coming to St. John's on May 10, Cleese may not be fully prepared for the difference in temperatures.

When it was suggested he may want to pack a scarf and mittens, his ignorance of St. John's weather was exposed.

"Is it really cold?" he said with a laugh. "I thought it might be a bit better in May."

Why There Is No Hope is at the Mile One Centre in St. John's on May 10.

Cleese will have a fresh round of tour dates in the fall, with stops in cities such as Victoria, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Ont., and Montreal.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Ted Blades

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