The Time When John Cleese Wrote and Bet and Got Angry at a Newspaper
Letters of Note has a exchange from 1982 between John Cleese and the editor of The Sun, which stemmed from a report in that paper claiming that on the set of The Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, Cleese got frustrated at the weather and chastised a bunch of extras dressed as Zulu warriors by asking “Which one of you bastards did a rain dance?” Cleese, however, did not agree that he said that so he wrote a strongly worded letter. That ended with:
“I know what happened. I am a zany madcap comic, and your writer thought of the joke and decided to attribute it to me. It may be a minor matter but I do think is is quite unprofessional.”
Not surprisingly, The Sun didn’t take too kindly to these claims and wrote a letter to that effect. Cleese didn’t take too kindly to their not taking kindly so he wrote another letter, which was the best of the lot because he challenges the newspaper to a wager:
“So why don’t we have a little sporting bet? I always think of The Sun as a fun newspaper with a bit of a weakness for a jolly wager like this. (Maybe we could even make a little “news” story out of it. ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks vs The Editor of The Sun’ or ‘The Sun’s Fawlty Statement’.)”
The tone kind of elevates from there, with Cleese eventually getting quite angry about the whole thing. Still, it’s about as hostile as you’d imagine two British people to be – meaning, barely at all.