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.
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 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." 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.
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.
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, where it received
the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004-2005 season.
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.