Eric Idle OnlineMy Life

The Needy Bastard Diary

By , February 12, 2016 2:41 pm

Chapter Four: Still here. 

The fourth day of this damn Tour diary and I still haven’t left home.

Yes, I’m still here.

Pathetic isn’t it?

Apparently it doesn’t actually start until the 25th of February on the Gold Coast, and I’ve obviously been preparing to leave for too long. But at least my wife has noticed that I am leaving. She’s started saying things like “I’m going in to Beverly Hills. I’m really going to miss you.”

“But you’re only going to Beverly Hills.”

“No you idiot. When you’re gone.”

I really leave on Monday. Grammy night. Mercifully I shall miss the Academy Awards. There’s nothing I like more than missing Award Shows. I find them tedious. And of no value. In fact the only Awards of any value are the ones they give me. Although I do like the Grammys. At least they perform. They should make some of those bearded repeat Oscar winners (“This is his 32 Oscar for sound effects editing and he still hasn’t shaved…”) they should make them sing or something. Anyway for me this year it’s just an honour not to be nominated, although after 39 years I feel I might qualify for a wifetime achievement award.

What has left is my guitar, in its brand new custom-made shipping case, which I had specially made. . It looks like this:

 Beautiful isn’t it? 
I wish they could make one for me to be shipped in.

I shan’t meet up with this lovely Taylor until the appropriately named Gold Coast.

I was given my first Taylor guitar by Clint Black after he recorded The Galaxy Song. He didn’t like singing “Whenever life gets you down Mrs. Brown” and he asked me to write him a new Intro. I wrote him a kind of cowboy opening and we recorded it together in his home studio in his marbled palace in LA.

When you’re feeling inside out and insecure

And life keeps getting you down

When all life’s daily worries

Hurry through your head

You don’t wanna even get up

You just lie around in bed

When you feel you just can’t take it anymore

And you wonder what on earth it is all for

Your love life’s like a war zone

Your TV’s on the blink

It’s enough to drive a drinking man

To stop and take a think.


Recorded with Clint Black for Delectrified in 1999

I think we even sang it together at a Grammy event on a tennis court for Music Cares. Later he flew me down to the Taylor factory, in a tiny private plane, where we were shown around the factory and then taken to the board room to meet Bob. Here they broke out the guitars and we played. It was the nicest corporate experience. We got to try a variety of their latest instruments.

Taylor have always kindly looked after me on the road, and they supplied two very nice guitars for JCAEITAALFTVFT which is the handy little acronym I have invented to remember our tour title: John Cleese and Eric Idle Together Again At Last for The Very First Time.

It has been nominated for longest title in an old farts on the road tour.

In case you are having trouble with the acronym here’s an easy way to remember it.

Julius Caesar always eyes Italian totty and adores lovely females to very frequently touch.

That will help you remember JCAEITAALFTVFT and then it’s a simple matter of substituting letters.

As well as the guitar I have shipped shipping three outfits for the stage and a Tour travel bag filled with Teas*, Tea making devices, make up and two outback corky hats, because of course we shall be doing the Bruces for the very first time in Australia.

*Lapsang Sou Chong, Buddha’s Cup, Genghis Khan and another first flush Darjeeling.

We may have to censor ourselves a little as I think Rule 4 “No Pooftah’s” is probably incorrect. I certainly cut it from my 2003 tour. Yes I know it’s satire on the then (70’s) over blokish culture of the drinking Australian male, but things have come a very long way since then, and thank heaven for it.

King Lear to Jester: Shut up that’s incorrect.

Which reminds me that once Prince Charles asked me to become his jester. He really did. He was choking with laughter at Billy Connolly’s Scottish house over dinner, with Robin Williams and Steve Martin so I must have got off a good one.

“Eric” he said with tears in his eyes “You should become my jester.”

“Now why would I want a fucking awful job like that?” I said, which set him off even more.

I actually think it was a perfect jester’s response. Reminding the Prince of how unenviable his position really is. Even the fucking jester doesn’t want the job….

The Needy Bastard Diary

By , February 10, 2016 1:47 pm


Chapter Three:   False Alarm

Excellent news. I no longer have a snapped tendon.  It has healed.  Being flat out in bed for fifteen days with the flu seems to have it sorted.  Jeff, my physio, a man of enormous pessimism, looks puzzled at my ankle.   “There’s nothing wrong with you at all. The reason you are limping so badly is that stupid surgical boot, now take it off and walk.”

