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Eric Idle

Eric Idle is a comedian, actor and film director, as well as an author and accomplished guitarist/songwriter. He wrote and performed as part of the Monty Python team.


Early Life

He was born on March 29, 1943, in South Shields, County Durham, England. Idle's father had been in the RAF and survived the Second World War, only to be killed in a car crash shortly afterwards. His mother had difficulty coping with a full-time job and raising a child so at the age of seven she enrolled him into the Royal Wolverhampton School as a boarder.

The school had begun life as a Victorian orphanage and during Idle's time it was a charitable foundation solely dedicated to the welfare of orphans and semi-orphans. Its pupils, who were mainly the children of dead English soldiers, still referred to it as the 'Ophney'.

"It was a physically abusive, bullying, harsh environment for a kid to grow up in," Idle is quoted as saying, "I got used to dealing with groups of boys and getting on with life in unpleasant circumstances and being smart and funny and subversive at the expense of authority." [1] All this turned out to be the perfect training for his future career.

Idle maintains that boredom drove him to work hard and he eventually won a place at Cambridge, where he met other members of the groundbreaking British comedy team Monty Python. Unlike the other Pythons, who wrote in pairs (Cleese/Chapman and Palin/Jones), Idle wrote alone. His work was often closely associated with long, complex speeches or catchy one-liners. Amongst the many Python sketches written by Idle is the "Nudge Nudge Wink Wink" sketch, the title of which has become a catchphrase.

Monty Python

His skills as a singer-songwriter were also put to use in his work with Monty Python, having written the majority of the songs featured in their television series' and films. These include "Eric the Half-a-Bee", "The Philosophers' Song" and probably his most recognised hit "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", which was written for the closing scene of the film Life of Brian, sung from the crosses during the mass crucifixion, as something of an antidote to Death. When a clip of this song was used as part of a jingle by Simon Mayo on the Radio 1 breakfast show in 1991, it was re-released to much acclaim, and reached the UK Top 10. It later became a staple football chant.

Film-making and music

Idle was co-creator of The Rutles, a pop band that parodied The Beatles (and indeed was helped into existence by George Harrison), and played songs largely written by Neil Innes. The Rutles first appeared on Idle's oft-forgotten BBC TV series Rutland Weekend Television, which also spawned a book, The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book, written by Idle in the same vein as the Monty Python books. He wrote and sang clever and intricate songs on such lesser-known broadcast projects as the radio series Radio Five transmitted on BBC Radio One. American audiences best know the Rutles from a popular 1979 TV movie, All You Need Is Cash (aka The Rutles), which united (for the most part) the Monty Python company with Saturday Night Live.

Idle's film credits include Nuns on the Run (with Robbie Coltrane), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (which re-united him with former Python Terry Gilliam), Splitting Heirs, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian, a live action Wind in the Willows, an accident-prone cameo turn in National Lampoon's European Vacation, and many more. He starred in An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn (heralded as one of the worst movies of all time). In 1999 Idle provided the voice of the scientist Dr. Vosknocker in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

In June 2004 he released the "FCC Song" on the Internet, which became quite popular. The song criticizes the US Federal Communications Commission and the George W. Bush administration.

Idle provided voice acting in the film Transformers: The Movie, where he provided the voice of Wreck-Gar, the leader of the motorcycle-robots. Another voice-only role he played was the character of Rincewind in the computer games Discworld 1 and Discworld 2: Missing Presumed...!?.

He also appeared in the American sitcom Suddenly Susan from 1999 to 2000 as Ian Maxtone-Graham .

He has also written novels, including the science-fiction comedy novel, The Road to Mars, and Hello Sailor.

UK chart singles - "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" (1991); "Monty Python: One Foot In The Grave" (1994) featuring Richard Wilson, for which TV series he wrote and performed the theme song, as well as guest starring.


Idle has written several books, both fictional and nonfictional. His novels are Hello, Sailor and The Road to Mars. He also wrote the book for the Holy Grail spinoff musical, Spamalot which premiered January 2005 in Chicago before moving to Broadway.

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.


[1] 'The Pythons' Autobiography of the Pythons', Bob McCabe (et al), Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2003.

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