Eric Idle OnlineMy Life

Seventy Not Out

By , March 28, 2013 10:56 am

So there it is then.  Three score year and ten.  Done and dusted.   Except that nowadays thanks to modern medicine, and better diets, we can all expect to exceed the Biblical speed limit.

Seventy is the new black.

All sorts of people wanted to talk to me on the occasion of my Seventieth birthday, as if for all the world I was having a Parade down the Thames or launching a new Product.  Even the silly old Daily Mail wanted to interview me, as if they haven’t done enough damage to old friendships.  Thankfully John Cleese and I have taken a lot of care to repair the harm they did to our relationship and I don’t care to give them an excuse to revive a story they invented in the first place.  Python’s at War!    Really?   I’ll tell you what a war is sonny.   I was born during a war.  A motherfucker of a war.  By March 29th 1943 Great Britain had struggled through three and a half long years of an impossible war against Hitler.  The nightly aerial bombardment of cities, the terrifying U boats sinking convoys of vital food,  the sense of isolation that we stood alone against a Continent entirely enclosed by Nazism.  We should never have survived, but thanks to the indomitable will of Winston Churchill we fought on alone, until eventually Hitler declared war on the US, a few days after Pearl Harbor.  Only then could we be reasonably hopeful of survival.   Still another two more years of terror and terrible bloodshed would pass before Hitler finally committed suicide in his Berlin Bunker.  Then the nightmare years of the Cold War, Stalinism throughout much of devastated Europe, the Iron Curtain, the Nuclear Nightmare of the arms race, and at home, rationing, shortages and devastated bomb sites everywhere.

And you think your world is bad!

Oh no, the internet is down…..

It’s as though I was born on a completely different planet.

  • No food.   Spam for meat and food rationing until we were ten.
  • No TV.    I didn’t even see it until the Queen’s coronation in 1952.
  • No computers of course.  Not till 1990 did I get mine.
  • No internet.
  • No Cell phones.  Actually no phones at all.
  • No videos or recording devices of any kind.
  • No cars.   I didn’t own one until I was 24.
  • No India.  Until 1947 partition.
  • No Israel.  Until 1948.
  • No passenger flights.  (See Luftwaffe)
  • No Space flights.   (Except for incoming Rockets fired by Werner Von Braun.)
  • No Satellites.
  • No Black Holes.
  • No immense Universe.  We are still scrambling to understand just how big the damn thing is.
  • No Dark Matter.
  • No sex.

Well a bit, obviously and not for me obviously because I was far too young, but there was quite a lot of sex during the war, or we wouldn’t be here.  Sexual liberation didn’t begin until the Sixties, which themselves didn’t begin until 1963.   They too were late.  And the Sixties are over rated.   Everyone seemed to be having a much better time than me.  Still they brought us all the fun things like rock ‘n roll, and drugs, and of course The Pill freed young women from the terrors of abortion and unwanted pregnancy, only to face them with the terrors of randy young toads like me, fresh out of 12 years of Boarding school.

It was all a very long time ago and I shan’t bore you, or even disgust you, with my memories.  I’m just a grateful customer of consumer planet Earth.

This isn’t an Award show but I’d like to thank (cue playoff Music) my wife, my son and daughter, my ex-wife, my family, my in-laws, my many friends and my Python colleagues.  In fact everybody except that short, twisted little bastard suing us…(Mercifully the music brings him to a close.)

It’s been a great time and I have enjoyed myself.

It is still an amazingly unlikely privilege to be born on this planet.  I treasure it every day.

Thanks for the memories.

Thanks for the ride.

And thanks to all you Fans, Trolls, Tweeters and Bloggers for all your kindness and good wishes.

Pope Eric of Redditch.



The Tudors

By , March 22, 2013 11:03 am

I was intending to publish some more Unfinished Business but I got hung up on an Unfinished Novel I wrote (some 36,000 words) which needed a polish before I shared it with you.  Now of course I’m deep into the damn thing.  It’ll be awful if I finish it.

Anyway to keep my three loyal readers happy I thought I’d share a lyric I have been working on.  It’s from the non-existent musical Rack of Ages by Irving Boleyn.   It’s not quite finished but you get the drift..

The Tudors


No one wooed like the Tudors

Or screwed like the Tudors

Or rudely chase girls in the nude like the Tudors

No one as rude as the Tudors

Or as crude as the Tudors

Or came quite so quickly unglued as the Tudors.


No one ever had such a bad attitude

They exude turpitude and ingratitude

Nobody ever behaved quite like that

They’d chop off your head at the drop of a hat

They were proud they were loud, they were vain they were mean

One hysterical pregnancy, one virgin queen.

Their quarrels were frequent

Their morals were low

But nobody ever dared to tell them so


No one dared boo the Tudors

Or dared sue the Tudors

Or, except in the bedroom when bare, screw the Tudors

Heads were hewed by the Tudors

Thumbs were screwed by the Tudors

Who was ever in such a bad mood as the Tudors?


