Legendary British actor John Cleese graced Campbell Hall with his comedic styling yesterday as part of a week-long free event series hosted for students by UCSB’s Arts & Lectures department.
The screening of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” featured a Q&A segment with Cleese, a resident of Santa Barbara. The discussion, which culminated in a standing ovation from the audience, allowed the Canadian tuxedo-clad actor to address topics ranging from his creative process to Frenchmen.
Cleese, a resident of Santa Barbara, said the film tells the story of a man mistaken for Jesus Christ to address how faith can be abused by those who invoke it.
“We’re not making fun of religion, we’re making fun of the way people follow it,” Cleese said. “I think on the whole the Inquisition did not ‘get’ what Christ was saying. Religions, despite the intentions of the founders, get hijacked by people of lower mental health than the founder.”
The Q&A session provided anecdotal insights into Cleese’s filmmaking experience, including his opinions on shooting crucifixion scenes.
“I got quite sick,” Cleese said. “I remember thinking, ‘Not only do I have a flu, but I have to go be crucified.’”
However, Cleese said the film, which he personally finds superior to the critic-favorite “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” was among his favorite to make.
“I loved working on ‘Life of Brian,’ while ‘The Holy Grail’ was physically so demanding,” Cleese said. “I hated making ‘Harry Potter.’”
Often punctuated with the actor’s tangents and one-liners, such as “Why do the French have so many civil wars? So they can win one,” Cleese’s “one-man show” ultimately offered the actor’s perspective on comedic technique.
“You can’t be immensely creative if you’re being totally logical,” Cleese said. “But if anyone’s going to laugh at something, you have to have clarity.”
Matt Ferguson, a fifth-year literature major, said Cleese’s talk provided a unique addendum to the film.
“I loved hearing him talk,” Ferguson said. “He went off-topic and chatted about what he’s interested in and the creative process in general.”
The A&L appreciation series will continue this Wednesday with a double feature starring Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams — “Wendy and Lucy” at 7:30 p.m. and “Blue Valentine” at 9:15 p.m. in Campbell Hall.
Hey, slight correction, I’m a third year literature major.