Eric Idle OnlineMy Life

Fuck Christmas

By , December 24, 2011 11:30 am

C Am7 Dm7 G7
Fuck Christmas It’s a waste of fucking time
C Am7 Dm7 G7
Fuck Santa He’s just out to get your dime
Em C Dm7 G7 C
Fuck Holly and fuck Ivy And fuck all that mistletoe
Bm7 E7 Am D9 G7
White bearded big fat bastards Ringing bells where’ere you go
Am Am7 Am6
And stupid pratts In Santa hats All going Ho Ho Ho!
C G7 C G7
It’s Christmas fucking time again

C Am7 Dm7 G7
Fuck Christmas It’s a fucking Disney Show
C Am7 Dm7 G7
Fuck Carols And all that fucking snow
Em C Dm7 G7 C
Fuck reindeer And fuck Rudolph And his stupid fucking nose
Bm7 E7 Am D9 G7
Fucking sleigh bells tinkling Everywhere you fucking goes
Am Am7 Am6
Fuck stockings and fuck shopping It just drives us all insane.
C Am7
Go tell the elves To fuck themselves
Dm7 G7 C
It’s Christmas time again.

c) Eric Idle & John Du Prez

In The Bleak Mid Winter

By , December 15, 2011 6:45 am

Most things have a natural life.

Even comedy.

Then they run out of things to say. They become repetitive. We grow tired of what at first seemed brilliant. Variations on a theme are not endless. What once startled by its originality, now seems stale. We have seen the trick.

There were only 46 Python shows. It remains amazing to me that even after forty years people still watch them. Interviewers always ask me why, as if, because I was a part of it, I must somehow know the reason for its longevity. I have two answers: it is the only show entirely performed by its creators (five writers and an animator), and it occurred right at the beginning of the Digital Era. Only by a fluke was it in color, six months earlier and it would have been in black and white looking as dated as the dodo. Fortunately its electronic digits still make it look vaguely recent. And not from another century. Which of course it is.

I also have a comic answer for US interviewers.

Why was Monty Python so successful in America?

Because it contains the two things Americans love most: tits and violence.

And it is certainly true that the occasional nudity was something that appealed to young boys growing up in the States watching network television. Look at the fuss there was even recently over a brief glimpse of Janet Jackson’s nipple. We like nipples. It’s our first experience of fast food. We British boys had to get our first glimpses of the naked female from National Geographic Magazine. I still expect breasts to be black. And it’s no good blaming men. Without men there simply wouldn’t be women. It is our capacity to shag anything that kept the birth rate high in times of evolutionary stress. It’s not our fault, it’s in our DNA. How else to replace the enormous losses we inflict on ourselves by warfare and repression.

I was in London for five days recently. It’s one of my favorite times of year, just before Christmas, with the streets packed with shoppers and the pubs packed with customers having a little Christmas drink. Carol singers round an enormous tree in Trafalgar Square, “O come let us adore him.” Revelers in Santa Costumes and cold, ah bitter cold.

In the bleak mid winter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone
Snow had fallen
Snow on snow
Snow on snow
In the bleak mid winter
Long long long ago.
Christina Rosetti

And of course that is the point of Christmas: it is the mid-point of winter. It is an ancient pre-Christian festival celebrating the solstice. As we sat shivering around our camp fires with our dwindling supplies of food, in frozen post Ice age Europe, singing Always Look On the Bright Side of Life, mercifully the sun started to return. Cheer up, we can break out some more reindeer to eat, put on red clothes and throw another yule log on the fire.

So let’s not pretend that God kept an oil lamp burning for eight days (not much of a trick if you are God) or that a Jewish girl had a virgin birth (now that is a trick) or whatever bollocks we’re supposed to have to believe. Let’s just celebrate ourselves, Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all men, and then back to business as usual.

I still switch on the Service of Nine Carols on Christmas Eve from Kings College Cambridge (thanks to NPR) and I picture the frozen fens, the grass rimed with frost, as the short boys in top hats, their breath streaming in the freezing air, make their way across the fields, over the arched bridge that brings them to the Chapel built by Henry V111th. And I like being able to say Christmas and not the currently politically correct euphemism Holidays, which as every British schoolboy knows, occur three times a year at Christmas, Easter and Summer. I’m still unsure what a Semester is. Can you imagine we called them things like the Michelmas Term? I am still confused by Grades. How old are you again at Second Grade, Fifth Grade? I have no idea. Why is a Commencement at the end of your academic lives?

So I was happy to be back in London when things felt good, in my favorite hotel, walking up St. James’s to my favorite bookstore. I can usually do two or three days of publicity and still remain cheery from the endless Python questions. A writer’s life is lonely, and it’s fine to get out now and again. And it gives the wife a break.

I was on BBC Breakfast TV in a dressing room next to Matthew Bourne who I adore, so I cornered him to tell him how much I love his work, and how much I wish he would bring his brilliance back to LA. His company used to come annually, but now The Ahmanson is shamelessly booked with endless try outs of Broadway musicals. Don’t we deserve better? Without decent theater we wither.

Watching the incredible Mark Rylace in Jezz Butterworth’s incredible play Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre, not only did I realize what I was missing from The Ahmanson but the hairs on the back of my neck rose, as a feeling stole over me of just what it must have been like in this same city to have watched Burbage perform King Lear for the very first time, and I made the simple and obvious observation that great acting has always been a part of great theatrical writing, that great plays have always gone hand in glove with great performances. So thank you for that Mark Rylance, even though apparently you don’t think Shakespeare wrote it!

The other guest on the Breakfast Show was Roger Moore, and he asked to meet me to tell me how much he loved Spamalot. He had been to see it in New York with Michael Caine and they had laughed themselves silly. And yes it was a silly Broadway musical, but it was supposed to be silly, and it ran for four and a half years and still tours and plays in various parts of the world, and mercifully is still touring the UK, which is why I am here, to help Ambassadors sell tickets. I popped down to the Three Mills rehearsals to hug the cast, many returnees at Brighton today for four weeks of Panto at The Theatre Royal including Marcus Brigstock, Jodi Prenger and Todd Carty and then off they go away on tour. Try and catch them. They will make you very happy. So good luck chaps, and I do hope the new lyric for the new song works out ok.

So let’s make Mark Rylance happy and support Peace Direct at
And thank you and Happy Christmas to you all.

Travel broadens the ass.

By , December 6, 2011 12:09 pm

My life is nuts. I always think I’m about to get it under control and then it gets away from me again. I should give up I know. That’s the trouble with being default OCD. You feel that somehow you ought to be able to control everything, but of course you can’t.

Take travel. This year I have flown round the world one and a half times since May, once completely around the world in forty days, and when I got home in October I thought ‘that’s it for a while. I’m going to kick back, slip off my capezio’s, loosen my girdle, hang up my bra and just relax.’ But oh no. First I had to go to Mexico to visit the Mexico City production of Spamalot, and when I got back from there my lovely mother in law passed away and we had to go to Chicago for her wake and funeral. I miss her, but as we keep telling ourselves she was 93, and she had had enough. The really annoying thing about death is you can’t talk to them anymore. And just for the record, I’m against it. I’m not against it for everyone; for some people I am absolutely in favour of death and the sooner the better, but for people I know and love, no.

So my ma in law, dear Algea was my second mother in law. My first was Madge Ryan, a fine Australian actress, and I still miss her too. But Algea was my ma in law for thirty four years and she always made it very clear that she thought I was a good thing. Not many people have done that for me so I always loved her. Plus she made me laugh. Always.

A lovely Italian lady, born in Chicago, Algea Falcone was married to my Russian father in law Alex for over sixty years. He passed away last December, so here we all are again, at a Chicago funeral home “viewing the body.” For an English boy this is something of a shock. Death was hardly mentioned in public when I grew up , though it was wartime and prevalent all around us, but “viewing the remains” was certainly not part of it. In Chicago it is a tradition, and people come by and bring sandwiches and snacks and socialize. The grandkids come too, though they are slightly pissed it’s Thanksgiving week and they don’t get to miss any school. It’s all kinda healthy I think. In our case, since one of my two brothers in law is a cop, there is a large police turn out. They really know how to support each other that fraternity, and the next day there is a huge twenty car procession from the Funeral Home via the Kosevich family home to the cemetery, and the cops stop all the traffic. I think she would have been surprised by all the fuss. I keep reassuring Tania that not to lose either parent until you are over sixty is fairly remarkable. What do you mean “over sixty” she says. And it’s hollow comfort anyway. An orphan is an orphan whatever age, and to lose your parents means one thing and one thing only: you are next. Not much comfort there.

