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John Cleese’s “No Hope” speech hopelessly funny

November 20, 2018

John Cleese

If you are one of those who think the current political, social and even meteorological climates clearly offer no hope for any of us, relax. Comedian John Cleese says you are right on the money.

Cleese, co-founder of Monty Python’s Flying Circus comedy troupe, originator of the BBC comedy series Fawlty Towers, and screenwriter/star of the 1986 film A Fish Called Wanda, shared his wryly acerbic observations with an audience of about 1,500 at Madison’s Overture Hall this past Sunday. It’s safe to say that everyone felt much better about life’s hopelessness after the presentation.

A smartly dressed Jonathan Suttin, DJ at local radio station 105.5 Triple M, served as emcee to Cleese, who ambled out in a blue polo shirt, jeans, moccasins with no socks, and a sports jacket to wild applause waved, bowed and ambled off again. The move set the stage for 45 minutes of droll humor, philosophical observations and absurdist comments. The largely older audience, many clearly Python fans since the show’s premiere episode in 1969, relished the 79-year-old comic’s viewpoints.

Cleese’s lecture drew on skills learned as a visiting professor at Cornell University, and he backed up his assertions with scholarly research. His basic thesis – that the best of people underestimate their skills while the worst of them have no a clue how inept and incapable they really are – has been proved time and again, he says, most recently by the current presidential administration.

“The upcoming generation offers no hope of respite, either,” Cleese said. ”Millennials have an attention span of about 7 seconds, while goldfish have a span of 9 seconds. President Trump falls somewhere in between.”

No hope? To be certain, and the only thing we really can do about it is laugh.

Suttin and Cleese used the balance of the 90-minute program in general discussion about the comedian’s past and well as fielding a few questions from audience members. The discussion was instructive, but the audience Q&A was poorly handled

Given the high caliber of the rest of the presentation, the failure was unfortunate. But given the resounding audience laughter throughout, no one seemed to mind very much.

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