Picks and Pans Review: Sound Off

updated 05/10/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/10/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>John Cleese

Before there was The Passion, there was Life of Brian, Monty Python's 1979 send-up of all things holy. Brian, costarring John Cleese, now 64 (who also cowrote the film), returns to theaters April 30.

ON THE GENESIS OF BRIAN One of the Pythons suggested the idea there was a 13th disciple who was always invited to things but couldn't make it because of other commitments. He'd say, "I can't make it to the Last Supper because the wife has friends coming to dinner, but can I come around afterwards for a drink?" We played with the idea and laughed because we were naughty, naughty at the time.

ON WHY THE COMEDY WORKS It's funny because the targets are easy to exploit. When Brian preaches, "You are all individuals," the crowd chants, "Yes, we're all individuals." It's a good joke. We're not putting down anyone's religion but the ways of following religion that completely miss the point of what it's all about.

ON LOSING HIS RELIGION I was brought up to go to church, and that's what put me off. I had some kind of Church of England experience seven days a week for 10 years. I honestly think most organized churches have lost touch with the message.

ON THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST I haven't seen it because I don't want to see anybody suffer. I don't enjoy violence and I don't want to see anyone being tortured. If Dick Cheney was scourged and crucified, I'd feel sorry for him, but it wouldn't bring me any closer to his views.

ON BIBLICAL INJUNCTIONS AGAINST CROSSDRESSING Monty Python is an abomination to the God of the Old Testament. Will I ever stop dressing in girls' clothing? Not as long as I get well paid for it.

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