John Cleese: I watch Michael Palin’s travel programmes when I want to go to sleep!

The comedian says his fellow Python’s globetrotting adventures are “nice and relaxing”

John Cleese and Michael Palin may have performed their final gig together as Pythons, but the comedians remain great pals.

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“Michael is my natural close friend,” said Cleese of his co-star at the Cheltenham Literature Festival yesterday. “If Michael and I had not worked together, we would still be close friends – we’re similar in a lot of ways and we get on very well.”

Although, let’s hope his good sentiments are remembered when Palin catches wind of what he makes of his travel documentaries…

Cleese, 74, had his audience in peels of laughter as he pondered what the various Pythons had been up to in the years before their O2 reunion last summer. Yawning dramatically, he quipped, “Michael makes those travel programmes. They’re nice and relaxing. Any time I can’t sleep I put one on.”

And it wasn’t just Palin on the receiving end of Cleese’s mockery. While acknowledging Eric Idle is “very, very good at lyrics”, he then referred to Terry Gilliam as “off trying to raise money for another one of his plotless extravaganzas – an extraordinary flow of images meaning absolutely nothing,” and Terry Jones who “went recently to Lisbon and directed an opera that was about vacuum cleaners.”

But it was on the subject of his relationship with Palin where Cleese turned serious, keen to set the record straight.

“There are always stories recently about the competitiveness – it’s quite extraordinary the stories that get told. I think the Sunday Times had a story about how competitive we were and how we’d been in a restaurant.

“What happened was I went to a restaurant and found Michael was already sitting there at another table with some other people and I thought, ‘How can I insult him?’ So I sent him half a bottle of mineral water instead of a bottle of wine and he sent me an ashtray. We thought this was really funny and it was reported in the Sunday Times as though it was some edge between us. It’s quite extraordinary.”


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