Eric Idle OnlineMy Life

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




What Has Obama Ever Done For Us?

By , January 27, 2016 6:43 am

Brothers and sisters, for eight years we have labored under oppression.   I mean, what has Obama ever done for us?

Well he did save us from the greatest recession since the Great depression…


Yes Reg. The country was in a right mess after Bush when he came in and prevented the total collapse of Wall Street.

That’s right he did do that Reg. He bailed out the Car Industry so that GM and Chrysler are now thriving.

And created ten million more jobs.

Alright I grant you he did save the country from the Bush Depression, and bailed out the Car Industry, and prevented the collapse of Wall Street but apart from saving the country financially, what has Obama ever done for us?

Saved the housing market from total collapse…


Reduced the deficit by 2/3rds from 98% under Bush to 2.9%..

Oh and he restored America’s reputation in the world..

That’s right.

Ok. But apart from saving the housing market from total collapse, and reducing the deficit by two thirds, what else has he ever done for us?

Health Care.

Oo yes Reg, remember when we couldn’t afford to go to the Doctors.

Well ok I grant you affordable Health Care for everyone is a good thing but, apart from restoring respect for America, and bringing in affordable Health Care, what else has Obama ever done for us?

He ended the disastrous war in Iraq.

Oo yes.

Alright that is a good thing I grant you..

And killed Bin Laden.

That’s right.

And got rid of Gaddafi.

And Mubarak.

Alright, alright. Apart from ending the disastrous Bush War in Iraq, killing Bin Laden and supporting the Arab spring, what has Obama ever done for us?

Climate change?

Gay marriage?

Stem cell research.

Oo yes remember when Bush wouldn’t allow that.

And he did get rid of the Bush torture policies.


Record stock market highs.

School nutrition.

The Iranian nuclear deal.

Oh alright but apart from getting rid of the Bush torture policies, saving us from the Great Depression and the collapse of Wall Street, bailing out the Car Industry, pulling us out of the disastrous war in Iraq, killing Bin Laden, gay marriage, climate change, Cuba, stem cell research, school nutrition and Health Care, what has Obama ever done for us?

He prevented Sarah Palin becoming Vice President.

Oh shut up!


Used by kind permission of John Cleese.


The Writer’s Cut

By , September 24, 2015 12:47 pm

Los Angeles. January 2003

Steve Martin says that the problem with fiction is you’ll be happily reading a book, and all of a sudden it turns into a novel. You should hear the way he says that. “It goes all novelly.”   He’s a hoot, Steve. He cracks me up. It’s the way he says things. “Alllll novelly.” But it’s true isn’t it?   That is the problem with novels. They are so palpably fiction. Maybe we’re a bit sick of plots with stories and characters, the usual bull. Oh she’s going to end up in bed with him. He’s going to do it with her. They’re all going to run away and join the navy… After all we’ve been reading books for centuries and watching movies and TV for years, and we’ve sat through hundreds and thousands of tales by the time we’re adults, so we know all about plot twists, and sudden reversals of fortune, and peripeteia  and all that Aristotelian shit they cram into you at college. But real life doesn’t have a plot, does it? It just kinda rambles on.

So that’s what I set out to write. A reality novel. A novel about a Hollywood writer who is writing a novel about a Hollywood writer writing a novel about Hollywood.

Wait, it’s more than that. I did that just to make you laugh. I am a gag writer. I can never resist a cheap laugh. It has cost me dearly.

I’m calling my novel The Writer’s Cut. It’s a Post Ironic title, because it’s something you’re never going to see. No one ever releases a movie that is the Writer’s cut. They’d sooner put out the Caterers’ cut or the Craft Services’ cut, or the Valet Parkers’ cut. We’re in the Post Ironic age. With Reality TV we have gone way beyond irony. Same with politics. We’ve got a clown in the White House and nobody laughs.

The Writer’s Cut is going to be very contemporary, in structure, in style and in content, with heavy sex scenes, natch, because that’s what sells today. I am going to put myself in my novel of course. That’s what people do these days. Like everyone else I want to be a star. I want to be on television and hold up the cover of my book. Why not?   Some people want to climb Mount Everest, some people want to dress up as chickens and wrestle. It’s all good in the Post Ironic age.

It isn’t going to be a long book. Long books are over. Long books don’t sell. We live in the age of the sound bite. Short, sharp, bittersweet. It’s a tittle-tattle tale of life on the streets and between the sheets of Hollywood, with lots of sex and stars. Quite scandalous in fact. I’m taking one or two liberties with the truth, of course, because a writer’s life isn’t that interesting.

Got up. Wrote. Had a crap. Wrote. Went back to bed. Got up. Wrote. Had a headache. Couldn’t think of anything. Drank.

Actually a writer’s life isn’t at all interesting, though I did once get my girlfriend Tish to pose naked for me while I was writing. Why should only painters have nude models, right?   I figured a writer’s model might help me write something extraordinary. So Tish slipped off all her clothes and laid her long beautiful body back on a sofa while I turned on my laptop.

I got nothing written.

I guess painters have more discipline.


What About Dick, synopsis.

