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Merkel Tapes

By , October 29, 2013 5:12 pm

NSA Transcript   MOST Secret 54/6AT/900042/367bb 10/17/ 13

10.42 a.m. CET

VOICE:                       Chancellor.

SUBJECT:                  Ja.

VOICE:                       It’s Steffen.

SUBJECT:                  Steffen I’m busy.

VOICE:                       Angela, this is urgent.

SUBJECT:                  Surely it can wait till the Security Review this afternoon?

VOICE:                       I’m afraid not.

SUBJECT:                  But I’m on a call to Hollande.  He’s such a schmuck.   He thinks if you can’t cook

it or schtup it you should cut it.    That’s his economic policy.  He’s such a dork…

VOICE:                       Madame Chancellor I have to warn you….

SUBJECT:                  He’s so dumb he couldn’t find his ass in the dark on his own.  Luckily he’s French

so he doesn’t have to.  (Laughs loudly.)

VOICE:                       Madame Chancellor….

SUBJECT:                  I’d give him a dildo for his birthday but he’s already married to one…(laughs.)

VOICE:                       Stop talking!

SUBJECT:                  Vas?

VOICE:                       Shut up already. I’m very sorry Madame Chancellor, but this is not a secure line.

VOICE:                       This is my cell phone Steffen.  You gave it to me.  You’re telling me it’s not secure?

VOICE:                       That is what I’m saying.  You are being tapped.

SUBJECT:                  By whom?

VOICE:                       The Americans.

SUBJECT:                  Scheissdumbfer (incomprehensible.)You’re telling me nice Obama is tapping my cell phone?

VOICE:                       NSA.

SUBJECT:                  Americanskimittelschmerzscheiss….  (incomprehensible obscure German slang,

                                     involving dogs, pork and a football team.)  

VOICE:                       Be careful what you say Angela.  Look what they did to Strauss-Kahn.

SUBJECT:                  Scheiss.

VOICE:                       I’m bringing you a new phone.   Destroy that one.

Hang up.  

NSA Transcript   MOST Secret 54/6AT/900042/367bb 10/17/ 13 10.51a.m. CET

VOICE:                       Gentlemen Anonymous.

SUBJECT:                  Can I speak to Jean-Marc?

VOICE:                       Who is this?

SUBJECT:                  This is….uh..Fifi.

VOICE:                       Fifi baby!   What’s up?   I’ll get the KY.

SUBJECT:                  Nein.

VOICE:                       You sound tense.

SUBJECT:                  Tense?   I’m furious.

VOICE:                       Jean-Marc knows how to relax you liebchen..

SUBJECT:                  Not now.

VOICE:                       Surely Fi-fi has time for a quickie?

SUBJECT:                  Nein.   This has to stop.   It never happened.

VOICE:                       But what about last week when I was the Butler and you were taking a bath

and I brought in a new loofah and you asked me to scrub….

SUBJECT:                  Halt!   Stop!  That never took place.

VOICE:                       But you said it was the most relaxing phone sex you’d ever…

SUBJECT:                  Nein.   That was not me.  Someone stole my phone.

VOICE:                       You still owe me 2,000 Euros…

SUBJECT:                  Goodbye Jean-Marc.

Hang up.

NSA Transcript   MOST Secret 54/6AT/900042/367bb 10/17/ 13 10.55 a.m. CET

SUBJECT:                  Mr. Cameron?

VOICE:                       Madame Chancellor.    Have you heard the latest one about the Republicans?

Apparently Jesus visited their caucus and they asked him to stop being

so negative about the rich, and not to bang on about the sick and the poor.

SUBJECT:                  Stop.  I have to warn you..

VOICE:                       Then they asked him to turn the water into Tea!

SUBJECT:                  Listen.   David.  This is a heads up.  The Americans are tapping my phone.

VOICE:                       You’re kidding.

SUBJECT:                  Perhaps they’re tapping yours.

VOICE:                       Whatever for?

SUBJECT:                  Trust me.  You may only be British Prime Minister but even you are of interest to the NSA.

VOICE:                       Wow.  This is just like the Murdoch days.

Hang up.

NSA Transcript   MOST Secret 54/6AT/900042/367bb 10/17/ 13 10.58a.m. CET

VOICE:                       This is the White House.

SUBJECT:                  This is the Head of the German Democratic Republic….

VOICE:                       The Government is currently shut down.   All calls are being diverted.

Please leave a message.

SUBJECT:                  This is Angela Merkel and you had better bring a ton of Obamacare pronto

because this lady is going to make the Iron Lady look like the tooth fairy.

Thatcher could be a bitch but you have no idea what I can do you

verfuchtenscheisse… (incomprehensible German slang.)   This is what I think of you.

Toilet flush.

Transcript ends.




America The Half Beautiful

By , October 14, 2013 9:07 am

Carl Reiner on Twitter last week, worried about the current Government shutdown, said this was cause for great concern in the world’s leading democracy.  And I thought, leading?  Who’s following?    The answer would appear to be no one.

After one of the recent school shootings a young mother said to me, “What must you think of us?   You must think we’re all mad.”     Mad certainly, but not all of you.

Half of America seems to be entirely enviable, movies, books, TV, arts, liberal democratic institutions, great centers of learning and research, gay marriage, social freedoms, etc. etc.

The other half does seem to be, well, nuts.

Currently you appear to be almost in a state of civil war.    If one party can shut down the government then the social compact to rule is broken.  In most other democracies this simply could not happen.   In the UK for example, the Government would dissolve and the Prime Minister would call for an immediate general election, which would be held within three weeks. (Yes that quickly.)  With your fixed terms you do not have this benefit.  You must limp on to the next overlong election cycle and then waste a whole year of execrable television and billions of dollars on it.  This is a very expensive and not very flexible system of democracy that no one else wants to follow.

The Mad Haters Tea Party throws everything overboard, not just the tea.  The Captain, the crew, the ships dog… Pirates could hardly do worse.

It seems especially perverse that people purporting to be Christian, a religion that vows to help the poor and heal the sick, should be so violently against helping the poor and healing the sick.  Followers of a religion that preaches forgiveness and turning the other cheek, demand the right for the outright insane to own more and more weapons.   Nuts, I’m afraid.

Now some people get very angry when a non-American like me dares to talk about America.   “Well piss off then, go somewhere else” they say.  Forgetting that we who live amongst you are the ones who like you the most, and if you don’t listen to what we think then the Ostrichization of America will continue.  Bend over, head in sand, hand on heart, salute flag.

The great thing about America has always been your ability to rally round in difficult times, especially under attack and create new solutions to modern problems.  Of your current state The Founding Fathers would be horrified and terrified.  Nobody asked the Mothers.  You may need to re-evaluate.  The Constitution may need updating.  It’s not the Bible.   Then, neither is the Bible.

We need you to prosper.  You can rule the world, or you can ruin it.  Time to wake up.   We really need you.

Pretty please.

All You Need is Cash

By , September 18, 2013 11:58 pm

Alan Smithee is the fictitious name the Director’s Guild put on movies when the Director has been fired, or has been so badly recut he wants his name taken off.  It becomes an Alan Smithee film.   It says “Directed by Alan Smithee.”  The Guild is a powerful union and does not want films going out with no Director.   Producers might get ideas….

I was playing the eponymous Alan Smithee in An Alan Smithee Film (written by Joe Eszterhas) when the Director Arthur Hiller came up to me.

“I’ve just had a terrible thought” he said.  “If they fire me this will become an Alan Smithee film.”

They did.

Joe Eszterhas removed Arthur Hiller, recut the movie and it became a genuine Alan Smithee film.

He changed the name to Burn, Hollywood, Burn!

The critics agreed it was one of the worst films ever and in 1998 it won a Razzie  (The Oscars for Incompetence) for Worst Film of the Year.

I felt sympathetic to all concerned.

It is terribly difficult to cut documentary into successful narrative form.   The consummate master is Scorsese, who has done it not once but three times:  once with George Harrison, once with Bob Dylan, and once with The Band in The Last Waltz.    He has an uncanny sense of form.  To reveal the bones of narrative structure beneath the endlessly changing skin of random commentary, this is tough.  And it is by no means inevitable.   Sometimes, like Oakland, there is no there there.  Certainly Joe Esterhaz was unable to find it, amidst the jumble of material he inherited, because he was trying to be funny as well.  I know how hard this is because I think we managed it (just) in The Rutles, thanks to the co-directing skills of Gary Weis,  the editing skills of Aviva Slesin, and a bit of me.   To be funny, and to tell a story and be a documentary.  Tough.

So perhaps it’s time for a little tip of the hat to The Rutles,  the documentary that is still going strong since 1978.  The little train that could, that came 76th in that week’s ratings, after an unnecessarily cruel mauling by a TV critic,  Frank Rich, who as a favour to a friend panned it in The New York Times the day before it was shown.  A guaranteed audience winner!    And yet here we still are.  And where is that week’s episode of Charlie’s Angels?

Now magnificently after 35 years it is coming to Blue Ray in a glorious package that includes tons of new interviews, and my follow up documentary Can’t Buy Me Lunch, which contains some of my favourite Gary Shandling gags ever.

Some brave Canadians have stumped up their last Looney’s to put this out and so you may find me shamelessly promoting it on Twitter.

It makes an excellent present.   Nudge nudge.

Eric Idle

(aka Alan Smithee.)

The Rutles Anthology is released in the US and Canada on November 19th.