The Borgias were gorgeous but not on a par

And don’t even think of a drink at their bar

They made killer cocktails which went far too far

But compared to the Tudors who do they think they are?


Girls were used by the Tudors

And abused by the Tudors

And accused of adulterous views by the Tudors.

First amused by the Tudors

Then confused by the Tudors

Their intimate body parts bruised by the Tudors


The Caesars were geezers

Who killed just for fun

The Romans read omens

And killed by the ton

But compared to the Tudors they weren’t number one


To conclude with the Tudors

Not one dude since the Tudors

Has ever produced such a brood as the Tudors

No one chewed, as the Tudors,

So much food as the Tudors

Or brewed so much beer and then spewed as the Tudors

No one lewd as the Tudors

Could feud as the Tudors

Or had such a bad attitude as the Tudors.

Wives accrued by the Tudors

Lives rued by the Tudors

No one so psychologically screwed as the Tudors!



Unfinished Business

By , March 15, 2013 11:02 am

Chapter One:  Memoirs of a Fax Hunting Man

What do the following have in common?

The Unforgettable Syd Gottleib. 

A film producer so hated there was advance booking for his funeral.

The Writer’s Cut.

The first novel ever written in colour.

A Victorian Musical.

The First Film Ever Made, a feature film shot in Victorian times, recently discovered behind a wall in an old vault in the basement of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

They are all projects I wrote which never saw the light of day.

Like all writers I have trunks full of things which never were.  Some for good reasons.   Some for bad.  I have learned a lot over the years. I have been lied to, stolen from, cheated, misled, robbed, screwed and betrayed, but this is not a tale of revenge, for I have also received some of the greatest support from some of the finest creative people on the planet.  This is a story of self-exploration not recrimination.

I’m interested in the art of art.

How do some things become wildly popular and others sink into the sand never to be seen?

Two tips:

1: Work Harder.

2: There is no such thing as bad work, only unfinished work.

I’m not a very good writer but I’m not a bad re-writer.   This is a most valuable skill and something I learned in my years as a Hollywood screenwriter, where I was paid a fortune to re-write films that were never made.

Another tip:  Persistence pays.

I discovered early, from the Monty Python film writing experience,  that if you put scripts away and then come back to them a few months later it is much easier to see what is wrong, what is not working, what needs cutting, what needs extending and what might be done to improve them.

For instance, the Monty Python film The Holy Grail in its original draft had only a few medieval scenes with King Arthur, but three or four months later it was obvious that this was what the entire film should be, and we dumped about two thirds of the first draft to create the second.

I always adopt this practice in writing.  Even this simple opening chapter has gone through many drafts and revisions.  Ars Est Celare Artem.   The art is in concealing the artistry.  That’s the motto of The Footlights, a Cambridge University comedy club founded in 1883, where I and many others first learned our trade.

Writing and doing.  It’s still what I love to do.  To go to your chair first thing in the morning with a blank piece of paper and a pencil and find what is lurking in the depths of your unconscious.  It’s fascinating.  I always compare it to fishing.   You never know what you’re going to catch but you must go regularly to the river bank and wait.

Once you’ve caught something there’s a secondary skill set in deciding what exactly it should be.  I have discovered that projects frequently morph into something else.  For instance:

The Road to Mars began life as an original screenplay in 1982, for Robin Williams, Dan Aykroyd and David Bowie, about two comedians on the road in the future and their adventures with a robot dresser (a 4.5 Bowie).   Science Friction I called it, and many years later (1999) it ended up as a novel about a robot, Carlton, trying to understand the nature of comedy, and write a thesis about it.  He discovers the great parallel force to Gravity is…..Levity.

The Rutland Isles started out as a mocumentary about a group of islands that didn’t exist: Revoluçion, Poluçion, Contracepçion, Paranoia, and the British West Rutland Isles: Flagg, Scab, Muck, and Dull.  A series parodying TV travel documentaries and documentarians with their breathy voices:


Coconut palms, white sand beaches, gentle roll of the surf, tropical breezes gently lift the fronds.


He is a very silly man with glasses and unruly hair.


Ever wonder where comedy came from?   Where rock and roll began or who invented the French?   The answer is right here….

He points to a bit of sand.

….in the legendary Rutland Isles.  In the next hour we shall show you the cradle of shopping, the birthplace of dental hygiene, and the home of the multiple orgasm.  We shall take you to a magic land where barter is still a way of life….


A tradesman with a stall has a large female customer.  She is holding a camel.


Norm you got change for a camel?


How much does she owe you?


About half a dog.


I can give you two parakeets and a frog.   Or can you break a goat?


Several man are preening, some women are “shopping.”