Am I allowed to be funny? Will you think I am cruel and heartless if I tell you a story? It’s Tania’s gag anyway. We’re looking at Algea’s tiny figure lying in her casket, all dressed up and she is wearing a bright yellow designer jacket that Tania gave her for Christmas a few years ago. When she got it this is what she said “Oh whenever am I going to wear that?”

That’s funny isn’t it? Of course it was still in her closet and they had to remove the label but hey….

So we got back from that sad occasion on Thanksgiving Day and I thought ‘that is definitely enough travel, I’m in at least till Christmas.’ I should have known better. Ambassador Theater Group had plans for me. Would I like to fly to London and help promote the new tour of Spamalot? Would I hell. But wiser heads than mine prevailed so here I am in the American Airlines Bankruptcy Lounge waiting for the flight to Heathrow. I have to spend a week in London being interviewed, attempting to think of something fresh and new to say that will encourage the citizens of Brighton to lay down their twelve shillings and go and have a laugh at The Theatre Royal where it will play for five weeks as an alternative Panto. Then it heads back up North on the road where it is booked for the following venues:

Brighton – The Theatre Royal (15th December 2011 – 14th January 2012)
Liverpool – The Empire Theatre (16th January 2012 – 21st January 2012)
Oxford – The New Theatre (23rd January 2012 – 28th January 2012)
Grimsby – The Auditorium (30th January 2012 – 4th February 2012)
Woking – The New Victoria Theatre (6th February 2012 – 11th February 2012)
Torquay – The Princess Theatre (13th February 2012 – 18th February 2012)
York – The Grand Opera House (20th February 2012 – 25th February 2012)
Stoke-on-Trent – The Regent Theatre/Britannia Suite (27th February 2012 – 3rd March 2012)
Glasgow – The King’s Theatre (12th March 2012 – 17th March 2012)
Edinburgh – The Playhouse (19th March 2012 – 24th March 2012)
Birmingham – The New Alexandra Theatre (26th March 2012 – 31st March 2012)
Richmond upon Thames – The Richmond Theatre (2nd April 2012 – 7th April 2012)
Aylesbury – The Aylesbury Waterside Theatre (9th April 2012 – 14th April 2012)
Sunderland – The Empire Theatre (16th April 2012 – 21st April 2012)
Bromley – The Churchill Theatre (30 April 2012 – 5 May 2012)

So if you live in the UK and have twelve shillings and a groat’s worth of time and want a good laugh, break out the Cortina and head to the theatre. Maybe then I can stay home for a little longer.

December 5, 2011

Travels with my ass

By , December 4, 2011 8:03 am

Last month I was in Mexico City to celebrate what the Producer accidentally called “the one hundred thousandth performance of Spamalot, er sorry the one hundredth performance.” I was there to attend a gala performance to unveil a plaque celebrating this not quite so momentous achievement and to expose myself to the Mexican media where, I was assured, I was a bigger draw than Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The Producers met me in style, in a huge Cadillac SUV, with cream leather reclining massage seats, with a driver, a bodyguard and a translator, and as we drove into town I felt like the Kardashians. Fortunately they were nowhere to be seen.

They checked me into the Hotel Camino Real, a magenta colored hotel, with long wide corridors, virtually identical to the one we stayed in in Ixtapa while filming Yellowbeard in October 1982, almost thirty years ago. I was immediately filled with memories of that extraordinarily talented comedy cast, so many of whom have passed away since then: Graham Chapman, Spike Milligan, Kenneth Mars, Peter Bull, Susannah York, Harry Nilsson, the mighty Peter Cook, the hilarious Peter Boyle, the very funny Madeleine Kahn, Sir Michael Hordern, dubbed by Cook Hordern Monster for his superb display of shouting at the Front Desk, a performance, Peter said, that was even better than his Lear. Then there was the fabulous actor James Mason, and of course the much lamented Marty Feldman who died right here in Mexico City from a heart attack, which became fatal only because it was rush hour and the ambulance could not reach him in time. The traffic was crazy then, and now, thirty years later, it is totally insane. I am offered various estimates on how long it will take to get to the theater tonight, from twenty minutes to two hours, depending on the traffic. The Mexicans themselves use this as the perfect excuse to be late. Indeed the curtain is delayed twenty minutes as only half the audience have taken their seats. People are still walking in five minutes before the Intermission. Now that’s late on an Elizabeth Taylor level.

I’ve always found bad films more fun to be on than good films and god knows Yellowbeard is not something you should try watching by yourself, but The Making of Yellowbeard documentary is rather interesting, as the movie looks like it is going to be very funny.

