Born: October 27, 1939
Date of Birth: October 27, 1939
Born in Somerset, England, Cleese would have had to introduce himself as John Cheese, had his father not changed his surname. An only child and a bright boy, Cleese spent five years, from 1953 to 1958, at Clifton College, then taught at his old prep school for two years while waiting to go to Cambridge University's Downing College to study Law.
While a student there he joined the Footlights Revue, where he met future Monty Python writer and member, Graham Chapman. By 1963, he earned a law degree, but opted to appear in a new Footlights Revue that eventually played London's West End for five months. When hired by the BBC radio, Cleese dumped the job to work with Cambridge Circus, touring New Zealand and ending up on Broadway. He remained in the States for a time where he met another future Monty Python member, Terry Gilliam.
Returning to his native land, he started to write for the comedy The Frost Report where he and Graham Chapman met other writers, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Continuing his writing collaboration with Chapman, Cleese soon was working on what would become Monty Python's Flying Circus with Chapman, Idle, Jones, Palin, and Terry Gilliam. The show, which first aired in 1969, was an iconoclastic look at British society: its genius lay in its seemingly random, bizarre take on the mundane facets of everyday life. The show was a hit with British viewers, and continued to make people laugh when it was bought in syndication in the States and around the world. Cleese left the show before its final season to work on another series, Fawlty Towers, with his American actress wife, Connie Booth. Another huge hit lasting five seasons, Cleese reunited with his Monty Python team to make three films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.
Spending the early '80s in films like The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and Silverado (1985), Cleese got down to writing again and struck gold with A Fish Called Wanda (1988). Not only did he write it, he also produced and starred in it. The film won both commercial and critical success, earning Cleese a BAFTA Award and an Oscar nomination for his screenplay.
Since Wanda, Cleese has continued to work hard at numerous projects including television commercials for Lexus, Comedy Central television network and Schweppes beverages to name a few; lent his voice to a number of video games; appeared in television films and series; and continued to be cast in supporting roles in such movies as The Jungle Book (1994), Parting Shots (1998), The Out-Of-Towners (1999), The World is Not Enough (1999) and the Harry Potter films, as well as providing the voice of the King in the Shrek films. He also makes an appearance in the 2012 comedy A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman. He also lent his voice to the animated films Planes (2013) and The Littlest Reindeer (2018).
Most recently, he played a starring role on the BBC TV sitcom Hold the Sunset (2018-2019).
Cleese has also had a number of books published, including Families & How To Survive Them and its sequel, Life & How To Survive It.