John Cleese eyes the audience (BCEC 27 February) the way a school teacher stares down a class of wayward children: stern and disappointed.
The joke he has been telling – the best he’s ever heard poking fun at Australians – is an oldie but a goody, and we’re laughing well before the punch-line. For a moment, he just stares at an audience trying to pull itself together. And then he calmly, wordlessly, walks from the stage.
The laughter gets louder for a moment, before a few in the audience start worrying. Somewhere behind us, a woman loudly wonders to her friend whether Cleese is coming back. The stage stays carefully empty just past the point of comfort, long enough that most people are starting to wonder if we’ve genuinely offended.
Most comedians would have returned by now. Finally, school-master stare firmly in place, he strides back into view, his gaze moving through the room like he’s choosing who’ll get detention first. “Are you going to behave yourselves?” The honest answer, of course, is no.
When comedic royalty like John Cleese and Eric Idle take to the stage, you’re in for hours of laughter of the politically incorrect kind. Idle and Cleese, after all, were members of iconic comedic troupe Monty Python.
It was groups like Monty Python that revolutionised the global idea of British comedy. For many, common theory held that British comedy was little more than dry wit, tea jokes and a stiff upper lip: comedy perhaps funny to the English, but a tad too intellectually dry for the rest of us.
The idea of British people using crude language or surrealism? Unthinkable. Shows like ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ proved to the world once and for all that British comedy’s intellectualism certainly didn’t stop it being hilarious.
Cleese and Idle have been conquering the comedy world since well before I was born, and it’s fair to say that over the years, they’ve perfected their craft. They shift seamlessly from warmth and camaraderie to bickering odd couple, never missing a beat as they throw insults and memories. There are no taboo subjects left unexplored, and even dear friends and former colleagues aren’t spared the charming acidity of the pair’s humour.
As Cleese wanders from centre stage once more, Eric Idle emerges guitar in hand. What follows is a once in a lifetime sing-along with two of the best known comedians alive today. Of course, there’s smut and morbidity in Idle’s lyrics. And the audience, belting out the songs like they’ve been singing them for years (and let’s face it, we totally have been), don’t mind in the least.
While Cleese and Idle may have aged beyond their Monty Python-esque slapstick comedy, age certainly hasn’t dulled their sharp tongues and wicked minds. This is the sort of show to see if you haven’t laughed hard in a while.
Walking to the bus stop at the end of the night, it’s easy to spot the other comedy fans. They’re the ones giggling between themselves, or breaking into song, or the ones pausing to lean against walls while the laughing fits subside.
If you’re in the mood, Cleese and Idle will be performing ‘Together Again At Last…For The Very First Time’ in Adelaide, Canberra and Perth between now and 10 March.