…a faraway place where women come to buy husbands, and where the men are down by the sea fishing for compliments…..


Hello do you like my ass?


My legs are nice aren’t they?


How much for the pair of them?


Two donkeys and a rottweiler.



…and we shall show you the cradle of comedy…

A cradle. Parents watch admiringly. A tiny hand comes out of the cradle and gives them the finger.

And so on.

The Rutland Isles began as a TV series before unexpectedly becoming a Hollywood movie,  And Now This,  about a TV News Crew lost and adrift in a mysterious world.  Several drafts and many years later it ended up in 2003 as a CD of songs from the Rutland islands, which sold nearly twelve copies.

The Owl and the Pussycat  was an attempt by me and John Du Prez to write an animated musical for kids, based on the drawings and poems of Edward Lear.  We even got to pitch it to the legendary Stephen Spielberg though he kept going on about Barbara Streisand.  It finally ended up as an Audio Book for Dove, with about ten songs by me and John.  (Still available.)

Shopping we’re always happy when we’re shopping!

We’re always happy when we shop until we drop

In search of bargains we will never stop,!

When God created the Universe

He pulled out all the stops

First He created all mankind

And then She created shops.

The Life of Brian was of course a Monty Python movie, but then in 2005, for five drafts and nine months, it became a Broadway musical, before an unexpected and unanticipated Python veto brought it to a halt.  It ended up as an Oratorio: Not The Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy) that opened in Toronto in 2006 and after many performances including the Sydney Opera House and the Hollywood Bowl, was finally filmed at The Royal Albert Hall in 2009. (On DVD.)

The Remains of the Piano was first a film in the mid-eighties, a Merchant Ivory parody, and then finally became a live Radio Musical play from the Forties called What About Dick? which we filmed last year (2012).

I told you I was persistent.

And persistence pays off.

But not always.  For instance:

The Pirates of Penzance  was a Victorian musical movie, which I began writing in 1978 on a beach in Tunisia.   The original screenplay was printed in Victorian copperplate hand writing with full colour Pre-Raphaelite paintings and Victorian photographs.  It purported to be the first film ever made, only recently discovered in a vault at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  I not only did location scouts to Penzance and St. Michael’s Mount, and found my Pirate ship, I also shot footage of the British Army in their red coats and busbys marching down the Mall, and The Queen’s troop in Victorian hussars uniform firing off field guns in Hyde Park.

The Meaning of Life was first a Monty Python movie, then eight drafts and many lovely songs for a proposed Broadway musical called Spamma Mia!” and then nothing.

Death The Musical began life as Monty’s Requiem, a Requiem Mass for the soul of Monty Python (deceased), then Monty’s Vespers, a sung version of many of the most famous Python sketches turned into lyrics:

Is your wife a goer?

Know what I mean?

Know what I mean?

Know what I mean?

Your wife does she go eh?

Know what I mean?

Nudge nudge wink wink

Say no more.

It then lost the Python element and became In Memoriam, Albert’s Memorial, Closure (Five drafts)  Sadly Missed, Freddie’s Funeral, Just Passing Thru, Say No More! and finally Death and Shakespeare,  which contained a Shakespearian play in Shakespearian verse about the death of Shakespeare.

And now it’s still nothing….

All these musicals had some wonderful songs by John Du Prez and me, all fully demoed, before ending up orphaned in the graveyard of dead songs.  Some of them are really quite good.  But still they languish like lost maidens in a pond.

So persistence helps but a bad idea is still a bad idea.

The difficulty is you can’t always tell whether the idea itself stinks, whether it’s in the right form, or whether it simply hasn’t been done properly.

A writer’s lot is not a happy one.

So this is the story of orphans, a brief history of uncompleted projects, things that were never made, children who refused to grow up and leave the nest.

It’s been bitter sweet.  But that’s another chapter.

Washington ABC

By , March 11, 2013 11:00 am

A Primer

A for America Home of the Brave

B is for Boehner who looks very grave

C is for Congress who cannot agree

D is for Democrat, also DC

And E’s for Expenses which no one will see…

F is for Fiscal whose cliff is alarming

G is for Gun Control which is disarming

H is for House which is full of hot air

I is Iraq but we no longer care.

J is for Justice of which there’s a lack

K is for Kerry who has just come back

L is for Lobbyist, the systems afloat,

M is for Money which pays for the vote

N is for Nuclear and North Korea

O is Obama who was not born here

P is for President  who’s doing fine

Q is for quote, all the sound bites on line

R is Republican what a discovery

S is Sequester which threatens recovery

T is for Tea Party also for Trump

Whose hair was born here and who’s like Forest Gump

U are the unemployed of whom we don’t speak

V is for voting  (empowers the meek?)

W is Wall Street which cost us a lot

X is the mark, where we vote marks the spot

Y is for Youth who we hope will be heroes

When trying to sought out those billions of




Eric Idle