There were awkward scenes during John Cleese’s interview on The Project on Thursday night, when the visiting comedian shut down host Waleed Aly’s line of questioning, turned his back on him, then mocked his name.
Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star Cleese, 83, was appearing live on the desk at The Project to promote his current Australian tour.
The legendary comic showed his sense of humour is still intact – asked what had brought him to Australia, he quipped “money.”
But the conversation took a turn midway through the interview when Aly brought up Cleese’s iconic 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers.
“We can’t let you go without talking about Fawlty Towers – at least I can’t, because I think it’s one of the greatest shows …” Aly began, before Cleese interjected.
“I don’t want to talk about Fawlty Towers,” he said.
“Yeah but, you know what – it’s not all about you, is it? I mean, I can ask you about Fawlty Towers?” Aly asked.
“You can talk about Fawlty Towers,” Cleese told him, before turning his back and facing away from his hosts to take a sip of water – which earned him a round of applause from the panel.
Point made, Cleese turned back to the hosts, and asked: “What kind of a name is Waleed, anyway? Is it an anagram?”
“No. It’s just Arabic. I take it your Arabic’s not great?”
“No. I tried to learn it once. There’s about four h’s and two k’s or something.”
“Do you know what John is in Arabic? Yahya. I bet you can’t say that either,” said Aly.
Cleese remarked that it was a “more interesting” topic to discuss than Fawlty Towers – but Aly persisted, asking his guest whether he could see the show’s imprint in any recent comedy series. Despite his reluctance to talk about the show, Cleese conceded that it was, in fact, “a very interesting question.”
As the interview wrapped, Cleese joked that as his original family surname is actually Cheese, he could be known as “Yahya Cheese.”
Cleese’s appearance on The Project comes a few days after another at-times awkward interview with another visiting veteran celeb: Supermodel Lauren Hutton, 79, who swore and flirted with her interviewers in an appearance that left some viewers wondering if she was under the influence.
Speaking on BC radio the next day, Project panellist Michael Hing said Hutton had regaled the hosts with “spicy” stories about drugs and openly discussed her love of martinis, which he mused she may have indulged in before the show.
“She might’ve been a bit jet lagged or something because she was just very loose,” he explained to co-host Lewis Hobba, adding that while the interview was “pretty hectic”, the fashion icon was “a lot of fun” and appeared to be flirting with him.
He also revealed the comment that Ten bleeped out for viewers.
Answering a question about her decades-spanning career, Hutton had said that it was “important to keep working,” adding with a cheeky grin, “I think it’s important to keep fu***ing too”.