JOHN CLEESE'S ALIMONY TOUR THEATRE ROYAL, GLASGOW ***
THIS is, John Cleese acknowledges, a "fan's show" retrospective, a stop-gap reminisce on his life and work before his forthcoming stand-up set of new material. The Alimony Tour is also seeking to claw back some of the $20 million he's paying his ex-wife in a divorce settlement, a bracingly honest admission with which to begin a show, but one that inspires a succession of cruelly amusing swipes at his former spouse and her lawyer.
With audience expectations adjusted to moderate levels, this is still an enjoyable evening in the company of an exceptionally gifted writer and performer, clips from At Last The 1948 Show, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and Cleese's moving eulogy for the late Graham Chapman, only reinforcing his standing. The well-documented origins of Python are somewhat glossed over, with greater emphasis afforded to Cleese's relationship with his mother and his Weston-Super-Mare upbringing – as inspirational for Fawlty Towers as the peerless rudeness of Torquay hotelier Donald Sinclair, it transpires.
Mrs Cleese emerges as a depressed woman whose dysfunctional bond with her son gravitated towards the darker fringes of his humour, a double-edged gift for a committed psychotherapy student such as he, prompting an analysis of why audiences prefer laughs that flirt with taboo. Although he offers no earth-shattering insight into the cognitive processes, it's still immensely satisfying to hear a comic legend reiterate that comedians retain a firmer grasp of what's funny than television executives and commissioners.