We met John Cleese at the weekend. I say ‘met’, met virtually while he was recording Oborne & Heller on Cricket, which is produced by The Chiswick Calendar.
What makes this all the more remarkable is that he’s known for not giving interviews, and indeed he talked about campaigning for Hacked Off over the misdeeds of the press. He’s sued “about five times” successfully for things that have been written about him which he has proved to be untrue.
“It’s very seldom that I do an interview with a newspaper because I cannot trust them to do an honest interview” he said.
He did the podcast because he has huge respect for Peter Oborne as a journalist, and the podcast is not so much an interview as a conversation. He was as interested in what they had to say as they were in him, as they chatted quite happily for an hour and a half, swapping stories about cricket, showbiz, politics and life in general.
He was delightful.
A bad case of the ‘Yips’
One story he told was of watching England and Somerset cricketer Maurice Tremlett go to pieces as his ability to bowl appeared to desert him. Cleese was only about 12 but he felt his ‘humiliation’ and he says fear of the humiliation of messing up a live performance is something he has carried with him in his own career.
Terror-struck on live TV
He recounted a moment during a live TV sketch when he was only 24, when he froze with sheer terror, on stage with Ronnie Corbett.
Bowling out Denis Compton
He joyfully described the highlight of his own schoolboy cricketing career – bowling out Denis Compton, despite his team mate’s refusal to cooperate because he wanted to see the great England star bat.
Taking to task a “nasty” and “dishonest” press
Here he is explaining why in his view the current standard of our politicians is “very poor”, because of journalists who are “sociopaths”.
You can listen to the whole podcast on The Chiswick Calendar website here.
Images above: Richard Heller bowling; Peter Oborne batting
Listen to more episodes of Oborne & Heller
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