Sunday, September 27, 2009

John Cleese does Johnny Carson

There are a lot of comedians on television today who try to imitate Johnny Carson. Some of them die trying. Nightly.

Johnny Carson was more than just topical monologues and shtick with the band. He was also the gold standard of alimony jokes.

Johnny Carson's alimony jokes, like Jack Benny's cheap jokes, were so much a part of the character that the jokes were in the silences as much as in the lines.

Now comes word that the great master of bitter ex-wife jokes has a challenger for the title.

A couple of years ago, you might remember, we tried fiercely but unsuccessfully to get tickets to see John Cleese, who was performing at Pepperdine University in Malibu (See "Groucho Marx cheers up John Cleese.")

That's why, when TicketMaster sent us an e-mail that John Cleese would be performing in the Los Angeles area on November 15, and that tickets were going on sale at 12:00 noon on July 24, we set an alarm clock and bought two tickets in Orchestra Row A.

Then in August, we spotted this in the Daily Telegraph of London:

John Cleese in £12 million divorce settlement

John Cleese has reached a £12 million settlement in his acrimonious divorce from his third wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger.

The Oscar nominated comedy actor is giving his former wife £8 million in cash and assets which include an apartment in New York, a £2 million mews house in fashionable Holland Park in west London, and half a beach house in Santa Barbara in California which is yet to be sold.

Ms. Faye Eichelberger, an American psychotherapist, will also receive £600,000 a year for seven years. The papers to finalise the financial settlement were lodged in the courts in California last week.

Cleese, 70, who is in the New Forest writing a barbed one man show to be called Alimony Tour Year One, has revealed his anger at the size of the divorce settlement which will make his former wife, who he was married to for 16 years, richer than him.
And that's how we discovered that we contributed $176.30 to the Alyce Faye Eichelberger Get-Off-My-Back Fund.

"In my 70th year," Mr. Cleese told a reporter, "I will still be spending two months a year doing work that is of no interest to me and which is probably slightly spiritually depleting in order to feed the beast."

America Wants To Know hopes the upcoming tour dates don't fall into that category.

We think a shot of alimony jokes in November is a fine way to innoculate the human spirit against the cloying, depressing and endless holiday season.

"I don't think people really understand how essential we [comedians] are to their sanity," Groucho Marx wrote.

Some of us do.

Copyright 2009

Editor's note: Here's a link to information about John Cleese's tour, and here are the tour dates.

John Cleese itinerary:
(Dates are subject to change.)

October 30
Modesto, CA
Gallo Center For The Arts

November 2
Portland, OR
Newmark Theatre

November 3
Seattle, WA
Moore Theatre

November 4
Eugene, OR
McDonald Theatre

November 6
Arcata, CA
John Van Duzer Theatre

November 7
Davis, CA
Mondavi Performing Arts Center

November 8
Redwood City, CA
Fox Theatre

November 10
Chico, CA
Laxson Auditorium

November 11
Yountville, CA
Lincoln Theater Napa Valley

November 13
Carmel, CA
Sunset Cultural Center

November 14
Glendale, CA
Alex Theatre

November 15
Thousand Oaks, CA
Fred Kavli Theatre

November 17
Long Beach, CA
Carpenter Performing Arts Center

November 18
San Diego, CA
Spreckels Theatre

November 20
Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts