Dear John Cleese:

Instead of a gift, here's a request: act in more live-action movies. Your cartoon voice-over work is never less than amusing, but it doesn't satisfy fans of your particular kind of comedy.

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You once said that after putting together the first Monty Python compilation film, "And Now for Something Completely Different," you and the other Pythons learned that an audience won't keep laughing past the 50-minute mark if they don't care for the characters or become involved in a story.

So it must be as frustrating for comedy performers as it is for comedy fans that there are more stories and characters to be found in feature animation than in flesh-and-blood slapstick.

But if you can't be expected to come up with another "A Fish Called Wanda" all by yourself (although that would be great), at least give your comic craft an airing in another live-action bit part. Even as Inspector Clouseau's boss in Steve Martin's pathetic "Pink Panther 2," you got more laughs than anyone else through your fervent embodiment of dyspeptic anger.

I think I learned what comic heroism was when you managed to be riotously funny as the ultra-officious manager of a luxury hotel in another terrible Martin movie, the remake of "The Out-of-Towners": you sharpened each line as you spit out dialogue between clenched teeth; you even kicked like a can-can dancer while wearing borrowed high heels and a fur coat.

So celebrate -- and then, please, get back to flesh-and-blood work!

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