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Rewind: John Cleese: A cheerful guide to creativity
The Ministry of Silly Walks. The Cheese Shop. French Taunting. If you haven’t seen any of these Monty Python sketches before, do us a favor and go watch one or two of them. You’ll discover—or re-discover—why our guest for this episode is a creative comic legend. John Cleese starred in and co-wrote the award-winning series Fawlty Towers, was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay of A Fish Called Wanda, and even has a species of lemur named after him (Cleese’s wooly lemur, Avahi cleesei).
He’s also an expert on the creative process, and so if you’re looking for a new framework to level-up your own workflow, his book Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide is a great resource. We talk with John about his new book, and also about creative collaboration in the midst of friction, how to be comfortable with ambiguity, and creating boundaries of space and time to get in a creative mode.
We also get to ask him a question that’s been bugging us ever since we first watched Monty Python and The Holy Grail. After everything that happened in 2020, we can all use a little more laughter in our lives. We hope our interview with John sparks some joy, and leaves you with some new creative tools. Thanks for listening. Takeaways:
How John’s childhood influences the way he approaches creativity
Why John uses writing to explore ideas
What “closed mode” and “open mode” are (and how they relate to convergent and divergent modes of thinking).
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John Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films, And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life. In the mid-1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers. Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He also starred in Clockwise, and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films, two Harry Potter films, and the last three Shrek films. He is also the author of Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide.