The wisdom and withering wit of Clive James | 20 classic quotes

The wisdom and withering wit of Clive James

20 classic quotes

As Clive James dies aged 80, we remember his gift for the English language with 20 pithy quotes – and insults...


‘A life without fame can be a good life, but fame without a life is no life at all.’

‘Even in moments of tranquillity, Murray Walker sounds like a man whose trousers are on fire.’

 On Barbara Cartland: ‘Twin miracles of mascara, her eyes looked like the corpses of two small crows that had crashed into a chalk cliff.’

‘A sense of humour is just common sense dancing’

On George W Bush: ‘Every sentence he manages to utter scatters its component parts like pond water from a verb chasing its own tail.’

‘Beyoncé and pathos are strangers. Amy Winehouse and pathos are flatmates, and you should see the kitchen.’

On John McEnroe: ‘He was as charming as always, which means that he was as charming as a dead mouse in a loaf of bread.’

‘Here is a book so dull that a whirling dervish could read himself to sleep with it. If you were to recite even a single page in the open air, birds would fall out of the sky and dogs drop dead.’

 On Marilyn Monroe: ‘She was as good at playing abstract confusion in the same way that a midget is good at being short.’

‘A poem is never finished, only abandoned.’

'Mocking Hugh Hefner is easy to do, and in my mind should be made easier.

‘Men never sound more stupid than when they're telling you they're a very complex personality."'

‘Joan Rivers’s face hasn’t just had a lift, it’s taken the elevator all the way to the top floor without stopping.’

‘You can never get a woman to sit down and listen to a drum solo.’

I saw the film Pearl Harbour and it made me wish that the Japanese had bombed Hollywood instead.’

The Canadian version of Julius Caesar's memoirs? I came, I saw, I coped.

The essence of a class system is not that the privileged are conscious of their privileges, but that the deprived are conscious of their deprivations.

On Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body: ‘Like a condom full of walnuts’.

‘Never trust anyone who listens to Mahler before they're forty.'

‘Stop worrying… nobody gets out of this world alive’

Published: 27 Nov 2019

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