John Cleese: ‘I’ve lost Basil the rat from Fawlty Towers!’

John Cleese PA

John Cleese has lost the rodent star of the classic 1979 episode

John Cleese has revealed that he’s lost the model of Basil the rat from the classic episode of Fawlty Towers where the health inspector visits.

The 77-year-old star, who has been through three marriage splits and is now married to Jennifer Wade, said he’s unfortunately no longer got the rodent, who escaped just as a health inspector visited Fawlty Towers in the 1979 episode, Basil the Rat.

“Manuel’s rat … it was wonderful as a model, that rat,” said John, speaking to John Bishop on his upcoming In Conversation With… show.

“Would you believe in the course of my various divorces I lost it? I had it up there on the mantelpiece in a place of honour. It was very clever ‘cos it had a little revolving head.”

Meanwhile, John said he worries about writing comedy now because a lot of contemporary life is lost on him.

“I worry sometimes about trying to write comedy now because … I don’t understand so much of the modern world,” he said.

“If I had to do a rewrite of A Fish Called Wanda it would all change because of the mobile phone, do you see what I mean? If I was trying to write something modern now, I just … I don’t understand enough of how it works.”

Making TV comedy “nowadays (means) you have lots of people saying, ‘Well, you know, let’s try and get sort of the young 20s in here’, and it’s got to be multi-racial and all this stuff” whereas on Monty Python “we just did what made us laugh”, he added.

He told John Bishop the Pythons would probably be “lynched” if they made religious satire Life Of Brian now.

Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones from Monty Python (Philip Toscano/PA)

Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones from Monty Python (Philip Toscano/PA)


The comedian, who has previously revealed that he turned down a CBE because it would not make him “Commander Cleese”, wanted to “stir things up a bit”.

“I want to see people getting a bit angry … about the fact this society doesn’t work properly and it rewards the rich and powerful far too much,” he said.

“And it’s not the decent society that we used to have a long time ago, which was a mess … but there was a certain degree of fairness to it.”

If you want to catch Fawlty Towers today, UK Gold is showing the Waldorf Salad episode tonight at 7.40pm.

John Bishop: In Conversation With John Cleese airs on W on Thursday October 19 at 9pm.

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