“How many American television executives does it take to change a light bulb?”

  • 7/11/2012 06:15:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones
  • 0 Comments

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“Answer: ‘Does it have to be a light bulb?’.”

As comedy-lovin’ kind of website, we’d heard several times during our teenage years about how John Cleese made a fortune from his company Video Arts, a firm specialising in making corporate training videos. With us being huge fans of Monty Python, it gradually became one of our life goals to watch some of these videos. After all, Cleese had spent the time between Fawlty Towers , Meaning Of Life and Fish Called Wanda concentrating mainly on these things – how could they possibly not be brilliant? All we needed to do was wait until someone invented the Web, then for someone else to invent file sharing software, broadband and/or streaming video sites, and we’d be on them like moss on a tundra.

So, we waited. And waited. And… waited. And then, someone invented UK Nova. “Excellent!”, we’re assuming we probably thought around that time, “the Video Arts stuff is sure to crop on there soon”. Except, of course, none of it did. We assumed, due to Cleese keeping a specially trained team of radioactive lawyers guarding all the tapes, what with it being his nest egg and all.

Whip-pan to several years later, and us being at a Welsh Assembly-funded course for people seeking self-employment. Part of the course involved watching a Video Arts video on managing a budget! Starring John Cleese! And Dawn French! It was made in about 1988! How could it not be hilarious and brilliant?

Well, as you’ll have guessed, it wasn’t. Because, not wholly unsurprisingly, it wasn’t meant to be. It was a training video, and the stuff you were meant to remember afterwards was cashflow-related, not gag-related. Even the bits that were meant to be funny, weren’t very. Oh dear, eh? Still, explains why no-one bothered sneaking them onto the internet.

Well, at last someone has, and fortuitously it’s not bad at all. Not a standard Video Arts video (which is probably why it was allowed to sneak out), but rather a talk given by Cleese on Creativity. Some quite useful things in there, it’s fair to say, and happily he throws in a mixed bag of lightbulb jokes AND an anecdote about writing Flying Circus along the way.

A good chance you’ll have recently seen this, what with it having been featured on the likes of Boing Boing and Brainpicker recently, but as we’re clearly the equal of both those sites (ahem*) we’d better include it too. Don’t want to fall behind the other members of the digerati, after all.

(*The spoof DVD piracy poster we did years ago actually got featured on Boing Boing once, you know. Back in 2007 it was, when we were still any good. We didn’t get credited, despite the blog’s URL being visible on the jpeg. We’re not bitter.)

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