I’m Just Wild About Harry

By , August 31, 2013 1:16 am

Fifty years ago today I made my first professional comedy debut at The Edinburgh Festival.  It was August 1963 and I had miraculously received a telegram somewhere in Germany where I was hitch hiking ordering me to report immediately to Cambridge for active service.   That year’s Footlights Comedy Review, called puzzlingly A Clump of Plinths was being taken into the West End by Michael White under the more commercial title Cambridge Circus leaving a hole in the Footlights commitment to the Edinburgh Festival.   The telegram was from Humphrey Barclay, he, myself, Graham Garden and David Wooderson were to replace Cleese, Oddie, Chapman, Brooke-Taylor and co, using their material, on stage in Edinburgh in three weeks.

No problem.   Cambridge during the long vacation is as nice as it ever gets, the sun shone, it was the sixties, idyllic times when the girls skirts were beginning their plunge upwards and their pants downwards.  We lay in punts and drank Pimms and wrestled with bra straps.   Well not quite.  We rehearsed like hell on the tiny stage in the little Footlights club above smelly MacFisheries and suddenly found ourselves in a freezing, cold water flat, six stone stories up somewhere in Edinburgh.

The Cambridge Theater Group never thinks small.  A character called David Missen had conspired a theatrical first for the University players, the Cambridge actors were going to put on a world premiere, of a previously unheard of play by Henry Miller.   Not Arthur Miller the playwright.   Henry Miller the novelist.   It was called I’m Just Wild About Harry and featured quite a lot of rude behavior and a midget.

This World Premiere was to take place in an old chapel.  We had two weeks to turn it into a theater.  Not only that but they were building a revolving stage to accommodate the many changes of scene.  It’s quite difficult to turn a chapel into a theater in two weeks.  Stage, wings, auditorium, all had to be built by Cambridge amateur volunteer set builders.   The flats themselves were enormous and all had to be built of canvas on plywood frames, stretched and painted.   It was all hands on deck.   By night we Cambridge Footlights were to put on our black tie review, funny sketches and songs sung by me and played by Jim Beach (now manager of Queen) on the piano, with a full English Lord on drums.   Since our show was ready to open we were expected to give a hand in the making of this World Premiere, which involved taking small parts in the play itself, but more exhaustingly staying up all night painting scenery and generally helping to turn a House of worship into a Playhouse.

We were young, there were girls sharing this freezing walk up cold water walk up flat, the Beatles were constantly on the radio and whisky was readily available.   So somehow, with several overnighters we managed to construct the stage and the revolve and mount the huge flats, but we had had no time for even a signle a technical rehearsal.

Missen, already a master of PR, contrived a reason to delay this long anticipated world premiere of Henry Millers only play.   The Edinburgh watch committee had objected to certain dirty words and actions they proposed performing on stage,  so Missen announced that we would not go ahead with this censorship without the authors permission.  It wasn’t much but it was good enough to contrive a reasonable reason to delay a day for the Festival Press,  so that we could call Henry Miller in California and tell him his work was being censored and what did he feel about it?  This was all concocted of course.  But suddenly Miller himself was on the phone and Missen was explaining the problem and we all sat around in awe that Henry Miller was actually on the phone.   He really didn’t seem that concerned.   This amateur production of an old play was hardly a big deal for him.  OK, we said, if you really don’t mind slight cuts we will go ahead tomorrow.

The dress rehearsal was a shambles, but the Footlights Revue opened immediately afterwards and we were our usual glittering selves.  We had all the material of Cambridge Circus at our disposal, and many classic sketches and songs.  We killed.   The London critics raved.   Harold Hobson, the big wheel chair bound panjandrum from the Sunday Times said “they attract admiration as effortlessly as the sun attracts the flowers.”  The audience went nuts, we were an enormous hit.   Now for the Actors opening night premiere.

All went well with the first scene.  I was on stage with lots of others doing some comedy business up a ladder, the midget was a professional and knew her lines, the scene passed.  Then came the revolve.   It refused to budge.  No matter how hard we all pushed the stage was jammed.   Eventually after a grinding twenty minutes the second scene slowly hove into view.  The London critics crammed into the first six rows of seats waited patiently holding their pencils poised.  The second scene went rather well.  Now came the time to revolve the stage into the third scene.   Chaos.  A series of stuttering juddering moves, resulted in the huge flats beginning to topple.  They wavered, they tottered, they leaned dangerously and then slowly began to fall like a pack of cards, knocking each other over on to the front six rows of London theater critics, who picked up their pens and dashed for the rear of the hall and safety; all save one, the world famous critic Harold Hobson, who was stuck in his wheel chair as the set collapsed into the seats all around him.  Mercifully he survived.   The play didn’t.   I think we did a token read of the second Act but it was dead.  Off.  Never heard of again.   Jonathan Lynn and John Shrapnel went on in Waiting For Godot the next night.

The Footlights continued to stun.   But I’m Just Wild ABOUT Harry was gone.  And the director of this debacle, one Stephen Frears, who would go on to better and more successful things….