Eric Idle OnlineMy Life

Spamma Mia

By , May 31, 2012 5:13 am

Talking about therapy is like talking about sex:  it’s vain and boastful.  Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, you live in LA, but I like paying someone to listen to me; it’s the opposite of showbiz, and it helps me understand that strange collection of people I call my self.   I am interested in the brain, how it works miracles, like reading, turning a jumble of letters into pictures, and the fact that about ninety per cent of what it is doing all the time is not even noticed by our consciousness, which is just the surface stream of our thoughts.  It also helps me connect the dots to my wiring in my upbringing.   Why am I a comedian?   Why do I still get angry at certain things?   Why do I like talking about myself for an hour?  Which are healthy thoughts and which are simply old patterns of gloom reasserting themselves.   Talk therapy is a practical guide to our selves,  since we don’t come with a manual, and we can learn to become better fathers, husbands, friends, and even comedians.  And it’s a lot more useful than Confession.

This week it suddenly became clear to me that my excitement about packing for England mirrors my own excitement felt three times a year for twelve years, packing to go home from boarding school.  Not that my home in LA is remotely like The Ophney, an ex-Orphanage in exotic Wolverhampton which I reluctantly attended from the age of seven, and British Airways ain’t exactly the Harry Potter steam train I took at the beginning and end of each interminable term,  nevertheless each year, when the jacaranda trees turn purple, I know it’s time to head East old man.

This year I’m on a short visit to London to announce that Monty Python’s Spamalot is opening again in the West End, for a limited run, to entertain the tourists during the Olympics, in an entirely new production by Christopher Luscombe which has been successfully touring the UK for two years.  I’m very excited that after only a three year absence it’s back in London, which means that this show really has legs.  I’m also looking forward to seeing a thousand boats on the Thames for the Queens jubilee, to watch a bit of England in football and cricket, and see the Brits enjoying themselves, for, as Gilbert and Sullivan put it…

.. in spite of all temptations

To belong to other nations

He remains an Englishman…

So if you are visiting London this summer to support the Polish hop skip and jump team, or visit The Synchronized Shakespeare, or simply to catch the vibe, do make a determined leap to The Harold Pinter Theatre in Panton Street, off Leicester Square, where you’ll find a very fine and funny production of Spamalot, ably led by the hilarious Marcus Brigstock.    Booking now open!

All together “And, Always look on the bright side of life…”

Anglo Saxon Attitudes

By , May 27, 2012 10:24 am

The first published writer I ever met was Angus Wilson, a bouffant-haired, flamboyantly gay novelist, with saturnine skin of an alarming tobacco hue, which looked remarkably like the old “Five and Nine” theatrical makeup everyone wore in the mercifully few months I spent in Repertory Theater in Leicester.   A kindly, finely spoken man, with attentive acolytes, and a propensity for cocktails, he threw a daytime party for the Cambridge Footlights at his exquisitely thatched East Anglian cottage in 1965 when we bright young things played The Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmonds, an unforgettably beautiful Regency theater.  His interest in young men from Cambridge far from home, and far from talented, was far from academic, though one recalls with a shock that homosexuality in those days was illegal and punishable by prison terms.  The harsh laws in England were only changed in 1967.   Things, mercifully, have moved on since then, though it is still ironic to realize that in the US the Candidate strongly opposed to gay marriage comes from a Church with a background of multiple marriage.

If I may quote the Reverend Whoopsie in What About Dick “Let us not forget our Lord himself had twelve little male friends, all sailors, and nobody said a word.”

“Marriage is a state given by God” say the opening lines of the old Church of England wedding ceremony,  and that in itself is ironic given the fact that the Church of England only exists because of a failed marriage – Henry VIII’s desire to dissolve his union with Queen Catherine, so that he might enjoy the body of Anne Boleyn, a privilege he was probably not the first to sample –  but if it is permissible nowadays for we disbelievers to marry isn’t it about time that the pursuit of happiness applied to all Americans?   I was married in NYC and just celebrated 31 years of marriage to the saintly forbearing Tania, and I find it hard to understand why anyone would wish to deny stable unions in society.

