John Cleese: TV comedy doesn’t excite me anymore

"As you get older you do know all the jokes but that doesn't stop you laughing in ordinary life, mainly now at politicians"

John Cleese knows a thing or two about comedy. The man who co-founded the Monty Python troupe and co-wrote Fawlty Towers is responsible for creating many of TV’s most side-splitting moments. But today’s television comedy just doesn’t do it for him…

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“When you’ve been doing comedy for as long as I have, you really do know most of the jokes,” he told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

“Now and again something happens and you see somebody – I saw Eddie Izzard and Bill Bailey and an American comedian called Bill Hicks – and this lights you up because these guys have done something new and brilliant and that’s marvellous. 

“When you are young you can go out there and discover Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers – you can see all this great, old comedy – but when you get to my age, you’ve seen all of that and the amount of brilliant new stuff coming through is always small. You don’t expect anything great – you turn on, you watch it for a few minutes and you think, ‘It’s fine, I’ve seen something like this before and it doesn’t excite me.'”

However, the comedian, 74, did admit he now found laughs in other areas of society. “As you get older you do know all the jokes but that doesn’t stop you laughing in ordinary life, mainly now at politicians. What was happening at the Scottish Referendum was absolutely hilarious.”

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And while Cleese made no bones about offending Taylor Swift’s cat on The Graham Norton Show last Friday, he was far more complimentary about the singer herself. “I’ve got to say, she’s terribly funny.”