John Cleese Returns to Cornell for a ‘Conversation’ Sept. 11

John Cleese will appear at Cornell for a special "A Conversation With John Cleese" Sept. 11 in Bailey Hall. Above, Cleese narrates "Peter and the Wolf", accompanied by the Cornell Chamber Orchestra in 2006. Photo by Robert Barker/University Photography.

And now for something completely different: Actor, writer and philosopher-barrister John Cleese, a Provost’s Visiting Professor, is returning to Cornell.

“A Conversation With John Cleese,” hosted by the Office of the Provost and the Cornell University Program Board, is set for Monday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. in Bailey Hall. The program is free, but tickets are required; they are available at the Willard Straight Hall Resource Center, limit two tickets.

Cleese – known for his “Monty Python” and cinematic comedic brilliance – will be interviewed by Dean J. Smith, director of Cornell University Press. Written questions from the audience will be selected at random.

On Sunday, Sept. 10, Cornell Cinema will show his film “A Fish Called Wanda,” which features a discussion with Cleese and Jonathan Kirshner, professor of government and author of “Hollywood’s Last Golden Age: Politics, Society and the Seventies Film in America.” The event is sold out.

Cleese will be on campus for a week, participating in classes in agriculture and life sciences, performing and media arts, hotel administration, and human development.

In 2015, Cornell University Press approached Cleese about publishing a book based on a selection of his Cornell presentations. This visit will be the final chapter in the forthcoming book, which does not have a publication date yet.

Appointed an A.D. White Professor-at-Large in 1999, Cleese relished his role on the Cornell faculty. He brought notable visitors to campus including screenwriter William Goldman, wildlife preservationist Simon Hicks and biographer James Curtis.

Cleese presented eclectic public talks on topics that ranged from human development and animal welfare to the works of W. Somerset Maugham. He delivered a sermon at Sage Chapel on his experience with religion, gave public readings and screened Python movies. In 2006, he accompanied the Cornell Chamber Orchestra to narrate Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and The Wolf.”

Cleese was so popular among Cornell students that the university extended his term as an A.D. White Professor for an unprecedented two years. He was appointed a Provost’s Visiting Professor in 2006, and since then he has visited the Ithaca campus and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Best known for his work on the 1970s British television series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “Fawlty Towers,” Cleese also played Q in James Bond films and Nearly Headless Nick in the Harry Potter movies. Cleese holds an M.A. in law from Cambridge University, England, and an honorary LL.D. from St. Andrews University, Scotland, where he was rector for several years.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.