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Letter to
John Cleese
Dec 1996

Dear John

I have racked my brains and cannot think of anything I have written about animals that would do for a live audience. I once did a lawyer’s advice column on animal rights (Can a dog leave everything in its will to an old folk’s home? Etc) and if I come across it I will fax it to you.

I keep on thinking of the legendary South Korean saying ”A dog is not just for Christmas, it is also for lunch” – but this may not please Americans

However, I have a train of thought you may care to work on. Years ago on American TV I saw an animal psychiatrist. His job was to talk animals through crises. When married couples split up, their pets have identity crises, and it was his job (this is all odd to us English) to talk the pet through the split, help it to identify with the partner he was staying with, which must have been tough if the dog or cat preferred the other one…

So far so good. But there is a new trend in the USA, towards the idea of animals that can communicate. There was recently a film called Congo in which a gorilla is taught by Americans to speak, and when they start talking to her they find she wants to go back to the jungle so they take her back, etc etc. (Thus becoming the only Hollywood film in history in which one of the characters is allowed to say she would rather leave America and go and live somewhere else.) Well, when you have talking animals, you’re going to have something else new: animals going on shows like Oprah Winfrey and airing their personal problems. Loads of problems, like loss weight in summer (“Does it suit me? Will my mate go off me?) and identity problems (Stick insect: “I have the body of a stick insect, but I feel like a holly tree. I am trapped inside the body of something I do not feel I am!”), and even worse forced marriages (Panda: “Suddenly, one day, I am told to marry this thing, this overweight panda. I have never been on a date! And suddenly I have to get married! They are surprised we do not have children! Well, what do you expect when neither of us has ever done it or knows what to do! Also, she has very bad breath. And only speaks Russian. Yes, I’ve got problems all right…”) and legal problems (Dog: ”I am going to sue my master for watching too much TV and going for too few walks. We are looking at 13 m dollars…”)

A thought.

Caroline thinks you sound tired too.

I once wrote a Cold War piece in which the Americans decided that the world might be blown up by nuclear arms and taken over by ants, so they were training an all-American ant to take over, just in case. Little did they know that the Russians were working on an all-conquering Leninist ant-eater… Bit dated now though.

Sorry to be so little help. Call our counselling hot line any time you like.

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