My thoughts are triggered by an email from an old Spamalot alumni Jimmy Ludwig, who writes:

I’m running the ING NYC Marathon in November for the 4th time, but this year for charity; so what prompted this? A few months ago, I saw this post from a friend of mine who lives in LA:

“On the plane back from Mexico, the stewardess handed us two customs forms and said “One per household. One per family. If you live at the same address, you only need to fill out one.” Arriving at immigration, a married man and woman walked up to the officer’s booth when summoned, they showed the officer their passports and customs form and moved along. We were then called. I walked with Michael to the booth and was told by the officer to “Stand Back behind the line!” I said, “We are married. Just like that couple ahead of us.” “Stand back, sir! Behind the line, or I’ll call security!” I said, “But we are married. We filled out one customs…” “Stand back sir, or I’ll call security. We only recognize Federal marriage law.” I stifled my anger as I was forced to fill out a second customs form and told to go to another booth to process my customs declaration. My face was red with embarrassment, frustration, and anger as I realized that my marriage is not a marriage, my husband is not my husband, and my country will never be my country – not until DOMA is overturned and there is a federal marriage equality law.”

This is DISCRIMINATION, pure and simple. So this year I’m running for Broadway Impact in support of Marriage Equality – and I’m asking for your support. Follow the address below – you can click thru and donate right online, and your donation is tax deductible. Thanks everyone. Much love to all – let’s make stories like this History instead of news.

You betcha Jimmy.  Let’s make Sara Palin illegal as well as redundant.


Irritable Bastard Syndrome

By , May 24, 2012 12:32 pm

I have been suffering for years from IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (my wife thinks it should be called Unpleasant Old Bastard Syndrome) which was like waking up with a rat in your intestines.  It made me cranky, irritable, and quite unnecessarily rude to friends, family and colleagues.   I consulted many fine doctors during this time, and ended up on enough medications to kill a horse, some of which ameliorated the symptoms, but none of which effectively ended my daily torment.    So when my friend Jane Tani recommended I go see Dr. Matt, an Oriental medicine practitioner in Canoga Park, I was prepared to try anything.  Amazingly, he told me he could cure me in a day.   Though my son practices oriental medicine and acupuncture, and I have enjoyed the relief he has given me with his needles, I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical when Dr. Matt rapidly brought out a series of vials and lightly touched several acupuncture points, deep in thought.  Other vials he would shove into the crook of my thumb and forefinger, and again lightly touch the acupuncture places, making notes the while.  Then he leaned back.  “First of all” he said, “you have a sinus problem, which is causing the irritation in the bowel.  This is caused by mold in your home.  Secondly you have been travelling a lot and jet fuel is the worst thing in the world for the sinuses.  So I am going to give you some herbs, and you will rinse out your nose every few hours with nasal spray, and you will change your diet, no raw foods, only cooked vegetables, rice, light protein, far less fish (I don’t eat meat) and you will drink a ton of water and you’ll feel better in a day.”

I felt better in ten hours.   What convinced him, he said, was I had just returned from Mexico City where I had felt much better.  Mexico City, with the worst pollution on the planet!  An expert confirmed his diagnosis:  there was mold all over my home.   I had to throw away all my old carpeting, lay wood floors, clean all the curtaining, gouge out the old lead tiles, destroy the mold hidden in the walls, change my mattresses and pillows, and repaint with anti-allergen paint.   The best tip that Dr. Matt gave me was that on waking you must drink a large amount of water, because your lungs dehydrate overnight,  and when you moisten the lungs they produce large amounts of oxygen which gives you energy to wake up.  Skeptical as always, I tried it and, gentle reader, it works!   Now I no longer need a bucket of tea in the morning, I just swallow the water and start writing.   It’s great.   Similarly in the day if you feel you are flagging, chug-a-lug some water.   It’s life changing I tell you.   So if you’re a victim of IBS you might want to check out his web site:   It’s changed my life.   I’ve got it back.

