The Monty Python crew were men of many talents, and one of them was selling out. They ain't ashamed to cash in on their celebrity—indeed, they revel in it. And none so well as that chuckledaddy darling of adland, John Cleese.
In his endorsements, Cleese stops short of complete shamelessness, but it's often a close call. I remember a series of ads he did for Planters Nuts in Australia. (Check them out.) The script joked about the client wanting to dissociate himself from the commercial; unfortunately, that's exactly what happened. The spots ran, I believe, once.
One day, while watching Austrian television—we watch a lot of that in Bavaria during the Strausssommernachtstraum season—I got an eerie sense of deja vu. Cleese was hawking William Hill, Britain's behrümteste bookie.
In it, a gorilla tires of lugging around a laptop just so he can log onto williamhill-punkt-com, and steals Cleese's Blackberry. Another tells us that Austria has besseres Wetter (better weather), but in Britain one can besser wetten (bet better).
Like I said, these gags stop just a bee's dick short of shameless. But during the recent European Football Championship, the Hill turned from William to Benny. Cleese says there are plenty of amusing things about the Euro Cup, but you shouldn't gamble with jokes. A fat guy in his underwear appears, proving the point.
Why is this most British of British comedians famous in the German-speaking world? Many forget that Cleese is part of it. He speaks excellent (if accented) German, and was responsible for bringing the Pythons to Bavaria in 1972 for a series of TV specials. YouTube contains most of the sketches from Monty Pythons Fliegender Zirkus, and I urge you to watch. Personally, I think it some of their finest work. Like the English version, it cracks the veneer of uptight order to release anarchy, but with a professional polish they never quite achieved at the BBC.
Visitors note: service in Bavarian restaurants has not improved in the last four decades.