“Everyone is laughing a lot,” says one of the writers on camera.

“That’s the kiss of death” says Spike Milligan presciently.

And indeed it did die a swift death, but it is worth watching the backstage stuff if only for the great Cook, who was on superb form until he finally succumbed to the Camino Royal mini bar and returned to his first love, alcohol.

Graham, however, was strong and fit and in full alcohol recovery mode, and he remained on splendid form, except for one mad night at a party when he crazily tried to leap in to the back of an open vehicle which David Bowie was driving away at great speed, injuring his leg quite badly, and almost shutting down production. Not a good move on your own movie. Fortunately he was a Doctor. David, who had had a few, showed up next day totally mortified.

Peter, though, was on superb form, bobbing up and down in the hotel pool asking strangely pertinent philosophical cosmic questions :

“We all know the speed of light, but what is the speed of darkness? “

“We know where the light comes from but where does the darkness come from?”

Questions we are still struggling with today.

At this point in his life he had given up drinking and one evening he suggested we needed to find some grass. I agreed to accompany him on this expedition, but where to begin?

“We shall find the nearest bordello” said Peter.

My wife gave me an old fashioned look, but, with his incredible charm, Peter reassured her I should come to no harm. Somewhat skeptically Tania agreed, so off we drove to the local whorehouse. It wasn’t far. A small door in a white-walled street led into a cantina, a square open to the sky with a band and a bar and lovely girls who were happy to dance, or there was a low cabana with discreet rooms if you wished to dance horizontally. There were tables for drinking and strings of coloured lights and when we entered it had the air of a private party where the guests had yet to arrive.

Peter was an instant hit. He ran in shouting loudly in cod Spanish, shook the hand of the barman, seized a beautiful tall girl wearing only a bright red bathing suit and began the most unimaginable shaking jitterbug boogie. The girls went nuts. They danced around him and he boogied with them all, flinging his arms around, his hair wild, occasionally sinking to his knees or exaggeratedly twisting low. One minute it was a slow night in a naughty night club and the next it was a one-man fiesta.

The whole place loved Peter: the band became animated, the barman smilingly shook his cocktails, people flocked in to watch, and every girl in the place was mad to dance with this crazy Englishman, who beamed goodwill and, yes dammit, innocence. It went on for hours with the band going nuts and the girls lining up to fandango with this wild spirit, but we were filming next day and as midnight approached I made my excuses and left. My beautiful young wife was waiting for me at the hotel, hard enough to persuade her we only went to score some grass without staying all night. My last sight was Peter leading a line of ecstatic ladies in a conga line. He waved cheerily, tapped his nose and yelled “No problem, Eric, we’re in…”

In the morning we learned what had happened. Peter had taken the tall girl in the bright red bathing suit back to her room. Once inside Peter asked casually if she had any grass.

“Of course” she said, and reached under the bed and brought out a huge load wrapped in newspaper. Peter asked her how much for it. She cited a derisory amount and the deal was made.

“I have to go now” said Peter.


She broke in to floods of tears. How could he possibly leave? Didn’t he think she was beautiful?

“I only wanted some grass” Peter explained as gently as he could, but she was inconsolable. It wasn’t a matter of money. It was honour. It was Mexico. It was her reputation. Poor Peter tried hard to convince her that honestly she really was beautiful, and normally he would have been torn up with desire for her but actually he had only come for a dance and some grass. He had, he said, to spend a long time reassuring her.

“Been easier to shag her” said Marty, getting to the nub.

Some thirteen years earlier the irrepressible Marty Feldman was on my honeymoon. I know that sounds weird but he and my then wife Lynn and his wife Lauretta were great friends and insisted we fly to Antibes, to lie on matelas (which I thought were French sailors) and order citron pressés (which I thought were French cars.) It was my first visit to the South of France, and incidentally the first week of Python filming, which I was permitted to miss. First things first.

Marty was always very supportive of Monty Python. And an hilarious chap. I once found him and Cleese in a street laughing their heads off. They had found two very attractive young ladies on their knees bent over searching the pavement.

“What are you doing?” they asked.

“We’re looking for a screw” said the lady.

Collapse of hysterical comedians.

So there are many ghosts with me on stage that night, as I unveil a plaque celebrating “one hundred performances” of Monty Python’s Spamalot. And let’s hope I’ll be back after another ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine…