He was a member of the comedy group Monty Python, along with Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam.
He is the father of two daughters: Cynthia Cleese (born 1971) with Connie Booth and Camilla Cleese (born 1984) with Barbara Trentham.
He holds a law degree from Cambridge University. He went on to play a lawyer in A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and Splitting Heirs (1993).
He co-wrote several episodes of Doctor in the House (1969) and its sequels with Graham Chapman, and also wrote some later episodes as sole author.
He was a cast member of the highly successful radio show "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again". His fellow cast members were Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie, David Hatch and Jo Kendall. It was during this radio show that Cleese's famous 'Ferret Song' (later sung on the television series At Last the 1948 Show (1967)) was first heard.
He was a member of the prestigious Cambridge University Footlights Club.
He went to the United States with the Footlights stage show "Cambridge Circus" in 1964, and appeared on Ed Sullivan's The Ed Sullivan Show (1948).
When he had to join the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in 1989, for his third appearance on American TV, none of the staff at the AFTRA office recognized him or had any idea who he was.
Ever since one of his most famous Monty Python sketches, The Ministry of Silly Walks, he has found himself continually pestered by admirers to do silly walks for them. He has stated that the sketch was born during a moment of silly improvisation, and he himself doesn't particularly care for it.
Who's Who lists his recreations as "gluttony, sloth."
He was the rector of the University of St Andrews from 1970 to 1973.
According to Brian Henson, when Cleese guest-starred on The Muppet Show (1976), he enjoyed the show very much and became very close with the writers because he wanted to get involved in the writing. When he did get involved with the writing, he and the other writers came up with a concept whereby Cleese was being held against his will on the show and would try to get off the show while the Muppets were trying to get him to do his scheduled bits. Of course, in this case, life did not imitate art, as, a few years later, Cleese appeared again with the Muppets in the film The Great Muppet Caper (1981).
He is an Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University.
He co-owns the Christine Schell Fine Objects antique shop in Montecito, CA.
Cleese's father's name was Reg Cleese but his grandfather was named John Edwin Cheese. His grandfather changed his name when he joined the British army in 1915.
He reached adult height of 6'5" by the age of 13. He was already six feet at age 12.
He claims he was to be the first person to say the F-word at a memorial service when he spoke at Graham Chapman's.
His mother, Muriel Cleese (b. Cross, 5 October 1899 - 5 October 2000) died on her 101st birthday.
The inspiration for Fawlty Towers (1975) came from a hotel stay he had with the other Pythons in the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay, England. The hotel manager was called Donald Sinclair, someone Cleese considered to be the rudest man he had ever encountered. He later played a character by the name of Donald P. Sinclair in Rat Race (2001).
When he left the Monty Python team, he was approached by the BBC to do something else and, together with Connie Booth, created Fawlty Towers (1975), based on their experiences in a Torquay hotel.
In the late 1990s he appeared in German TV commercials for a lottery service. He actually spoke German in some of these spots (while some had no dialogue and others were dubbed later on).
When the Globe Theatre was rebuilt in London, a service was offered whereby you could have your name on a tile in the courtyard, for a donation to the project. Cleese and fellow python Michael Palin both signed up for tiles, but Palin's was spelled wrong. Cleese paid extra to ensure it would be spelled "Pallin."
He was the tallest member of Monty Python, having been about two inches taller than Graham Chapman.
He is the father-in-law of Ed Solomon.
He was offered the title of C.B.E. (Knight-Commander of the British Empire) in 1996. He turned it down because, in his own words, "The title doesn't get the same admiration and respect from the general public that it does from those who actually bestow it - you don't get to be addressed as 'Commander Cleese,' in my case - which somewhat nullifies the point of it all." Similarly, Cleese was offered inauguration to the House of Lords but turned that down as well; according to him, "It would have had a very nice ring - 'Lord John of Cleese', I mean - but on the other hand, I would have been obligated to stay in London all through the winter... because that's when they meet in Parliament to vote on whatever-have-you. And *nobody* in their right mind lives in London during the bloody winter!".
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. Pg. 108-109. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
He appeared in a series of educational short subjects produced by the British company Video Arts designed to teach management and trainees how to handle stress and unusual situations. Cleese took advantage of his comic talents and portrayed events as absurd situations so that audiences would better remember their training.
In 2002, he appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) with Maggie Smith and in Die Another Day (2002) opposite her son, Toby Stephens.
Terry Gilliam noted among his Monty Python co-stars that there seemed to be a division between the taller, more "aggressive" Cambridge men (Cleese, Graham Chapman, & Eric Idle) and the shorter, lighter-humored Oxford men (Michael Palin & Terry Jones), the latter of which the American Gilliam found himself closer to. Gilliam considered Cleese the most "Cambridge" of the group, being the tallest and most "aggressive" member of Monty Python.
He voiced Jean-Bob, a frog who believes he's a prince, in The Swan Princess (1994), then went on to voice a king who used to be a frog in Shrek 2 (2004).
He has played the father of two of the Charlie's Angels. First he played Lucy Liu's father in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003). The next year he played Cameron Diaz's father in Shrek 2 (2004).
He has resided for many years in the prestigious Chicago North Shore suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois.
