John Cleese's memoir talks comedy and 'things that really matter in life'

MIAMI - British comedian John Cleese's performing days may be waning, but he still enjoys writing, including a recently penned memoir, and "the things that really matter in life," principally his three cats and a happy marriage to his fourth wife.

Best known as a member of the famous comedy team Monty Python's Flying Circus, Cleese closed out the Miami Book Fair International on Sunday, where he presented his memoir, "So Anyway ...," which recounts his journey from an awkward childhood to early success in comedy.

Cleese, 75, was part of a genre of university-educated comedians who took British audiences by storm in the 1970s with an irreverent, zany style of humour.

He went on to make several movies, including "Life of Brian" and "A Fish Called Wanda."

In "So, Anyway ...," he describes how being a lonely child who did not fit in helped forge his career in comedy because he learned the value of making people laugh.

Cleese, who also gives business speeches on the value of creativity, railed against the incompetence of modern government.

In his talk, he cited the work of two Cornell University professors who found that the worse people are at something the less likely they are to know how bad they are at it.

"That explains about 80 per cent of life on this planet," said Cleese, a visiting professor at Cornell. "The tragedy is not that they don't know what they're are doing, but that they have no idea that they don't know what they are doing, and that gives them confidence."

Cleese joked that the third volume of his memoir would be titled "Surrounded by Fools," or "Why there is no Hope."

Despite the failure of modern democracy, as he puts it, Cleese told Reuters he is "the happiest I have ever been in my life," living in London with his wife and three cats.

With age has come the realisation of the importance of comedy.

"Making people happy for an evening is a rather useful thing to do in this world," he said. "I think I rather downplayed it in the past."

His memoirs, the first of three parts, is dedicated to his father and his latest wife. Writing the book was "the most fun I have had in 10 years," he said.

The next volume will focus on his Python career and the TV series "Fawlty Towers."