Comedian and author John Cleese: A hero of mine is Albert Einstein. He’d sit with his feet on his desk, but people knew he was working.”

Comedian and author John Cleese in interviewed by the Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Slate:

John Cleese made his name as part of the Monty Python comedy troupe and appeared in hits like “Time Bandits” and “A Fish Called Wanda”—for which his writing received an Oscar nomination—and in Harry Potter and James Bond blockbusters. His new book, “Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide,” is an indulgent meditation on how anyone, whether breaking into TV or leading a corporate giant, can tap into his or her creative gifts. . . .

I define intelligence as: the ability to know what’s important and what‘s not. It’s a terrible, stupid time when everybody gets disproportionately upset about small things while there are monumental things going on. Everything is geared toward getting the most clicks.

It’s very hard to write now because: everything’s changing so fast. “A Fish Called Wanda” would have to be completely rewritten due to smartphones.

One of the great mistakes is: the open-plan office. If I were starting a business—and this is a great time to reinvent the workplace—I’d give everybody an office. It’s essential you’re not interrupted when you’re working. And you must have lots of rooms for people to meet and play.

Play can only take place if: it’s separate from ordinary life. Settle all those thoughts about the things you ought to be doing rather than trying to be creative. And then toss ideas around. Just start.

A hero of mine is: Albert Einstein. He’d sit with his feet on his desk, but people knew he was working. Just because you don’t look busy doesn’t mean that you’re not doing anything worthwhile. But if your boss is unimaginative, you’re sunk.

It’s no good working to meet a deadline if: you’re tired. You get more anxious, you get more and more tired, and as a result, less creative because that kind of pressure pushes you back into derivative thinking. That may be good enough, but it’s never your best work.

A book I found fascinating was: “Hillbilly Elegy.” After J.D. Vance went to Harvard, he studied his hillbilly family and discovered that, more than anything, they didn’t want to be governed by anyone smarter than they were. I want to be governed by people who are much smarter than I am.

I don’t equate money with: success. Creative people would rather get credit. We’re obsessed with credit but don’t mind if we’re often paid a pittance.


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