Not since Jesus so swiftly Lazarated the healing process has there been such a quick turnaround. Shortly we were both walking down the road and he was shaking his head about Doctors.  I know what he means.  LA consists of two large black holes called Cedars Cyanide and UCLA and slowly people are sucked inside the Dr. Schwarzschild radius, rarely to emerge with a full complement of organs.

Graham always warned us to beware of Doctors. “They’re just ex Medical students” he said.  And he should know;  he was a fully qualified alcoholic.

So the boot isn’t on the other foot.   It’s in a corner of my closet where I flung it. A thousand dollars of health care down the drain.

In order to make up for my return to health my Doctor ordered a series of tests. I was scheduled for a morning of prodding, bleeding, and peeing, plus a date with the machine that goes ping.   Actually the MRI makes a far louder noise than a ping.  It’s more like a lion’s roar.

So I had a heart scan: check, there is one.

A lung scan: “And there’s the pneumonia…”

“The what? I thought it was flu.”

“That too.”

And an ultra sound. (I’m not pregnant.)

So physically I’m ready to face the Australian bowling. And literally too, because as a happy result of some Twitter misunderstandings the great Thommo is coming to see us on the road downunda.  And he still scares me.  John too is looking forward to meeting him.  We are both cricket nuts.

Major Cleese seems in good form, and after spending six weeks on a beach in Mustique with his aquatic wife he ought to be. He says he likes his new rank, so Major Cleese it is.  I’m not sure where that leaves me.  Lance-Corporal?  Squadron Leader?  I used to be Sergeant Idle in the school CCF, but they hated me because I went on the Aldermaston March.

“Then you shouldn’t be in the CCF” said the School Padre, shocked to learn I’d been on a Pacifist rally.

“Then I’ll leave” I said

“You can’t, it’s compulsory.”


My Dad was Sergeant Idle too. In the RAF.  But I think I like something a little more romantic.  Group Captain Idle?  Now, that has a ring to it.

Mentally I’m ready and looking forward to the show. It’s a nice change from writing.  My shrink has cleared me for duty. Two of the Pythons have had shrinkage and four haven’t.   Luckily I’m on the road with the other one who did.  I think it helps, and I’ve had about twenty years of it now. Of course I live in California where it is compulsory, but if you don’t look under the hood now and again how can you possibly see what’s driving you?

The unexamined life is a dangerous thing.

The British, who are mentally and dentally retarded, look on all forms of analysis with fear and loathing, though no nation needs it more. Especially some of their newspapers, which do seem to be utterly bonkers.

It’s the weather of course. And I love and adore the English. Well not all of them. I hate the smugly sentimental Upstairs Downside world of the Upper classes and their nostalgia for country estates and servants. You know those television series about fat faced, smug, fucking upper class twits where happy and kindly aristocrats, are lovingly and gratifyingly served by contented, sexually available domestic servants.

“It’s an honour to work for you sir. Really there’s no need to pay us. I would do this for nothing. Oh would you like to fuck me sir, I know how an upper class gentleman gets when he’s had four bottles of claret. Or would you rather fuck my daughter? She’ll take it sir, and be grateful for the spare change in your pocket, but please only in the ass, she’s working class and we can’t afford no children….”

It’s crap. It’s condescending and inaccurate and panders to the worst kind of Americans who see the British as some kind of Butler owning democracy. It’s as if the Yanks did a series about the Antebellum South where contented slaves sing happily about their kindly owners.

“O we is happy pickin cotton all de live long day…”

Alright. Rant over. I’m a lower class Northern oik and proud of it lad.



The Needy Bastard Diary

By , February 8, 2016 8:15 am

Chapter 2. Packing Backwards

It’s a King Lear kind of a day in LA with lowering winds pushing down trees and tipping over telegraph poles and the remains of shredded parasols lie in shrouds by the sides of pools. I’m preparing to set out on the road, on an Expedition with Major Cleese, in search of intelligent life in the Antipodes.

Currently I’m packing.

No, sorry, Yanks, I don’t mean I’m carrying concealed weapons, I mean I’m packing as in Suitcase.  Packing up clothes and books and guitars.  And of course meds.

That’s the nice thing about age: in the old days we had drugs. Now we have medication.

I have a whole shitload of bottles and vials and injectables, whose sell-by date is hopefully ahead of mine, and most of whose functions I can only guess at. However if World War Three breaks out while I’m downunda I’m covered.  I’ll be On The Beach with a copy of Neville Shute and a bag full of emergency suppositories.

Meanwhile I am discussing with the wife who should play us in the movie of our lives.

“Angelina Jolie” she suggests.

“And who will play you?” I ask.

I have also been trying to write some new gags for the road.

“There are two types of people, and I don’t much care for either of them.”

