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John Cleese On Creativity Summary


Original video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb5oIIPO62g

(There are also some other videos of him talking about creativity)

Creativity is derived from play.

We exist in one of two states: Open and Closed

Closed is for when creativity is decided on and should be the follow up to being open. Don't try to be creative when closed, focus on implementing - kinda like if you are doing a motorcycle jump, you don't want to be thinking of how to change it up when you are in the processes of making the jump.

The open system is where creativity flourishes.

It needs the following:


A place carved out without any tasks to do.

When you are in this space, you will start out trying to think of all the things in life that you need to do. It will take some time to get over them, but don't engage with them. Don't try to complete any tasks in open mode.


A set of time with a specific endpoint. This part is important. It isn't playtime without an endpoint to play. You need to have more than 30min to get life tasks out of the way though, so don't choose too short of a time. Also, it can be exausting to go for too long. Having 1.5 hrs should be the cap.

Time (yes again)

When you come up with an idea, don't just grab it and go with it. John talked about a fellow script writer that did this and that persons scripts were as fully realized.

Let the idea set and keep playing with it.

Also keep in mind there is nothing right or wrong. Throw out complete drivel. Good ideas are often the joining of two concepts that lead to something greater. But there are an infinite amount of bad combinations. Feel free to explore whatever, as sometimes bad combinations lead to great ones.


There is nothing wrong and there is no mistakes. Let Humor rule as that can lead to great things. You can still be funny with something serious. Avoid being solumn. There is always room for levity in coming up with solutions.

When exploring ideas, just keep thoughts gently around the subject matter, but don't worry about being to tight. As long as it lightly is grazing the goal, it will settle back into what you are looking for.

Always be positive and avoid saying no... kinda like sketch comedy, you always want to give a path for more and not shut things down.

Phrases like:

He finishes off talking about how the japanese have meetings with no plan, and importantly let the junior people talk first. This way, they don't have to be in a position where they would have to disagree with their superiors.