Fawlty Reasoning

Recently I was watching an interview with Monty Python’s John Cleese, and he was talking about the success of Fawlty Towers. (If you’re not familiar with the show, you’re missing out.) Even though there were only 12 episodes, Cleese claims that Fawlty Towers has actually become more popular than Monty Python everywhere but the US where It mostly runs on PBS.

He says the one of the reasons Fawlty Towers was so successful was “because we worked so hard on it.”He and his co-writer/then wife, Connie Booth were writing scripts that were 135 pages long. When their producer told them the average 30-minute script was only 60 pages, they continued to write more than double the amount.

If anything needed to be cut, they could leave the best bits in. But it turned out they crammed in everything, giving the show a faster pace, which hadn’t really been seen on BBC comedies before.

Cleese says he and Booth would spend about six weeks on each script. The first three weeks were in developing the plot, and the last three on the dialogue. According to Cleese, writers today spend an average of 10 days on script, and sometimes as little as four, “which is why most of them aren’t very good.”

Cleese wasn’t pulling late nighters to look good, or because he thought his producers expected it. He’d already made a name for himself with Monty Python and could have easily coasted on that. But he was genuinely enjoying what he was doing. The result was not just good work, but fantastic work.

You may not have six weeks to work out a script, come up with an idea or develop a campaign. But you can get passionate about your work. And suddenly, it won’t seem like work any more. When that happens, my guess is you’ll be having a lot more fun, and winning a lot more awards.