“I’m a 72 year old man embarking on a mid- life crisis. It should be over by the time I am 145.”

That sort of thing. The kind of one liner I used to be paid by David Frost to churn out, when I was just a writer. I love saying Just a Writer.  It’s a bitter writer’s gag.

Shakespeare?   Just a writer.”

I have decided to announce I am working on my Autobiography. It’s title?

“Are those my underpants? “

My wife finds this spectacularly unfunny.   My assistant Alana howls with laughter.

I’m not really working on my Autobiography though I was asked to write it in the year of The Python Final Farewell Show at O2.  (2014)  Publishers offered me a ton of money, but I worried that John Cleese was shortly coming out with his own memoirs and it seemed to invite odious comparisons from the insidious Daily Mole.*  So I declined.

*name changed to protect the guilty.

The point of autobiography is that it’s your last chance to be rude about people you love, especially old wives, and friends and work mates who never did you any harm, but sadly I find that with age I have become more forgiving. I know.   I apologise.  If you can’t think ill of your fellow man then who are you?   But I don’t.  I can’t be bothered to carry a grudge any more. Even on Twitter where the ground rules invite abuse I find it much more fun to forgive people.  It’s far more effective.  They can’t stand it. Turning the other cheek that’s fucking asking for it.  Look how many people Ghandi annoyed by fasting and being forgiving.  It’s far and away the most annoyingly passive aggressive thing  you can do.

I’m not much of a diarist. I think we can leave the detailed daily form to our good Mrs. Dale, Michael Palin, who is constantly painting the Forth Bridge of his life a day at a time.   I’m going to stick to blogging.  A series of self-indulgent essays about how wonderful I am.  Think of it as the equivalent of a morning dump, cleaning out the shit in my mind.

So yes I’m packing.

Will I need that frilly nightie?   How about an emergency garter belt?   You never know.  Spanx?  Yes or no?  And what colour eye-liner?   Panties?  Shall I take a selection?  Lip gloss. Check. You see the thousands of decisions that we people in showbiz have to make.

As it happens I have a Degree in Packing.

Twelve years of boarding school, three terms a year, there and back, is six packs a year.  That’s 72 packings.  Then there’s College, and then there’s filming,  oh the whole thing is endless.  I’m either packing, unpacking or preparing to pack of unpack.   If you count the arrival in Sydney for a hellish day of publicity we’re going to be in ten different cities in a little over a month and a half.

So I have pioneered a whole new packing technique. It’s called:

Packing Backwards.

You just visualize the last place you will be visiting on your travels and then start with that.   Since I will be in Tahiti that’s easy.  A pair of Speedo’s, a travel guitar and a hat.

Before that we’re in New Zealand, and that could be tricky. Is Wellington at the end of March chilly?   Ought I to wear wool close to the skin?  Is Mourhino a sheep?  And how about Auckland?   Do they still get quite so drunk?   Will I need a special garment to protect my clothes?  And what  if we have to visit a sewage farm?  Will they provide Wellingtons in Wellington?   I know they named a sewage facility after John and it is my ambition to have one named after me.

Before that we’re in Melbourne, and by the look of it it’s deucedly hot there.   In fact all Australia looks like it will be very hot.    Perth is boiling and we start up on The Gold Coast.  It’s a quandary.

In Sydney, the first stop, we are scheduled to appear on breakfast TV and basically give interviews all day.   This is a typical Australian joke.  They get you jet-lagged off the plane and ask “What do you think of Australia?”  Since you’ve only seen the frigging airport and you’re so bleary eyed you can’t even remember your own name, it’s tough to come up with a funny response.

How I miss the days of Norman Gunston when he greeted celebrities with his brilliantly bad questions…

To Linda McCartney:   “You don’t look very Japanese to me.”

He pioneered a whole new school of celebrity interview, where the interviewer is not real.   Sacha Baron of course nailed it in many disguises.

Ah well, Time to go shopping…. so wellingtons, Spanx, and special undergarments….











The Needy Bastard Diary

By , February 5, 2016 2:49 pm

Chapter One. The Greedy Bastard Tour.

In 2003 I left my home in California for a three month, 15,000 mile comedy road-trip round North America on a rock and roll bus, with a snapped tendon and a boot. It is a delicious irony that I’m setting off again on a comedy road trip with another torn tendon and a surgical boot.

This time of course the boot is on the other foot.

And when I say delicious I do mean painful.   Two or three times a day it unexpectedly delivers withering cramps which leave me writhing on the ground shouting obscenities in French.   It should look very impressive on stage.   Something between a silly walk and an attack of Turrettes. So if you’re coming to the show look out for this.