By , September 21, 2015 7:49 am

What About Dick?

               A Comedy for Comedians

                              By Eric Idle

with Music and Lyrics by John Du Prez and Eric Idle

The play is narrated by a Piano (Eric Idle) which tells the story of Dick (Russell Brand) the undergraduate nephew of Aunt Maggie (Tracey Ullman) an amateur dipsomaniac and fan of The American Happy Boy, a new gadget which helps relieve female hysteria.


In a flashback Sergeant Ken Russell (Jim Piddock) of The Royal Scots Gays, a cross-dressing British regiment sent to guard the back passage to India, tells the story of a mysterious Piano found by Lord Darling (Tim Curry) on patrol in Shagistan in 1898 following the invention of a little rubber toy by Deepak Rushdie Obi Ben Kingsley (Eddie Izzard), which he predicts will make males sexually redundant and the Hudson Rubber Company a fortune.


On the eve of Drag Night, the head of the British Rubber Company is found murdered and partially chewed. During the Ball the British are attacked and massacred by the Shagnasties, leaving only three survivors: Deepak, the Piano and Sgt Russell who has been entrusted with a last request from Lord Darling, but who, in the violent confusion of the battle, has lost his memory and forgotten what he promised.

Meanwhile in England in 1910 the Reverend Whoopsie (Tim Curry) finds the very same Piano on a beach in Norfolk and decides to give it to The Working Classes, whom he adores. Next night a very handsome working class boy, Leonard Bastard, (Russell Brand) though a useless pianist, wins the piano, much to the annoyance of Dick’s cousin Helena (Sophie Winkleman), who steals the Piano by diverting the delivery cart to Kensington.


Pursued by Lennie and Enid (Tracey Ullman) his awful wedded wife, The Bastards demand the return of the Piano. Enid recognises Henry Hudson (Eddie Izzard), a married Rubber Ware Salesman whom Helena’s sister Emma (Jane Leeves) is in love with. In an unfortunate scene Enid reveals she is an Ass Reader, and in a touching duet with Lennie, they sing of the great benefits of Ass-trology.


The Police arrive in the person of Inspector McGuffin (Billy Connolly) a virtually incomprehensible Scottish sleuth, who demands the return of the Piano. As a favour to Emma, Henry Hudson hides the Piano by sending it to Trevor Howard’s End, his country cottage in Norfolk, and offering Leonard Bastard a job in his accountancy department. He invites Emma for the weekend but next day she is surprised on the train by Whoopsie, Aunt Maggie, Helena and Dick who have all come along to chaperone her. Despite this, Emma is intimate with Mr Hudson, but sadly they are interrupted by his wife dying loudly, something we learn she does every day.

The visitors pass an idyllic afternoon in the countryside, Mr. Hudson poisoning rats, Helena playing the Piano while the others take walks and look at the farm machinery, until Dick is discovered missing. Still absent at Dinner time they wonder whether to call the Police when Inspector McGuffin arrives accusing Helena of stealing the Piano. Leonard Bastard arrives in the nick of time to say he has given Helena the Piano in gratitude for the job she has arranged. In a Scottish musical interlude Inspector McGuffin sings an incomprehensible Scottish ballad about a Lonely Trout, before being asked to get on with it. He reveals that Dick has been attacked in the woods and is in a coma and cannot speak.  He may remain in his coma for months. Whoopsie says there is only one thing to do: they must all go to Italy at once….


After a song about Italia! they arrive in Florence at the Pensione Berlusconi to be welcomed by Signor Berlusconi (Eddie Izzard) who gives them a room with no view and is extremely rude to the Piano movers (Jim Piddock and Eric Idle). Helena is excited by the arrival of her Piano, and the sudden appearance of Leonard Bastard, who has walked all the way to Italy to see her. Shockingly they begin to play a duet, a married man of the working classes playing unchaperoned Beethoven in public with a young unmarried middle class girl, to the scandal and chagrin of Whoopsie and Aunt Maggie.   Obviously they must all come home at once.


Meanwhile Hudson reveals to Emma that his wife is really dead, accidentally poisoned by rat poison, the Rubber Company is bankrupt thanks to Leonard Bastard speculating against the price of rubber, and he must leave immediately to become a Butler in the West Country.   Since he has given her an Emotion, Emma (Jane Leeves) decides to join him as a Housekeeper.


Dick recovers his memory when it is learned that Aunt Maggie is his mother by Lord Darling, and they hasten to find the Ass Reader, only to find too late she has been murdered by the Houndsditch Mutilator.


At Darling Hall, Lord Darling announces to Hudson, now his Butler, that there is to be a Nazi Party that weekend. The Countess von Kunst (Tracey Ullman) arrives and demands a Piano. Hudson is surprised by the sudden arrival of the Piano, and the appearance of Deepak and the others. The Countess is about to sing a Nazi song when Inspector McGuffin arrives to arrest Hudson for mass murder.   Emma is pregnant, the Butler is hanged, Lennie and Helena are married and have lots of little Bastards while the Piano is bought by Elton John and plays on his greatest hit, which in conclusion they now all sing.  So the play ends, if not well, at least finally…


Eric Idle