John Marwood Cleese (KLEEZ) is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. Emerging from the Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, he first achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus. Along with his Python co-stars Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman, Cleese starred in Monty Python films, which include Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian (1979) and The Meaning of Life (1983). In the mid-1970s, Cleese and first wife Connie Booth co-wrote the sitcom Fawlty Towers, in which he starred as hotel owner Basil Fawlty, for which he won the 1980 British Academy Television Award for Best Entertainment Performance. In 2000 the show topped the British Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes; and in a 2001 Channel 4 poll, Basil was ranked second on its list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters. Cleese co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and Fierce Creatures (1997), both of which he also wrote. For A Fish Called Wanda he was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. He has also starred in Time Bandits (1981) and Rat Race (2001) and has appeared in many other films, including Silverado (1985), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), two James Bond films (as R and Q), two Harry Potter films (as Nearly Headless Nick) and the last three Shrek films. Cleese has specialised in political and religious satire, black comedy, sketch comedy, and surreal humour. He was ranked the second best comedian ever in a 2005 Channel 4 poll of fellow comedians. With Yes Minister writer Antony Jay, he co-founded Video Arts, a production company making entertaining training films. In 1976, Cleese co-founded The Secret Policeman's Ball benefit shows to raise funds for the human rights organization Amnesty International. Although a staunch supporter of the Liberal Democrats, in 1999 he turned down an offer from the party to nominate him for a life peerage.
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