Dallas VideoFest is proud to honor actor and comedian John Cleese, best known for the British comedies Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers, with the coveted Ernie Kovacs Award at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 4, at the Texas Theatre.
John Cleese describes himself on social media as “a tall person who likes lemurs, coffee and wine. He's also been known to write and act a bit.” While the people who work with him saythat John Cleese was born and brought up in Weston-super-Mare. However, he recovered to win a place to study science at Cambridge. After sampling the conversation in the Chemistry laboratories, he switched to Law. The success of the 1963 Cambridge Footlights Revue, which played in the West End and on Broadway, saved him from a legal career.
He first shot to fame in England with The Frost Report in 1966 and in 1969 co-created Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The team went on to conquer the world with four cult TV series and four hugely successful films: And Now For Something Completely Different (1971), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974), The Life of Brian (1979) and The Meaning of Life (1983). The Pythons reunited for a one-off series of 10 live stage shows in the UK in 2014.
After leaving Python, Cleese moved on to create Basil Fawlty, the hotel manager from hell in Fawlty Towers. As one of the most successful TV series ever made, the 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers have been repeated on the BBC numerous times. In 1988, he starred in and co-wrote A Fish Called Wanda. He reunited the stars of Wanda in 1996 to make Fierce Creatures, a film about a zoo, which went on worldwide release in 1997.
As well as his work with Monty Python, Cleese’s film credits as an actor include The Great Muppet Caper (1980), Time Bandits (1980), Privates on Parade (1982) Silverado (1984), Clockwise (1986), Terry Jones’s Erik the Viking, Eric Idle’s Splitting Heirs (1992), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), The Jungle Book (1995), The Wind in the Willows (1996), The Out-of-Towners (1999), and Rat Race (2001). Cleese has also appeared in both the James Bond, and Harry Potter movie series.
For his work on television, Cleese won an Emmy Award for his guest role on the comedy series “Cheers,” and received another Emmy nomination for a guest stint on “3rd Rock From the Sun.
Less well known is the fact that John Cleese co-wrote (with Robin Skynner) two best selling books on psychology, Families and How to Survive Them, and Life and How to Survive It. He also co-founded Video Arts in 1972, which became the largest producer of management and sales training films outside the United States. Video Arts was sold in 1991.
John started the Secret Policeman’s Ball concerts for Amnesty International, and has continued to do a lot of charity work, much of it, like The Human Face (2001), for the BBC.
In his twilight years he passes his time writing film scripts, making speeches to business audiences, doing seminars on creativity, teaching at Cornell and constructing a virtual reality.
About the Ernie Kovacs Award
The Ernie Kovacs Award recognizes the career and talents of some of television’s greatest visionaries. Kovacs’ work in the 1950s and early 1960 summed up the spirit of innovation and the development of the language of television as art. The Dallas VideoFest and the Video Association of Dallas announced the first Ernie Kovacs Award at the 1997 festival. Comedian Joel Hodgson of Mystery Science 3000 was the first recipient and subsequent honorees have included Terry Gilliam of Monty Python; Robert Smigel, writer/performer of Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Conan O’Brien; Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Reubens; Martin Mull; Mike Judge; George Schlatter, creator of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In; Harry Shearer, Spinal Tap and The Simpsons; Michael Nesmith; in 2017, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald of The Kids in the Hall; and in 2018, Amy Sedaris, the first woman to receive the Ernie Kovacs Award. Actress Edie Adams, Kovacs’ wife, came to Dallas to host the awards program annually until her death in 2008. Today, Edie’s son, Joshua Mills runs Ediad Productions the video and audio archive of both Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams. As official archivist for the Ernie Kovacs/Edie Adams (Ediad) Collection, Ben Model curated the “Ernie Kovacs Collection” DVD box sets for Shout! Factory, as well as the box set of “Here’s Edie” shows for MVD.
For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit VideoFest.org.
Ernie Kovacs Award
Honoring John Cleese
Wednesday, December 4
231 W. Jefferson Blvd.