John Cleese on How Donald Trump Is Stealing Comedians' Best Lines
The British comic asks, in an age of chaos, "How do you match Trump?"
President Donald Trump's idiosyncratic policy announcements and public comments are making the lives of comedians harder than ever before, according to British comic John Cleese.
Speaking during the 23rd Sarajevo Film Festival, where he received top honorary award the Heart of Sarajevo, Cleese, a founding member of iconoclastic British comedy show Monty Python, claimed that Trump was stealing comedians' best lines.
"Trump has done comedians a great disservice," Cleese said Thursday during an open-air chat with members of the public. "How can you match that? You cannot be funnier than Trump because [what he is doing] is real!"
Cleese noted that he and Scottish comedian Billy Connolly had long ago noted that "life was getting crazier, making comedy harder."
He added: "It is even harder now."
That does not mean, Cleese said, that he no longer finds life funny. Asked for an example of something he finds amusing, he returned to Trump: "A Trump supporter, a middle-aged woman, was asked how she felt about Trump's comments that being a celebrity meant women could expect him to grope their private parts. The woman said he would never have said it if Trump had known he was being recorded. That made me laugh."
After a lifetime in comedy, Cleese said he is not convinced that comedy can change anything, but it can help you get through the harder times.
He lamented that today American movies were aimed at teenage boys who "know nothing about life," adding that he would love to make a comedy about the American Revolution, but producers told him the jokes would fall flat because audiences today know noting about the events of those days.
"The funny thing about 1776 is that almost all the British soldiers in America then were actually Germans," he said. "I can see the first scene: The Germans are chatting among themselves, saying, 'Ja, ja,' and the Americans in their trenches are muttering about 'those Goddam Brits.' … But the scene falls flat if audiences won't get the joke."
Comedy will always endure, Cleese said, noting that stand-up comedy on television on both sides of the Atlantic remains strong, with comedians such as Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Rogen in the U.S. and Eddie Izzard, Bill Bailey and Michael McIntyre keeping the flame alight in the U.K.
Cleese is due to appear on British television later this year in six-part BBC sitcom Hold the Sunset in which he co-stars with Alison Steadman as two childhood sweethearts who meet later in life and attempt to rekindle the flame over the objections of her 50-year-old son, who has moved back home after his marriage fails.