How ‘Sweet Caroline’ Helped John Cleese Embrace Show Business
The Fenway faithful have a special place in their hearts for Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and apparently so does John Cleese.
The Monty Python legend, who will be in Boston on Tuesday night to talk about his memoir So, Anyway, admits that the song made a huge impact on the way he looks at show business after seeing Diamond perform it on the Graham Norton Show last year.
Prior to the talk show appearance, Cleese had always thought of the entertainment world as being a bit trivial when compared to subjects like politics or academia. However, the 76-year-old actor had a change of heart once he witnessed audience members blissfully singing along to “Sweet Caroline.”
“It doesn’t matter at the moment that ISIS is murdering people and blowing up statues. It doesn’t matter—people are actually happy,” Cleese says. “That’s really important these days that, in the middle of all this chaos and awfulness and stupidity, that people can still go along and just have a good time. So I suddenly thought to myself, ‘No, actually show business is more important than I thought.’”
While the Red Sox’s 8th inning anthem has altered some of Cleese’s thoughts about the entertainment industry, the comedian is still quite critical when it comes to today’s rapidly evolving media landscape.
Whether it’s Hollywood or the BBC, Cleese believes that many of the networks and studios have overly dumbed down their content in recent years, making audiences more “unsophisticated.”
The comedy legend says he’s pretty much done working on movies because of this perceived decline in quality.
“The movies that are made now, although they are made by people with lots of talent, they are made, basically, by dumbing down towards the audience,” Cleese says. “I think that Hangover movie kind of emphasized what the problems are these days… It’s sex. It’s drugs. It’s gambling. It’s celebrity.”
According to the Fawlty Towers star, it’s not just show business that has suffered over the years. The whole world seems to have lost its way.
Cleese says one only has to look at the 2016 presidential election to see just how absurd today’s culture has become.
“I don’t know if it’s always been like this or whether it’s just a function of old age, to suddenly realize how absurd everything is and how nothing can ever really work properly because we human beings cannot escape sufficiently from our egos,” he says. “Now we see Donald Trump, who sort of personifies the triumph of the ego. It’s not strange that he’s running, but there’s so many people who think that a man with an ego like that could make really good decisions in everyone’s interests.”
“It’s like the people who watch professional wrestling and think it’s real,” he adds.
Despite his somewhat sour views, Cleese hopes he can make a difference with some of his future endeavors.
Ideally, the actor admits he’d love to create a documentary on a subject that people are ill-informed about or that the media neglects. Unfortunately, he’s not in the right financial position to pursue a job like that at the moment.
“After my $20 million divorce I can’t afford to do that yet,” Cleese jokes.
For now, the Monty Python member is just looking forward to a warm, three-month vacation in the West Indies this winter where he’ll begin working on his next project. All he needs to do is figure out what the heck he wants to write.
“I’m leaving it open. It’s the first time I will have a period off like that since I was about 4,” Cleese says. “I’ve never had a kind of bucket list of things I wanted to get done before I die. My life’s never worked like that. My life’s been sort of one improvisation after another.”