(The Sunday Telegraph) December 19, 2015
Jonathon Moran, Chief Entertainment Writer

JOHN Cleese has a simple ritual he carries out before going on stage.

The veteran comedian, who will tour Australia in February and March with his Monty Python mate Eric Idle, needs absolute quiet to prepare.

“I lie on the floor with a book under my head, my knees up and my feet flat on the floor, very, very quiet for about half an hour,” Cleese tells Insider of his pre-show routine — the Alexander technique — which was developed by late Australian opera singer and actor Frederick Matthias Alexander.

“If I do that then I always go on stage feeling good. It is one of the reasons I am not terribly keen on having people visiting me before the show, I like that period of absolute quiet to get completely relaxed. Then when I go on stage I am going to be much funnier if I’m relaxed than if I’m still a bit wound up.”

Cleese, 76, and Idle, 72, have titled their run of shows as the John Cleese & Eric Idle: Together Again At Last ... For The Very First Time. It comes off the back of the pair doing a World Tour of Florida show in the US in October.

“We were quite surprised at how much we enjoyed it, partly because we got on well on and off stage and partly because the audiences were very responsive,” Cleese explains on the phone from the Caribbean.

“Doing comedy to slow audiences is awfully hard work but when they like you, you have a lot of fun and stop worrying about whether things are perfect or not. It is more relaxed and spontaneous and the audience loves that because they kind of like it when things go wrong.”

Idle is equally as excited about the tour, describing the show as “two blokes just hanging out”.

“It is fun because you don’t have to stick to any text or worry about what is going to happen,” Idle said.

“John will rant about things that have just happened in the hotel. It is kind of loose. I’ve never done a show that is quite so loose with somebody else. We enjoy our company, we dance around each other and we don’t get on each other’s nerves. It is really very pleasant and good fun.”

The days of Monty Python will, of course, be covered.

Cleese and Idle were among the founders of the world famous comedy sketch group that aired its first special — Monty Python’s Flying Circus — in 1969.

“People don’t want the new material,” Idle says.

“It is surprising. I’m told it is exactly like the rock stars, they start singing something new and the audience is disappointed.

“You want the audience to enjoy themselves, you’re not going to have any fun if they’re not. Within limits, you have to give them what they are expecting but you can play jokes on them and add twists.”

Cleese, who has been married four times, famously called one of his recent shows The Alimony Tour, referencing his 2009 divorce settlement and hefty payout to ex-wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger.

“I made the last payment to my ex-wife in July,” he said. “She had at that point received $20 million so it’s changed my lifestyle. Up until that point I always had to take the work that was best paid. Now I can do things that are more interesting.”

Coming up for Cleese are several Hollywood films, as well as a passion project — a stage production of his hit TV series Fawlty Towers.

He won’t act in the show and finished writing the script only last week for the production that will open in Australia in August.

“I’m also working on a pilot television series for America and somewhere down the line I want to continue working with my very tall daughter Camilla on the first draft of the musical A Fish Called Wanda,” he explains.