“ Ooh look he’s doing his Silly Fall.”

And please do laugh. Nothing is worse than having pain and not getting a decent laugh. That’s the great thing about Comedy: if it hurts it’s funny.

It’s like Sex in that respect.*

(*No it isn’t. Ed.)

Odd that, and I shall discuss it later, as I think I will make it a great footnote.   Since reading a lot of David Foster Wallace my footnotes have become much longer recently and had he lived, I am convinced he would have written one of the greatest footnotes ever. He might even have ended up writing a footnote which was longer than his book.

Now the foot note is on the other boot.

This new one is customised, an open-toed, lace-up, black leather kinky-boot, built and fitted at enormous expense in the bowels of Beverly Hills, where plasterers and technicians labour to clamp expensive orthotics on the unwary. It’s mainly for travel, but then there is to be a lot of travel. This time it’s a kangaroo tour of Australia and New Zealand. I shall be hopping round the antipodes.

My companion is the legendary John Cleese, a man who has been making me laugh hysterically for 53 years.

I suppose most of you can’t even imagine what fifty years looks like. It’s hard for us to imagine time. Only the mirror tells its relentless tale. But yes, more than half a century ago, in February 1963, John Cleese walked into my life and, although I didn’t know it at the time, my life changed. Not immediately, but irrevocably.

Even odder, I was performing his material when he first saw me. I had no idea who he was, or that, at 23, he was a senior member of The Footlights, for I was just a 19 year old freshman at Cambridge University and I had been chosen at the start of my second term to be in the Pembroke “Smoker.” A Smoking Concert is a College revue, in this case held annually in the Old Hall, and the only reason that John wasn’t on stage was that though he wined and dined nightly in Pembroke and everyone assumed he was at Pembroke, he wasn’t actually a member of the College. Pembroke had a great comedy tradition and it was not long since the great Peter Cook had reduced everyone to giggling heaps.

So, February 1963. This is even pre- Beatles! They are still getting hammered in Hamburg and we have never heard of them. Indeed we are only into “cool” jazz, Miles Davis, John Coltrane that sort of groove. Imagine, then, a not particularly large room, an ex-19th Century Library, with gabled windows and leaded glass, packed with tables and candles, undergraduates and their dates dressed to the nines, a lot of wine and a great deal of smoke.   A small raised platform in one corner was the stage and on it performed the cast, led by Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie (later to become The Goodies). There was one very funny girl (Carol), Jonathan Lynn, a pianist and one fresh faced young newcomer: me.   One of the sketches was an Old Testament Newsreader played by Bill, called BBC BC.

“Good even. Here beginneth the first verse of the News.

I played the Biblical Weather Forecaster.

“Good even. Well it’s been a pretty rough week in the Holy Land hasn’t it? Anyway let’s just take a quick look at the scroll. We’ve got a plague of locusts moving in here from the NW they’re going to be in the Tyre and Sidon area by about lunchtime tomorrow. Scattered outbreaks of fire and brimstone up here in Tarsus and down here in Hebron oh and possibly some mild thunderbolts force two to three in Gath.  Down in the south, well Egypt has had a pretty nasty spell of it recently 17 or 18 days ago it was frogs followed by lice, flies: a murrain on the beasts, and last Tuesday locusts and now moving in from the SSE –  boils. Further outlook for Egypt well two or three days of thick darkness lying over the face of the land – And then death of all the first born. 
Sorry about that Egypt.

I didn’t know it at the time but that part was written by John Cleese for himself and afterwards in the euphoria a very tall thin man in a thick tweed suit with dark hair and piercing eyes was introduced to me by Humphrey Barclay. He was very kind and complimentary, and indeed encouraging, for both of them urged me to come along and audition for The Footlights at their next Smoker. I had never heard of The Footlights, A University Revue Club founded in 1883, but it seemed like a fun thing to do and a month later Jonathan Lynn and I were voted in by the Committee, after having faced the ordeal of performing live to a packed crowd of comedy buffs on the slightly more glamorous Footlights stage, in the private Footlights Club Room, above fishy-smelling MacFisheries.   I remember the sketch played surprisingly well, and one strange detail: in the front row, lounging on a sofa laughing rather drunkenly with some Senior Fellows was Kingsley Amis.

