‘We Always Loathed and Despised Each Other’: John Cleese Fires Back in Python Feud

‘It’s only recently that the truth has begun to emerge’
‘We Always Loathed and Despised Each Other’: John Cleese Fires Back in Python Feud

Eric Idle started it — or at least he started this latest, public version of the Monty Python feud. The comedian went on an epic X/Twitter tirade over the weekend, claiming that “Python is a disaster” and that Terry Gilliam’s daughter Holly, now running the comedy troupe’s business affairs, is responsible for the group’s lack of riches. “If you put a Gilliam child in as your manager you should not be so surprised,” he tweeted. “One Gilliam is bad enough. Two can take out any company.”

John Cleese, never shy about sharing an opinion about nearly anything, hopped on Twitter himself to clap back at his former Python-mate. If you believe Cleese, he’s also speaking for Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam in defending the group’s manager. “I have worked with Holly for the last 10 years, and I find her very efficient, clear-minded, hard working, and pleasant to have dealings with,” Cleese tweeted. “Michael Palin has asked me to to make it clear that he shares this opinion. Terry Gilliam is also in agreement with this.”

Another fan expressed dismay about all the hard feelings, but according to Cleese, ‘twas ever thus. “We always loathed and despised each other,” he tweeted, “but it’s only recently that the truth has begun to emerge.”

Shots fired! Sort of. In a prodigious day of tweeting and retweeting of his own, Cleese expressed disdain toward “the media” for not recognizing that his loathing and despising was simply Python-style satire. Jokes, people, jokes! 

“I've just seen the Press Association release,” Cleese tweeted. “They got it totally wrong. My remark about 'loathing and despising each other'

1. Referred to all the members of the group

2. Was a joke

I would have expected PA staff to have

1. An understanding of irony

2. A sense of humour”

The Python comic didn’t let it go at that, charging that media outlets “prefer to make a false,negative interpreation (sic) because that will get them more 'clicks.'” 

As people complained that the “joke” wasn’t all that funny or obvious, Cleese put on his professor robes for a lesson in comedy. “Let me explain…” he tweeted. “The literal minded are limited in their understanding. They don't comprehend metaphor, or comic exaggeration, or simile, or a change of context, which is the essence of jokes, or... IRONY. So people who are not playing with a full deck, miss a lot.”

Cleese did address one more of Idle’s accusations — that Cleese harassed Python troupe member Terry Jones. “He bullied Jonesy,” Idle wrote. “I always felt ashamed we did nothing.”

After a commenter noted that Cleese never denied the bullying, Cleese went and … denied the bullying. “Terry and I quarrelled about material all the time, and sometimes got very fed up with each other,” Cleese said. “But that happens with creative people who care a lot about what they're doing. We didn't quarrel about anything else.”

While it’s extremely unlikely that a Python reunion is imminent after all this squabbling, at least we get two octogenarians airing their dirty comedy laundry in public. The 1975 version of the group would have had a field day.


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