Renowned British comedian John Cleese – famous for his portrayal of Angry Frenchman and Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” – is appearing at UCSB tonight for “An Evening With John Cleese.”
The event, which will feature a screening of “Holy Grail” and a conversation with Cleese, begins at 7:30 p.m. in Campbell Hall. General admission is $20, while UCSB student tickets are $10.
Cleese’s appearance comes amid hard times for the funnyman – a Santa Barbara Superior Court judge ordered Cleese to pay his wife $160,000 per month in temporary maintenance fees as part of his ongoing divorce until a settlement can be arranged.
However, Cleese, who was voted the second greatest comedian of all time in the 2005 Comedian’s Comedian poll, said the upcoming Arts & Lectures event is a casual night of comedy and fun that often turns risqué.
“I’ve done this two or three times at UCSB, because it’s always a lot of fun and pretty easy to conduct,” Cleese said. “I’ll get up and introduce the movie, they’ll watch it, and then I answer questions until the audience gets bored. It’s really informal and entertaining. … The ruder the questions get, the more fun the night becomes.”
Cleese attended the University of Cambridge and began his career writing and performing in comedy sketches with a student theatre club, the Footlights Dramatic Club, where he met fellow Monty Python founder Graham Chapman. Since then, Cleese has had an illustrious career in acting, garnering fame for his involvement as a founding member, writer and actor in the comedy troupe “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
In addition to appearing in such films as “Shrek 2” and the Harry Potter films, Cleese’s voice was featured in numerous video game roles – he even narrates directions on TomTom GPS navigation systems.
Cleese said the success of his voice as a GPS navigator surprised him, and now he wants to make his recorded comments for TomTom more comical.
“I was called in by them some four years ago,” Cleese said. “To my astonishment, quite a few people got into it. I sent a suggestion to them that there should be a really silly [voice option]. It could be a lot sillier, believe you me.”
Cleese, who has a residence in Montecito, has appeared at UCSB in the past for screenings of the 1979 comedy, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” and the 1988 comedy written by Cleese, “A Fish Called Wanda.”
Aside from appearing for movie screenings, Cleese has also frequented UCSB as a visiting professor. He substituted for a drama professor several years ago, and over the last three weeks of that quarter, Cleese gave six lectures about comedy with advice on techniques for writing and acting in the comedy field.
In his political pursuits, Cleese has announced his support for presidential candidate Barack Obama and even offered to write speeches for him.
“I put an offer in to help [Obama] in any way that I can,” Cleese said. “It was first reported by the British press, which is probably why it was reported so badly.”
Cleese will donate the proceeds of tonight’s event to Arts & Lectures.