How real madness inspired a comedy legend | Fawlty Towers’ John Cleese on Parkinson – BBC

How real madness inspired a comedy legend | Fawlty Towers’ John Cleese on Parkinson – BBC

The only real difference between him and
Basil was that he was small and had a very
large, hen pecking wife, and obviously
we couldn’t find anyone much bigger than me,
so we decided to reverse that. But
otherwise, I mean he was just wonderfully
I went up to the desk
the first day and said, “Excuse me.”
And he’s one of those people
that doesn’t look up.
You stand at the desk…
And it goes on…
You think, did he hear me?
And then you say, “Excuse me…”
“Could you possibly call me a taxi?”
“Could you call me a taxi?”
“Call you a taxi?”
“Yes, right, all right…”
He was wonderful.
All the other Pythons moved out
of the hotel
and went to stay at the Imperial.
I stayed on… He also rebuked
Terry Gilliam
for his table manners,
because Terry, being American,
cuts the food up,
puts the knife there,
fork in the right hand, and eats.
He went past, he said,
“You don’t eat like that.”
And he also had real madness in him,
apart from rudeness.
Because Eric Idle left his briefcase
by the door one morning,
waiting to be picked up by a car,
and he forgot the briefcase,
he went off to film and came back,
and Eric said to the guy,
“I left a briefcase by the…”
He said, “What?
“Oh, yes, it’s behind the wall,”
and pointed out of the front door,
you see.
And there was a swimming pool
and a big white wall behind it.
And Eric said, “Behind the…”
He said, “What?”
He said, “Behind the white wall…?”
“Yes, behind the wall,
behind the wall!”
And Eric said, “Well…?”
“May I ask,
why is it behind the wall?”
And he said, “Erm, I thought
there might be a bomb in it.”
And Eric said, “A bomb?”
Cos this was all pre-IRA
and everything.
And he said, “Well, we’ve had a lot
of staff problems recently.”

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54 thoughts on “How real madness inspired a comedy legend | Fawlty Towers’ John Cleese on Parkinson – BBC

  1. The audience pick up with laughter because they can hear the recognisable Basil Fawlty character coming through every time John Cleese gives his stories of what Donald Sinclair was actually like.

  2. Fawlty Towers is and always will be the funniest show there's been. Others such as Fools And Horses, The Office, and a few more were close but FT wins it for me.

  3. What do Europeans do if not cut their food and then eat it? Do they popsicle the meat? He didn't elaborate so I imagine it was obvious to the audience…

  4. It was based on the real Basil Fawlty, Donald Sinclair, Sinclair died in Torquay, Devon in 1981 aged 72, from a heart attack and stroke "when some workmen he'd upset painted his patio furniture and car gunmetal grey during the night."

  5. What a legend! Fawlty will always always be a cherished part of my life. Been enjoying it nearly all my life. A fantastic work of comedy!

  6. Fawlty Towers is the finest British sitcom ever produced, and nowadays it would pretty much be a hate crime if it was unedited.

  7. I love how the interviewer allows John to say his piece without interrupting him, now all we get is crap interviewers that don't shut up

  8. Why can't you post the full interview? It's not fair we get to see just a bit. Has this interview ever been made available in full before (such as on a DVD release, for example)?

  9. I love John Cleese so much – brilliant man, and apparently a really nice guy as well. I can watch Fawlty Towers over and over – one of the best comedy shows ever produced!

  10. If you have any human decency whatsoever left in your body, BBC, you will upload this whole thing, so we can see Cleese and Miller interact.

  11. The sadness of the BBC posting up videos celebrating Cleese's genius creation, knowing the BBC wouldn't produce either Fawlty Towers or MPFC today. Neither would meet their insane progressive PC identity politics. BBC comedy has died, the BBC killed it.

  12. Love Cleese, Miller is my hero though, come on bbc. Many of us want more Jonathan Miller in our lives and you have access we see! The whole show was probably amazing

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