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From The KERA Vaults: Monty Python’s John Cleese

by Anne Bothwell 3 Dec 2019 10:16 AM

Cleese is in Dallas this week. We found an interview from a visit back in the ’90s.


John Cleese, star of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and the many movies that TV show spawned,  will be in town Wednesday to pick up the Ernie Kovacs Award from the Dallas Video Association. He’ll also stop by KERA  for an interview on Think with Krys Boyd.

We’re proud of the role KERA TV played in launching Monty Python way back in the ’70s. The station was the first in the U.S. to broadcast the British import; other stations initially deemed it too out there, but later followed suit.  (Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky recently talked to Cleese, who recounted the story.)

The Kovacs award is named for the pioneering television comedian. Cleese told Wilonsky that he agreed to come to Dallas to accept the award to honor and thank Ron Devillier, then KERA’s program manager, who bought Flying Circus, and then convinced station management to air it.  Devillier, who now lives in South Carolina, will attend the ceremony too.

Cleese’s visit to Dallas sent us back into the KERA vaults, where we found a 1990 interview Bob Ray Sanders conducted with Cleese.  Sanders retired in 2015 from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. But prior to that, he had a long career at KERA, starting as a reporter, managing the radio station, and then, as vice president/station manager of KERA TV.

This is a 33-minute, unedited interview. It touches on a business video series Cleese produced, his pride in the movie A Fish Called Wanda, and his response to critics who find some British comedy sexist and racist.

Perhaps most touching is Cleese’s observation that his sense of humor was a response to an extremely difficult childhood.

“If I look at what I’ve been laughing at, over the years, an incredible amount of it is laughing at anger, particularly sort of ineffectual anger, like Basil Fawlty [his character in the TV showFawlty Towers],” says Cleese. “And also laughing, inordinately, at complete non-communication.”

Enjoy this blast from the past.