SALT LAKE CITY — John Cleese didn’t come to Salt Lake City to hold back.
Cleese took the stage at FanX Spring 2019 Salt Lake Comic Convention, his very first North American fan convention, Friday morning to answer questions about his role in film projects like “Fawlty Towers” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Cleese also took a few jabs at the Utah Jazz while he was at it.
“The reason I love being here in Salt Lake City, … I love silly names, and there has never, ever been a sillier name than the Utah Jazz,” Cleese said, prompting the audience to erupt into laughter.
“What a stupid name,” Cleese added.
Cleese went on to comment on Wednesday’s heartbreaker game between the Jazz and the Houston Rockets. The Jazz lost 118-98.
“What happened in the last week?” Cleese said of the game. “The only chance we (the Jazz) have now is a plane crash.”
Cleese’s blunt manner and sardonic wit took center stage at his FanX panel. He was quick to poke fun at audience members, tell them to shut up when they got too loud and make fun of his fellow Monty Python cast members.
“You’re fans, you’re friends, so I can tell you the truth. None of (the other Pythons) were really very good,” Cleese said. “I mean, Palin had glimmerings of talent.”
Cleese also talked about old age — he’ll turn 80 years old this October. He said it feels good to be at an age where he feels he can do what he wants.
“It’s quite nice being old, because you just don’t give a (expletive)," Cleese said. "I'm going to be dead soon. I mean, climate change? Who cares. You can all fry as far as I'm concerned."
Cleese later added, “As you get older, you stop worrying about things. The best thing that anyone ever said to me (was), ‘Most things in life don’t matter very much, and most things don’t matter at all.’”
Cleese said that idea and the current state of the planet is the reason why he started his live, touring show "Why There Is No Hope,” which features Cleese sharing his insights on politics, the world and his life.
One subject Cleese had a few things to say about is President Trump.
“We have a man in charge of America who’s never read a book. I’ll say that again … the most powerful man in the world, the president of the United States of America, has never read a book," Cleese said. "He doesn’t read his intelligence reports, because he will not read anything that’s more than one page long. He thinks there’s a country in Africa called Nambia,” Cleese said, leaning back in his chair to give a few wheezing laughs.
“People say to me, ‘Do you ever run short on ideas?’ I say, ‘I run short of ideas, but the world doesn’t.'”
Cleese added, “When I read a few months ago that Kim Kardashian had gone to the White House to discuss prison reform with the president of the United States, I almost gave up.”
Cleese touched on his long career in comedy, saying it was an accident that it worked out the way it did.
“I was going to be a lawyer, I really was,” Cleese said. “I went to Cambridge and I got a law degree, and I was signed up six weeks later to work with a firm of lawyers.”
Cleese said that while in school, he got involved with Cambridge’s drama club “The Footlights.”
“We used to do little shows during the year and then at the end of the academic year … we would do a show at the local, professional theater, the Cambridge Arts Theater, and I was going to do it for two weeks and then be a lawyer,” he recalled.
After the first week of doing shows at the Cambridge Arts Theater, a man named Michael White approached the cast one night after a show. He said he produced shows on the West End and wanted to put their show there.
“Of course, we were kind of, ‘What? This little student show?’” Cleese said. “He said, ‘I think it’s really funny.’”
Cleese said they opened on the West End four weeks later and their show ran for five months, getting rave reviews in London papers.
“At the end of that, we were all in show business. Nobody was going into show business," he recalled. "They were going to be lawyers or advertising or teachers or something like that. It was a complete fluke and absolutely out of the blue.”
In spite of how accidentally his career in film and television came about, however, Cleese said it’s something he really enjoys.
“If you tell a joke at a party and people laugh, you feel good, don’t you? So every time I get a laugh, I feel good,” Cleese said. “I’ve had a very nice career.”
Cleese will perform in Las Vegas, Nevada this November.