The Inspirational Life Story of John Cleese; Comedian, Public Speaker, and The Movie Star Who Helped Introduce Monty Python to the World
By Patrick Bunker
John Cleese was born on October 27th, 1939 in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England. He was the only child of Muriel and Reginald Francis Cleese. His parents earned a modest living. His father worked as an insurance salesman while Muriel was a stay-at-home mother, but they still sent their young son to private schools, intending to give him the best education and opportunities imaginable. John began his schooling at St. Peter's, a preparatory school when he was eight years old. Early on, Mr. Cleese showed promise, receiving a prize for English. Additionally, John was an athlete, excelling in cricket and soccer for much of his young life.
Unfortunately even during his early life, John had a complicated upbringing. His relationship with his mother was strained. Cleese is quoted as saying, “When I was a child and I was upset about something, my mother was not capable of containing that emotion, of letting me be upset but reassuring me, of just being with me in a calming way. She always got in a flap, so I not only had my own baby panics, fears and terrors to deal with, but I had to cope with hers, too. Eventually I taught myself to remain calm when I was panicked, in order not to upset her. In a way, she had managed to put me in charge of her. At eighteen months old, I was doing the parenting.” Cleese would later go on to say that his mother was “supremely self-centred” and that she “did not take interest in anything that did not immediately involve her.” Those issues would persist throughout much of Cleese's life.