John Cleese and Camilla Cleese have a father-daughter relationship most would envy. They perform together, as they will tomorrow, March 29, at Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy at High Street in Phoenix.
They also bounce comedy ideas off each other and swap gag gifts. John is on the phone when Camilla walks into the room and hands him a gift.
“They’re socks!” John said excitedly before breaking into laughter. “They say, ‘It all hurts and I’m dying.’”
John and Camilla will share stories and allow the audience to ask questions.
John is a comedic living legend. His first big success was as a writer and performer for “The Frost Report.” John is best known for co-founding the Monty Python Comedy Troupe, writing and performing in the TV series and in films that include “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Life of Brian.”
In the 1970s, John and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the English sitcom “Fawlty Towers.” Later, he wrote and co-starred in “A Fish Called Wanda” and “Fierce Creatures.”
John and Camilla began performing together in 2006, during a gig in New Zealand when he challenged her to a comedic solo.
“It was a really good solo, based on the misfortune of being the child of a comic,” John said with a frequent laugh. “It was an 8- to 10-minute solo and it was as if she’s been doing it all her life.”
Camilla interjects, “Didn’t I have the nerve to give you notes after the show?”
The father and daughter break into laughter.
They are quick to turn the discussion to the cancel culture. They both think it’s ridiculous.
“I don’t have a big enough career,” she said for her take. “I’m a little protected at this point. I could cancel myself before I even had a career.”
John earned a license to be naughty during the Monty Python days and he hasn’t stopped yet, he said.
“The audience knows what they’re going to get,” he said. “We never get any complaints.”
The tides would turn if Monty Python was on television these days. He said executives would try to “cancel” them.
“They all live with the sinking feeling that somebody’s having a good time,” he said. “It’s all very, very silly and I think it will calm down.”
He cited a recent example when he used the word “jolly” and was told it’s offensive.
“I speak English pretty fluently,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve been at it for 73 years, since I was younger. I described someone as ‘jolly’ and was told this was a very bad word, that it meant fat. I thought ‘fat’ meant ‘fat’ because that’s how the word is used. I guess ‘jolly’ is a code word for ‘fat.’ Jolly people are great to be around. Now it’s become a rude word.”
Camilla said she’s still trying to figure out what words are OK to use.
“It’s so ludicrous that words are offensive,” she added. “You can’t say anything. I was supposed to do a gig at a liberal arts college — which should have been my first red flag — right before the pandemic. I was looking at their trigger words. I found it quite surprising that guns and bullets were, but ‘trigger’ was not a trigger word. It’s surprising because of its correlation to guns.”
Continuing on the “cancel culture” and what’s proper and improper, John said there’s a fine line between being funny and insulting.
“There’s affectionate teasing and nasty teasing,” John said. “Nasty teasing is inexcusable, and they shouldn’t do it. The evangelicals in America, they want to take the Bible literally. I don’t think they know what parables are. They’re stories. They’re not stories of historical events. Stories are not supposed to be taken literally. The literal minded cause all kinds of problems.”
John is in town filming a movie with Rob Schneider, with whom he appeared recently at Stand Up Live in Downtown Phoenix. He said he came out here because his daughter “gets me more work than my agents.”
He and Schneider will team up again in Australia for a film written by John, Schneider, Jamie Lissow and Monty Franklin, who’s going to play the lead. It takes place in Australia in 1932, when there was a movement to get rid of the emus because they were eating crops.
“I get to play someone very sleazy,” he said with a laugh. “I love playing sleazy. I usually get the uptight roles.”
At Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, John and Camilla are guaranteeing a good time.
“It’s effortless performing together,” Camilla said. “We have material that’s not material, really, because we’ve played off each other for my entire life. We’ve written so much together. I know where he’s going with things. It takes the pressure off to have someone who’s going to have my back.”
If You Go...
What: John Cleese and Camilla Cleese
Where: Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, 5350 E. High St., Ste 105, Phoenix.
When: 7 p.m. Monday, March 29.
Cost: $65 to $160.40.