We sat down with John Cleese to discuss the creative process and his fascination with the human mind - watch the interview in the video above.
"When people are in a creative mood, when they're trying to come up with new thoughts or ideas, they have to be spontaneous, " explains comedian John Cleese. "If they're worried about making a mistake, they're not going to be creative."
The comedy icon took to the stage at the Pendulum Summit in Dublin's Convention Centre to discuss the power of creativity in a talk titled 'Innovation, Creativity and the Right Attitude to Making Mistakes' before sitting down with Síle Seoige to discuss his love of cats and hatred of pedal bins.
On days like this I need to pinch myself.— Síle Seoige (@SileSeoige) January 10, 2019
Chatting to comedy legend @thejohncleese at @PendulumSummit 2019 about creativity, comedy, his love of cats & dislike of pedal bins.
I love this pic by @conorsphotos ...even with my 'mic pack on bra strap' bulge! #PendulumSummit pic.twitter.com/iRw9WIWSDY
As a speaker, John helps businesses to understand why a creative attitude is essential within a corporate structure and insists that when you have a creative atmosphere, "there's no such thing as a mistake".
"I think you need to understand creativity and how to nourish it because if you don't, you're not going to be running the organisation in a way that encourages creativity. A lot of creativity happens when people sit quietly on their own thinking.
"Einstein, when he was at Princeton, was famous for sitting there with his feet on his desk, staring out the window. Now, if he had a boss, someone would have come in and said, 'Albert, do some work!'
"Of course, when you're thinking creatively, it's not about how hard you're thinking or anything like that. It's about - are you creating a creative atmosphere and is interesting stuff coming up as a result?"
As a writer and actor, Cleese is known for his roles in cult classic comedies including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Fawlty Towers, and A Fish Called Wanda - to name but a few.
The seventy-nine-year-old believes that the creative process is slow and steady because "no hurried thinking is allowed in creativity".
"I enjoy, very much, getting out large sketch pads - a really large one - and I work in pencil because it's very simple, you can rub it out and it takes two seconds.
"I love plotting storylines because even a speech needs to have a narrative, it needs to have a story. I find creating the story - for a speech, for a play, for a film, for TV - fascinating.
"I think it's the thing I enjoy most. I find it very creative because you're thinking in quite abstract ways and I enjoy that. I enjoy the mood that I get into with that kind of work."
If we’re going to be creative, we have to escape from our usual pathways of thought. That requires a more conscious, thoughtful, slow and relaxed way of thinking. No hurried thinking is allowed in creativity. #PendulumSummit pic.twitter.com/SnhUpo44fM— Pendulum Summit (@PendulumSummit) January 10, 2019
Cleese's first job in the arts arose in 1966 when he became a writer on David Frost’s The Frost Report and, luckily for comedy fans, he has never looked back. However, if he hadn't become an actor, the Englishman believes he would have landed a job as an academic psychologist.
"I think I've always been lucky enough to be deeply interested in the human mind. I think, if my career had gone a different way, I would have become an academic psychologist - one who was doing experiments. I think the human mind is fascinating.
"I've never really understood how people can be interested in gadgets or rocks or cars. Anything to do with the human mind has always fascinated me and I have gradually, from my comedy beginnings, I've been able to move towards this kind of stuff.
"When I started a company with some friends that taught people management and sale skills by videos, that led me into a new world and I began to find more people that were interested in things I was. Ever so slowly, the career and my interests have come together."
After a lifetime of collaborating with satirical heroes and fellow Pythons including Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, and Michael Palin, it is no surprise that Cleese has found himself drawn to those who think outside the box.
"I think I'm interested in people who have original minds. I think all my life, I've been attracted to people who struck me as - obviously, they have to be bright in the first place - but people who just look at things differently.
He continued: "I think people think I have that kind of mind because I look at things differently from the way most people look at them."
Speaking of which, Cleese plans to spend his golden years making documentaries about the "slightly strange stuff" that he's fascinated by such as parapsychology which "makes scientists very angry" and death because he "should be doing it reasonably soon".
We spoke with John Cleese at the Pendulum Summit which ran on January 9th & 10th, 2019.