By Cynthia Okoben
Though most of you will not recognize the name Eric Idle, I believe that you will recall the name Monty Python. Eric Idle was one of the six creators of the television skit show Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail (on Netflix if you want to, you know, go watch that right now). He grew up with the same humble beginnings of most post-WWII British children. The lack of many forms of entertainment seems a haven for fostering creativity, giving birth to many writers and artists including Peter and Gordon, the Rolling Stones, Cream, the Who, and this little-known band I think is called the Beatles (who you should definitely check out sometime, they’re brilliant).
Eric Idle’s new book opens with a very Idyllic (I’m sorry, that’s a terrible pun) apology for what is about to be read, then shifts to when he was filming Monty Python’s Life of Brian, hanging crucified with the rest of the cast (which he really recommends, to give you some perspective). It then goes back to his birth and continues on until his death (to the best of his abilities, as he is not deceased just yet). It speaks of his father who died while hitchhiking on Christmas Eve, and his grandfather who took him to the circus that a relative had started many years earlier. It speaks of him being deprived of movies, then seeing three in one day for the first time, much like how he was deprived of money as a child, but grew very rich as an adult. It speaks of when he went off to a Liverpool beach and played with a boy named George (who may have grown up to be George Harrison), worrying his mother into sending him to a boarding school for children whose parents died in the war. It speaks of his time at school, where he was made prefect, but stripped of the honor when he skipped military practice repeatedly to go to the movies. He was made Head Boy, despite this, for reasons he still can’t explain. He started the movement of boarding school boys using their military training to sneak over to the neighboring all-girls’ boarding school to visit their girlfriends. He talks about Cambridge, where he attended and met Graham Chapman and John Cleese. He speaks of meeting his wife, Tania, whom he has been married to for nearly four decades. It’s a coming of age story, a comedy, a romance, a rags to riches tale, and so much more.
He talks about his luck and his flaws and the people he loved and the friends he made (including but not limited to Robin Williams, David Bowie, and George Harrison of the Beatles). If you have any respect for comedy or England or interesting older people or Monty Python or, at the very least, your own cultural experience, you must read this book, or at least listen to it on audiobook while you crochet a sweater (like I did). It’s simply a must-read for anyone who has an affinity for England and ‘60s and ‘70s culture.
“Eric Idle: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” ANU, The Australian National University, 9 Nov. 2018, www.anu.edu.au/events/eric-idle-always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life-0.
“Eric Idle.” Pinterest, Pinterest, 24 Nov. 2012, http://www.pinterest.com/beatlesfan325/eric-idle/?lp=true.
Young, Jessica Bryce. “Monty Python’s John Cleese and Eric Idle Add Second Orlando Show.” Orlando Weekly, Orlando Weekly, 28 Sept. 2017, http://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2015/07/07/monty-pythons-john-cleese-and-eric-idle-add-second-orlando-show.