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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Cleese 'retires from performing'
John Cleese
Cleese was branded a comedy genius for his role as Basil Fawlty
Comedy legend John Cleese has said he is retiring from writing and performing sitcoms because he will never manage to top the success of Fawlty Towers.

The Monty Python star will concentrate instead on publishing a book on the history of comedy and will hold classes explaining how to make people laugh.

The 66-year-old told The Times he would be a "comedy professor" to "teach young talent some rules of the game".

He said too much TV comedy was poorly written and aimed at US teenagers.

The Monty Python star criticised modern performers who aren't aware of the "basic principles" of comedy.

"It is very rare today to see someone with that grasp of old-fashioned comedy," he said.

"The last truly excellent performance I saw was Eddie Izzard. But Ricky Gervais is also a match for the great American sitcoms."

Comedy Great

Cleese started his comedy career with the Footlights team while studying law at Cambridge University.

John Cleese in Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python gave Cleese the chance to play around with comedy
He soon became a regular performer on the BBC, appearing on shows such as I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and The Frost Report.

When the innovative comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus hit the screens in 1969, Cleese was perhaps the most recognisable face in the team.

More recently, the comedian has appeared as gadget-master Q in the James Bond films, and as the voice of King Harold in the animation Shrek 2.

He has also co-written the script for the next film by Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman Animations.

Cleese's last major work for the BBC was the 2001 documentary series The Human Face, which combined comic sketches with popular science to explore identity, beauty, fame and expressions.

But the comedian said the experience had been a "total nightmare" and accused the BBC of needless interference, chaotic management and misspent budgets.

His current project is a World Cup single based on Basil Fawlty's famous exclamation, "don't mention the war".

Cleese's contribution to comedy
12 Jun 06 |  Entertainment
Fawlty Towers flying high at 30
19 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
John Cleese writing Aardman film
12 May 05 |  Entertainment
Cleese lashes out at BBC
28 Feb 01 |  Entertainment
US drops Cleese sitcom
09 Apr 02 |  Entertainment
The birth of Python
01 Oct 99 |  Monty Python


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