Teaching Drama

John Cleese on Creativity

Written by Lindsay Price

Freud, who analyzed practically everything else, repeatedly denied that psychoanalysis could shed any light whatsoever on the mysteries of creativity.

In 1991, John Cleese gave a lecture on creativity. You can view the lecture below. If you have students, or if you yourself have creativity blocks (I could never do XYZ because I’m not creative), use this video as a jumping-off point for discussion. I’m including a PDF downloadable listening quiz below as well.

One of the statements Cleese makes is this:

Creativity is not a talent. It is not a talent, it is a way of operating.

This is something that many people who view themselves as “not creative” fall back on. They can’t be creative because creativity is a talent. Either you have it or you don’t. It is a fallacy that creativity is something you’re born with. It is a fallacy that only artistic people are creative. It’s merely a way of working.

How do we implement creativity? Here are a couple of thoughts.


Creative people take time to play. They play with ideas. When kids play, they are never-ending problem solvers. How do I take this blanket and this chair and make it into a fort? Creative people play for the fun of it. That’s important, too.


It’s one thing to play and another thing not to put ideas into action. The most creative people are actually quite disciplined. They accomplish finished products. They don’t just spend their time day dreaming.


Creative people are open. That means they take chances and are willing to fail. They are able to deviate from the straight line. They have a sense of humour about their work. Being open means having a willingness to play. Being open, or in open mode as Cleese puts it, is essential to creativity.



Watch the video with your students and as they do, get them to fill in the watching quiz. This is a complete-as-you-go exercise. It would work well as a substitute teacher activity: watch the video, complete the quiz and then have students write a reflection.

What is your definition of creativity? In your own words, how does John Cleese define creativity? Do you agree with his definition, why or why not?

Click here to download the quiz to take after watching the video!

About the author

Lindsay Price