He was a supporter of the British Labour Party until the formation of the SDP (Social Democratic Party) in 1981, which he openly supported in the 1980s. When the SDP merged with the Liberal Party, he supported the newly formed Liberal Democrats.
He has said that Cornell University is set in one of the most beautiful locations on earth.
In 2005, he offered a part of his colon, removed due to diverticulitis, for sale on his official website. The proceeds are reportedly to be divided between Cleese himself and his surgeon.
His father, Reg Cleese, was an insurance salesman.
As a child he loved the radio comedy show "The Goon Show", which made stars of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe.
A newly discovered species of lemur, avahi cleesei, was named after him in honor of his love of the endangered primates, which figure prominently in his movie, Fierce Creatures (1997).
He and Terry Gilliam are the only members of Monty Python to be nominated for Oscars. Coincidentally, they were both for Best Original Screenplay, Gilliam for Brazil (1985) and Cleese for A Fish Called Wanda (1988). Both screenplays did not win their Oscars, and both films featured Michael Palin.
He campaigned long and hard, but unsuccessfully, to win the role of Brian in Monty Python's Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) because he wanted to expand his range in his first substantial film role, but the rest of the group favored the late Graham Chapman, and eventually the group persuaded Cleese that Chapman was better suited to the part of Brian and Cleese stepped aside.
Just to see if anyone would notice, during the early 1970s Cleese added one obviously fake film per year to his annual filmography listing in Who's Who. For the record, these fake films were "The Bonar Law Story" (1971), "Abbott & Costello Meet Sir Michael Swann" (1972), "The Young Anthony Barber" (1973) and "Confessions of a Programme Planner" (1974). Although Cleese confessed to the gag in the 1980s, mentions of these bogus films still appear from time to time in scholarly works on Cleese, including the entry in the Encyclopedia of Television, 1st ed. (1996) edited by Horace Newcomb.
Before becoming an actor, Cleese studied to be a lawyer. He went on to play a lawyer in A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and Splitting Heirs (1993).
He was invited to the party Steve Martin was throwing that turned out to be his wedding.
When he first started acting his original goal was to be a classically trained Shakespearean actor.
The role of Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast (1991) was written with him in mind, and no other actor was considered for the role. But he still turned it down.
Member of Monty Python along with Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam.
During a 2014 interview in a Dutch talk show, he debunked the story that he had offered to write speeches for Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008. He had merely said that he liked many of the Democratic plans for the American people and would love to assist in any way. A local newspaper had interpreted this as an offer to help Obama writing his speeches, but Cleese considered Obama more than capable enough to write his own speeches.
He helped his daughter, Camilla Cleese, to kick her drug habit (which started when she was 11) by sending her to a psychiatric ward and then a rehab clinic. After more stints in rehab, she finally kicked her drug and alcohol habit in 2007 and praised her father for helping turn her life around [December 21, 2008).
He provided the voice of God in Spamalot.
During the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, air travel across northern Europe was severely disrupted. Cleese, in Oslo on April 17 but needing to get to London by April 19, paid £3,300 for a cab ride to Brussels to catch a ferry ride.
He supports Bristol City Football Club.
He suffered from depression between 1973 and 1976.
He didn't learn to drive a car until 1976.
He is a cat lover, particularly of the Siamese breed, and once named 5 of them after types of cheese. Incidently, he was fond of cheese until he discovered he is lactose intolerant.
He lives in Montecito, California. [June 2006]
Currently touring New Zealand with his new stage show "John Cleese, His Life and His Current Medical Conditions" (or something very similar) [November 2005]
He was interviewed for Goodbye Television Centre (2013), a tribute show which marked the closure of BBC Television Centre, which was the home of his classic comedies Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) and Fawlty Towers (1975).
He has said in interviews that he loves 'really rude questions' because they are original and force him to think about an appropriate answer. The best question he ever got was: "If you were a part of a plane, which part would you be?' His answer was 'the joystick'.
Cleese first worked with Eric Idle and Graham Chapman after he joined the Footlights Revue as a Cambridge student. He later wrote for David Frost, who had been a Revue member before Cleese joined.
Cleese made many popular commercials for American TV, including Kronenbourg beer, Sony, Compaq computers, Magnavox TV, and Schweppes.
Cleese won libel damages in a January 1989 decision by the High Court in Lzondon.against a Simon Gallant, who had written that in real life Cleese resembled his characterization of the obnoxiously rude Basil Fawlty.
He is a fan of the singer Neil Diamond and has seen him in concert.
After moving to Monterey, California, he joked about going back to his old family surname of 'Cheese'; because 'Jack' is a nickname for 'John' (like 'Hank' is for 'Henry'), he thought it would be fun to be known as 'Monterey Jack Cheese.'.
Three of his marriages ended in divorce, and although he remained on good terms with Connie Booth and Barbara Trentham, his relationship with third wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger became extremely strained due to a bitter alimony battle, which has reportedly cost him over $13 million in cash and assets. He was also mandated by the court to pay her a yearly $1 million for seven years, for a total of more than $20 million. He was forced to return to the theater in order to provide the money, jokingly calling it "The Alimony Tour". He also said that the alimony settlement would have been even worse if they had any children together.