I soon adapted to Footlights Club life. We had our own private bar which opened at ten at night and stayed open as long as we wanted.   (Pubs closed at 10.30)   Lunches were provided inexpensively on the premises and twice a term there were Smoking Concerts where one could try out new material. I soon learned a very valuable lesson in performing, for one day I picked up a headmaster sketch by John and read it and didn’t find it very amusing. That night he performed it and killed. Brought the place to a standstill. So much is confidence, and how you do it. That was the most valuable thing about The Footlights: learning the art of writer/performing by watching and doing. That year’s Annual Revue, which ran for two weeks during May Week at The Arts Theatre, was the funniest thing I had seen since Beyond The Fringe. It was called A Clump of Plinths, a very Cleese kind of title, and John stood out head and shoulders amongst a great cast. The thing was that, unlike the others, he never let on that he was being funny. He was always deadly serious, the deadest of deadpans. I watched in amazement and sheer joy.   The show toured the UK and then was picked up by Michael White and put into the West End under the title Cambridge Circus.   By then the gangly pipe-smoking Graham Chapman had joined the cast and they would take the same show to Broadway, and then run off Broadway for several months.

Last year when his autobiography So, Anyway came out John asked me to interview him on stage at The Alex in Glendale, so we just chatted impromptu for two hours, and it was easy and fun.   It gained a surprising attention on U Tube. (The U boat of entertainment.) So last year out of the blue John asked me if I’d like to tour Florida with him and I thought “Why not?” I’d never been there, and the prospect of spending some nice time with him on the road appealed to me. We even had a rock and roll bus. We called it:

John Cleese and Eric Idle, Together Again at Last for the Very First Time.

It was very successful, 22 shows in 15 cities in 31 days, and we both really enjoyed it.   I said to John “the important thing is not that they liked us, but that we liked us.”

One of the most challenging things for John and I on Tour is standing up. We originally asked to be pulled on stage in Rickshaws, but it proved difficult to find Rickshaws in Florida, (I imagine Uber will be on it soon) and so we decided we would actually do our own walking, and if I may say so, we’re getting very good at it.   As soon as we hear the opening announcement:

       Welcome to an evening without Michael Palin

…we walk right on stage.

Of course we sit down almost immediately, but don’t underestimate the skill it takes to walk out like that on stage, just using our own feet.   In fact we do sit down a lot, but the audience are seated, and who’s more important? They can sit there all evening but if we don’t walk on, then there’s no show.     You don’t get insights into Showbiz like this anywhere else.*

So yes, it’s Sit Down Comedy, and sadly there are no Silly Walks, and no dancing.

My dancing days are of course done, although a couple of years ago I was offered Dancing with the Stars, and while the chance to clutch at semi-naked Russian women has always been a powerful incentive for me (my wife is half Russian and half Italian) and she is a delightful dancer,as I explained to her  as she banged my head affectionately against the wall, “I was a dirty young man so it is entirely appropriate I should now be a dirty old man.”

Of course logic and reason can go out of the window at these moments, and in fact I was in no danger of accepting. At a certain age you get tired of disappointing females, fun though it is.

“I never saw anything wrong with premature ejaculation. It gets it over with quick and still leaves plenty of time to get to the Cinema.”                                                                                                                Pass the Butler. 1983

 So The World Tour of Florida was very successful. We achieved our goal of finding audiences even older than we were. We had a lot of laughs, visited a lot of places, and no two shows were ever the same. So this year when John suggested Australia I said yes at once. We have decided we will tour anywhere there are crocodiles.   So we’re off in a couple of weeks. And this time I do intend to write my Tour Blog like I did in 2003. That last Tour diary turned into The Greedy Bastard Diary, still the closest I have ever written about myself.   By turns grumpy, horny, bitchy, nasty, and occasionally funny it was a report card from the road of my life. Now it seems my sub conscious, whom I call Derek, is once again knocking on my door demanding I bash out his bitchy little voice.

I apologise.

Stay tuned.




John Cleese/Eric Idle Tour of Australia/New Zealand



2/25: Gold Coast, AUS – Jupiters Theatre


2/27: Brisbane, AUS – Convention Centre


2/28: Brisbane, AUS – Convention Centre


3/1: Adelaide, AUS – AEC Theatre


3/2: Adelaide, AUS – AEC Theatre


3/5: Canberra, AUS – Royal Theatre


3/9: Perth, AUS – Riverside Theatre


3/10: Perth, AUS – Riverside Theatre


3/14: Sydney, AUS – State Theatre


3/15: Sydney, AUS – State Theatre


3/16: Sydney, AUS – State Theatre


3/18: Melbourne, AUS – Hamer Hall


3/19: Melbourne, AUS – Hamer Hall


3/20: Melbourne, AUS – Hamer Hall


3/23: Auckland, NZ – Civic Theatre


3/24: Auckland, NZ – Civic Theatre


3/28: Wellington, NZ – Michael Fowler Centre