John Cleese Training Videos: Laugh Out-Loud Learning

Edna B. Shearer

When most people hear or see the name John Cleese they think of silliness, mayhem, and tons of laughter, but what many people don’t realize is that he has been a major part of business training for well over thirty years.

John Cleese brought his comic viewpoint to business training over three decades ago with the company Video Arts. Over the years John Cleese has continued to illustrate many business concepts with humor AND seriousness. One of my favorite training video moments from John Cleese is in ALL CHANGE, PART 2: THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME. John plays H. G. Wells who travels in his time machine. He pops in on some people on his way to the Kabul Olympics where he announces he’s going to see the Chicken Juggling Event. I don’t think this video is even available any more, but I still chuckle each time I think of time travel and the Olympics.

In the early days, John Cleese performed in many training classics, but now often takes a producer’s role, while he brings in others to act. Often these “new actors” read like a Who’s Who of British television. Hugh Laurie and Dawn French are two excellent examples. Hugh Laurie starred in the mini-series “Jeeves and Wooster” and the series “Black Adder”. He has also appeared in feature films like “101 Dalmatians.” Currently, most Americans know Hugh Laurie as a serious actor from the popular “House” medical examiner mystery show. Laurie is anything but serious in most of his TV appearances and the same goes for his starring roles in business training. He usually plays the inept person who must learn the “better” way of doing things.

Dawn French (“French and Saunders,” “Vicar of Dibley,” and “Murder Most Horrid”) plays characters similar to Hugh Laurie in business training videos. Like Laurie she plays “bad” well.

In the world of business training products, John Cleese training videos are not in-expensive. Generally, they run about $870.00 for purchase in VHS or DVD. They rent for $250.00 (seven day rentals). What’s great about the videos, however is they usually produce results . . . almost instantly. One of my favorite programs is called Customers From Hell (which sells for about a third of the standard Cleese products). It’s less expensive because it’s merely a compilation of early John Cleese training videos centered around Customers. I recommend it for sales meetings, and customer service training sessions. Although there are usually training “bullets” involved in this and other titles in the From Hell videos, I find them best suited as a discussion starter. When sales staff and customer service professionals see the over-the-top behavior customers in Customers From Hell, they instantly have their own stories to tell, “I had that guy last week!” When people laugh and recognize examples from their own experiences, they are anxious to share. This gives a facilitator an opportunity to ask questions and explore situations and outcomes.

The Video Arts products featuring John Cleese and/or his cronies usually come with a facilitator’s guide to help you get the most out of each session and many of his productions are available in self-directed DVD (lowering the price even further than the compilation tapes). It’s possible to access John Cleese training products via the internet and intranet from your own business.

John Cleese training videos are classy with high production values, actors, and scripting. What’s even better is that they can improve your workforce . . . and you can use them time and time, again . . . and laugh out-loud each time.

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