Call it heresy if you will, but on Jan 23, in the year of our lord 2017, I was tempted by the worship of relics. One relic, anyway. A 77 year-old Englishman with a bunch of rotten joints and disposition to match. John Cleese came through Green Bay on his latest make the alimony tour. A couple hundred fruits, Python geeks, and silly old biddies gathered at the venerable theatre at the Widener Center for the Performing Arts and were treated to a showing of the Holy Grail and a Q & A with Lancelot himself. I must admit I was school-girl excited for the event and . . . I was not to be disappointed. As expected, Cleese was acerbic and witty, full of smutty tales and delightful slander. HIs rough handling of the local rube radio personality that moderated the event had me cheering in vindication. But, beyond that, he dropped a nugget of wisdom that should succor the souls of all struggling artists in this Age of New Despair. I'll keep it brief so my disease-brained brethren might get to the end of it!
Some of you Python fans might know, (I didn't) that a bunch of British rock heavyweights (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, et al) paid for the Holy Grail to be made. Even after all the success of the Flying Circus and Cleese and Chapman having written for Peter Sellers, they couldn't get a studio to foot the bill for the film. Then . . . even after the Holy Grail was a huge hit, when the guys started shopping the (fucking brilliant) script to Life of Brian, they couldn't get a bite! Not in England, not in Hollywood, not in New York! Finally, none other than George Harrison stepped in and put up the 2 million pounds needed to get the movie made, taking a mortgage out on his home because, "he wanted to see the film". Just in case you needed further proof that G.H. was the coolest Beatle. The point is, and this tied into a tasty lambasting of the current administrations of Great Britain and the U.S., the people "in charge", the money behind the big decisions, simply "don't know what the fuck they are doing!" Quite simply. It's the creative people who know what they've got.
Cleese illustrated this point with a sublime little allegory. I'll paraphrase. I've been reading, he said, some research by a renowned psychologist into how well people are able to assess their own abilities. (I think Cleese was put on this subject by a question that went something like, "when you came up with a great sketch, did you know it at the time?") What the researchers determined is that to know whether you are very good at something requires basically the same aptitude required to BE very good at that thing. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. (pause) Here the bumbling local DJ tired to hurry on to the next question, but Cleese stopped him, "No, no, I don't think they all GET it." It follows, of course, that a person who is inept at what he does has not the insight to realize it. And what if inherited wealth and a deft penchant for sliminess happens to put that person in a position of power? Well . . . you've all got bosses. You've courted publishers, etc. You know the soul-crushing drill.
"But that's awful!" you say. "How is that a ray of sunshine?" The point is that the creative people KNOW what they've got! Find one another out. Support one another. You are justified!!! It's not your fault, Will. It's not your fault! Chances are you're never going to fall into John Fucking Cleese money, but if you follow your artistic vision and stick to your guns, you will find a community. Doing what you believe in and being appreciated by quality people is it's own reward. Churning out market-tested shit for clueless assholes just makes you a whore.
Forward! Forward! And if we fall on the sword of our own uncompromising vision, we'll be martyrs to the cause of our heroes! HAVE AT YOU!!