John Cleese is on the blog today with a varied collection of essays that encompass some of his work in conjunction with Cornell’s Professor at Large programme. Topics are varied and broad-reaching, insights and observations from his years of life and the business are all within
Professor at Large: The Cornell Years
Suffice it to say that I’ve been a fan of Cleese and his work for years – from Monty Python to Harry Potter’s Nearly Headless Nick. But this isn’t simply a collection of funny stories presented with the sharp-wit, layered comedy for which he’s known. No these essays are insightful and probing, intelligent and requiring the reader (or listener) to approach each moment with an attitude that allows you to travel along the pathways and branches to the ultimate point, or a new way of viewing that point. Comedians as a whole are not unable to toss ideas and concepts about to create wholly new combinations and perspectives, and Cleese’s concepts and ideas come from everything and everywhere and you will find as you read on, several references to works of fiction and non-fiction, scholarly and popular tomes that inform, help build a reference, or even provide the ‘jumping off point’ at which his thought and conclusion began.
From moments about Python and show-business in general, to society’s ills, dynamics of groups large and small, and even some moments in interviews with questions, answers and topics that seem to be one thing – but quickly move off into that peculiar area that caught interest and fuels more questions. In this day and age (particularly in the US) where intelligent thought is subjugated and mocked, where leaders can’t craft a sentence and 140 characters have become ‘the standard’ for domestic and international policy – this is a celebration of the intellectually facile and curious. It demands you pay attention, spurs curiosity and provides another approach to viewing a situation by exercising those often long-dormant muscles that encourage a view from another side, or approached from a new understanding. Oh sure, these aren’t truly ‘life lessons’ to be memorized and practiced from this day forward, but contain little nuggets that speak directly to the curious – giving them new areas to question or examine.
Even more intriguing in this collection is Cleese’s tone and approach to the subjects upon which he touches: it isn’t a laugh a minute, but carefully crafted, almost sly insertions of humor that appears entirely coincidental, but if you’ve paid any attention at all to the man, you will see that there is an enjoyment in sharing and finding the humor, often deeply buried, that can arrive in even the most dire of circumstances. With a mix of lecture, interview and a question and answer session – there are moments here that will soon become your favorite, until the next comes along. Do yourself a favor and don’t get this book if you want a barrage of silly walks and knights who say “ni”, there are no dead parrots or elderberries. It’s intelligent, thought provoking and spurred a list of titles that I’ve been diligently searching down to inform myself with original works mentioned.
Title: Professor at Large
Author: John Cleese
Genre: Anthology - Short Story, Essays
Published by: Cornell University Press
Published on: 1 September, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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And now for something completely different. Professor at Large features beloved English comedian and actor John Cleese in the role of ivy league professor at Cornell University. His almost twenty years as professor-at-large has led to many talks, essays, and lectures on campus. This collection of the very best moments from Cleese under his mortarboard provides a unique view of his endless pursuit of intellectual discovery across a range of topics. Since 1999, Cleese has provided Cornell students and local citizens with his ideas on everything from scriptwriting to psychology, religion to hotel management, and wine to medicine.
His incredibly popular events and classes--including talks, workshops, and an analysis of A Fish Called Wanda and The Life of Brian--draw hundreds of people. He has given a sermon at Sage Chapel, narrated Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with the Cornell Chamber Orchestra, conducted a class on script writing, and lectured on psychology and human development. Each time Cleese has visited the campus in Ithaca, NY, he held a public presentation, attended and or lectured in classes, and met privately with researchers. From the archives of these visits, Professor at Large includes an interview with screenwriter William Goldman, a lecture about creativity entitled, "Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind," talks about Professor at Large and The Life of Brian, a discussion of facial recognition, and Cleese's musings on group dynamics with business students and faculty.
Professor at Large provides a window into the workings of John Cleese's scholarly mind, showcasing the wit and intelligence that have driven his career as a comedian, while demonstrating his knack of pinpointing the essence of humans and human problems. His genius on the screen has long been lauded; now his academic chops get their moment in the spotlight, too.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.