Now I have Saintly Old Bastard Syndrome.




By , May 15, 2012 5:53 am

I’m in black tie downtown at the Gala Opening of Essa-Pekka Salonen’s final season conducting the LA Phil.    The wife is looking gorgeous, all dolled up.  We are elated.  We have just watched Essa-Pekka conduct Stravinsky’s Firebird.  I say watched because amazingly and astoundingly and astonishingly at the climax of the piece real fireworks burst out inside the Disney Hall.  That’s right  INSIDE!    When did you last see a firework display inside a beautiful wooden interior?   It, and he, and them were astounding.  So we were pretty damn excited as we followed the expectant crowd towards the grub tent to grab a glass of champagne.

We are yakking away excitedly when a young woman in black pushes between us and in the rude way of a certain kind of journalist thrusts a small micro-cassette in my mouth.

“I’m from the New York News” she says. “What did you think of the event?”

Let’s skip the magnitude of the lack of manners and say I am in a magnanimous mood and so I regale her with three or four minutes of extempore appreciation of Los Angeles,  the LA Phil and The Disney Hall. How cities like humans grow up – they take time to mature and now the Disney Hall is a jewel in the diadem of LA – allowing culture to grow and mature,  for people in this great city to enjoy the fruits of civilization.  Things that New Yorkers, for instance, take for granted.

I’m like that.  I say things like that.  It wasn’t bad.  A bit overlong.  Clooney would have looked better doing it, but all in all I felt the premise was good, it was well argued, cogent, and probably even true. I felt ok with it.

“Would you mind repeating that she says?”


“My recorder is playing up” she says.

Her hand never shifts from the small black thing thrust at my mouth.

I breathe deeply.  I hate repeats.   What did I just say?   Oh well.  I try again.  This time I manage to extend my thesis of the life growth of cities, through adolescence, into maturity and senescence, using examples like Vienna coming into maturity with Mozart and London’s cultural rise, and because incredibly I have been here through that time span, I recall how LA use to be a hick town with two-story buildings and no high rises and no restaurants after nine, but how the Olympics changed all that and now with the downtown renovations and the diadem of Disney Hall and the blessings of etc etc.   At least five minutes.   Clooney would have nailed it.  It wasn’t a repeat.  It was an expansion.  I had grasped the theme, expounded it, expanded it and brought it home.

She looks at me and frowns.

“I’m sorry.  Will you say that again.”


I am not a patient man.  My wife will testify to that.  I don’t happen to believe that Patience is a virtue.   It’s certainly nothing I have ever suffered from.  In fact, I think Impatience is a virtue.  Especially when faced with folly.

I look around for help.   My wife, my normal rescuer, is deep in conversation with Michael Gorfaine.   For once she doesn’t notice my dilemma.

“No.”  I say to the woman in black.   “I’m sorry.  That’s it. I need a drink.”

I leave her and head for the bar.

Unbelievably she pursues me.

I ignore her as politely as possible while I order another glass of champagne, but she will not be shrugged off.   She is banging away at her little black micro machine.  Once again she thrusts it towards my mouth.

“Will you say what you just said again?”

I can be quite firm.   Even severe.  There are danger signals.  Even comedians have been known to back off.   I am already annoyed.

“No” I say.   “I said it twice, that’s it.”

“It’s my machine” she says.   “It’s because Mercury is retrograde.”


“Mercury is retrograde.”

“Psycho babble bollocks” I say, beginning to become angry.

“It’s true.  Mercury is retrograde.”

“And that affects your tape machine?”

“Oh yes” she says.  “See.  It’s not working.”

“And you attribute that to the apparent view of the trajectory of a planet inside our orbit?”

I can be quite cutting.

“Oh yes,” she says, “most definitely, it’s because Mercury is retrograde.”

“That is the most stupid superstitious bullshit I have ever heard” I say quite forcefully.

I think for the first time she notices I am a bit upset.

“Or the batteries have died,” she says.