With Yes Minister writer Antony Jay, he co-founded Video Arts, a production company making entertaining training films.
In 1976, Cleese co-founded The Secret Policeman's Ball benefit shows to raise funds for the human rights organisation Amnesty International.
On stage in America, kicking off the tour that Barnum leverages his empire to arrange (which really happened), Jenny, in ruby-red lipstick, sings “Never Enough” with an ecstatic solemnity that leaves you floored. The real thing he’s fallen for is Jenny’s dream of upscale sublimity. The director, Michael Gracey, is an Australian maker of commercials who has never directed a feature before, and he works with an exuberant sincerity that can’t be faked. Barnum, in his carny-barker way, knows that everyone is a star; his appeal, as Jackman portrays him, is that he changes the world by getting the whole world to believe that. Until, of course, it was topped by something called Hollywood. Producers: Laurence Mark, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping.
Barnum, the anything-goes circus impresario of the 1800s, who is played with irresistible effervescence by Hugh Jackman, and turns him into a saintly huckster-maestro who invented the spirit of modern showbiz by daring to follow his dream. Yet “The Greatest Showman” wants to give you a splashy good time, and does, and it’s got something that takes you by surprise: a genuine romantic spirit.In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films: And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.In the mid-1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers, with Cleese receiving the 1980 BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance.Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures, both of which he also wrote.He also starred in Clockwise and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films as R and Q, two Harry Potter films, and the last three Shrek films.Barnum is already plugging into the notion that people are numb, jaded, overwhelmed. The crowd, he says, will have a chance to behold the humanity of his freaks — and that’s true, in a sense, to what P. Yet if you’re really going to get real about it, he was a master exploiter.This was not “My Left Foot;” he packaged his freaks as The Other — and “The Greatest Showman” turns Barnum, for all his carny capitalism, into the multiculti Mother Teresa of oddball showmanship.Jackman plays Barnum with a rapacious grin, his eyes twinkling with moonstruck pleasure.He wants the whole world to see what he sees, and a little more — he wants them to see the tawdry wonder of it.And, of course, the most singular freak of all: Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle), the Bearded Lady.Barnum convinces these benighted folks to join his circus, housed in a building in Manhattan just as the city’s concrete grandeur is locking into place — the new world being constructed around horse-and-buggy paths. He dragged the strange and the deformed out of the closet (literally, in some cases), and forced his audience to confront their realness.