John Marwood Cleese was born on October 27, 1939 in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, the only child of an insurance salesman who had changed the family name from Cheese.
Cleese described his mother, Muriel, as "frightened, angry, needed to have everything her own way because she felt she couldn't cope otherwise. So, she ruled from weakness."
"How did that affect you?" Smith asked.
"I think I was frightened of her, 'cause when she got angry she got really angry. It was as though anger just filled her up and there wasn't any room for a personality anymore. She was just a sort of ball of anger."
As she got older, Cleese learned to dissipate her depression and anxiety with humor, by suggesting he could have "a little man from Fulham" come around and kill her, if she felt like it.