John Cleese had originally planned to take his one-man show "Why There is No Hope" on tour this fall. Those plans were canceled due to the pandemic and instead he will live stream the performance this Sunday.
"I talked to Howard Szigeti, who is the promoter, I've done several tours with him, and while we were chatting this idea evolved: Well, why not try streaming it?" Cleese said. "So we're going to do it in a small theater in the UK and we're going to have maybe 40 people there, carefully socially distanced, so that I can do the speech to them so that they might giggle now and then to encourage me. And then they will be able to ask questions, which will be much more spontaneous than if we had people write questions and send them in."
The topic at hand is timely enough amid the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19.
"It was an idea I had — and God knows, I always have ideas and don't act on them — but it was years ago I thought, there's a speech to be made here about how there is no hope. Not that there is no hope for us individually but that there is no hope that we will ever live in a intelligent, fair, kind, well-organized society."
When asked to share an embarrassing anecdote from his career, he recalled a cringe-y moment that happened just prior to Monty Python taking off.
My worst moment
"This is set back in 1969. Graham Chapman and I had written a film script and we were looking for a director. My agent rang me up and said, 'Do you know a director called Jay Lewis?' And I said, 'Oh yes, I met him last year on holiday in Ibiza and I like him very much.'
"And my agent said, 'He's read the script and he would like to do it.' So anyway, we had written this and Jay was keen to do it. And my agent said, 'Will you call him?' And I said, 'Well look, I'm going to Spain literally this afternoon, but I will try to call him when I get to Spain.' Now in 1969, making phone calls from Spain to the UK was a nightmare. So I wasn't able to reach him, you know? So I thought, well never mind, I'll be back in England in 10 days.
"Ten days later I'm back in England and I called him and his longtime girlfriend who was called Ruby answered the phone. And I said, 'Oh hello, Ruby, it's John Cleese. I just called to say how delighted I was to hear about Jay.'
"And she said, 'We buried him this afternoon.'"
"I don't think I said anything for some time. And then I started to try to explain that I had been away and I didn't know what she was referring to (laughs). And Ruby was an actress so I think she was keen to not underplay it, you see what I mean?
"It was an honest error, but it was the single most embarrassing moment. Someone's lover has just died and you ring them up and say, 'What wonderful news!'