So, Anyway… (book review)

So AnywayGood comedy is something which is appreciated by nearly everyone. A comedian who can make us laugh, or think, or think while we’re laughing, is in limited company. But have you ever wondered how a comedian formulates his or her comedy? In So, Anyway… we get some comedic insight from the very talented John Cleese.

I’ll admit it: I am fan of Monty Python. Their offbeat humor is brilliant in the way they capture a side of life that goes mostly unnoticed. One of the pillars of Monty Python is John Cleese. John has a physical presence that can make you laugh, an intelligence that is lightning-fast, and an ability to use the Queen’s English to draw out nuanced comedy unlike few I’ve heard. But, again, I was always intrigued by that nagging question: How did he get to be so funny? Was he born with a “comedic gene”? Were his parents comical? Is good comedy something that can be learned?

As I read his delightful memoir So Anyways… I discovered the answer was “yes” to all of the above. John looks back on his life in a prescient way that allows the reader to see all of the ingredients that go into making a world-class comedian. Is there such a thing as a “comedic gene”? If there is, John was probably born with it. Were his parents odd? They were probably considered “normal” people (but, what is “normal”?). And along the way John definitely learned what was funny and what wasn’t, and used that to his advantage.

Throughout this memoir you will see John’s comedic routines interspersed in the story of his life. You will discover the “seeds” that blossomed in a particular character or paradigm or comedy routine. You will meet the people, places, and experiences that John leveraged as he discovered what makes people throughout the English-speaking world laugh. Anyone interested in how comedy is birthed and nurtured will love seeing comedy develop through the life of John Cleese.

I am a Three Rivers Press book reviewer.

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