48
January 26th / 34 min

John Cleese: A cheerful guide to creativity

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Featuring
John Cleese

John Cleese

Actor, writer and comedian
About The Episode

The Ministry of Silly Walks. The Cheese Shop. French Taunting. If you haven’t seen any of these Monty Python sketches before, do us a favor and go watch one or two of them. You’ll discover—or re-discover—why our guest for this episode is a creative comic legend. 

John Cleese starred in and co-wrote the award-winning series Fawlty Towers, was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay of A Fish Called Wanda, and even has a species of lemur named after him (Cleese’s wooly lemur, Avahi cleesei). He’s also an expert on the creative process, and so if you’re looking for a new framework to level-up your own workflow, his book Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide is a great resource.

We talk with John about his new book, and also about creative collaboration in the midst of friction, how to be comfortable with ambiguity, and creating boundaries of space and time to get in a creative mode. We also get to ask him a question that’s been bugging us ever since we first watched Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

After everything that happened in 2020, we can all use a little more laughter in our lives. We hope our interview with John sparks some joy, and leaves you with some new creative tools. Thanks for listening.

 Takeaways:

  • How John’s childhood influences the way he approaches creativity
  • Why John uses writing to explore ideas
  • What “closed mode” and “open mode” are (and how they relate to convergent and divergent modes of thinking).

Bio

John Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. 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. Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He also starred in Clockwise, and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films, two Harry Potter films, and the last three Shrek films. He is also the author of Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide.

Meet Your Hosts

Aarron Walter
VP of Design Education

As the VP of Design Education at InVision, Aarron Walter draws upon 15 years of experience running product teams and teaching design to help companies enact design best practices. Aarron founded the UX practice at MailChimp and helped grow the product from a few thousand users to more than 10 million.

He is the author of the best selling book Designing for Emotion from A Book Apart. You’ll find Aarron on Twitter and Medium sharing thoughts on design. Learn more at http://aarronwalter.com.

Eli Woolery
Director of Design Education

Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he has worked with companies ranging from startups (his own and others) to Fortune 500 companies.

In addition to his background in product and industrial design, he has been a professional photographer and filmmaker. He teaches the senior capstone class Implementation to undergraduate Product Designers at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Twitter and Medium.

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Uncover insights from the world’s top designers and creatives

With all of the immense challenges facing the world right now, in Season 5 of the Design Better Podcast we wanted to bring on guests who can share their wisdom—not only about how to build better products—but also how to navigate challenges in your career, and discover opportunities in the face of adversity.