Fast Facts

  • Family name was originally Cheese but his father changed it in 1915 to Cleese upon joining the Army.
  • Taught biology for two years at a preparatory school before attending Cambridge to study law.
  • Performed with the Cambridge Footlights comedy group where he met future Monty Python members Graham Chapman and Eric Idle.
  • Wrote and performed in the comedy revue Cambridge Circus, which played off-Broadway in New York.
  • Professional writing career began with The Dick Emery Show in 1963; later wrote for the satirical sketch show The Frost Report, which also featured Terry Jones and Michael Palin.
  • Cofounded Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1969; cowrote and appeared in the group's BBC series and their films, including Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian.
  • Costarred and cowrote the sitcom Fawlty Towers.
  • Earned a 1988 Oscar nomination for writing A Fish Called Wanda.
  • Wrote several books, including Families and How to Survive Them.
  • Appeared as Q in two James Bond movies; was Nearly Headless Nick in the Harry Potter films.
  • Has worked to save endangered lemurs and had a new species of lemur named for him.
  • Served as a professor of comedy at Cornell University in New York.

Awards

  • 1989, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Nominee
  • 1998, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Nominee
  • 1987, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series: Winner
  • 2004, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Nominee
  • 1988, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Original Screenplay: Nominee
  • 2002, Emmy — Outstanding Non-Fiction Special (Informational): Nominee
  • 1988, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Actor in a Leading Role: Winner
  • 1988, Oscar — Best Writing (Original Screenplay): Nominee

Relationships

  • Muriel Cleese — Mother
  • Alyce Faye Eichelberger — Ex-wife
  • Connie Booth — Ex-wife
  • Cynthia Cleese — Daughter
  • Jennifer Wade — Wife
  • Barbara Trentham — Ex-wife
  • Reginald Cleese — Father
  • Camilla Cleese — Daughter

College

  • University of Cambridge, Downing College, Cambridge, England (1963)