Famous Like Me > Actor > I > Eric Idle
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Profile of Eric Idle
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||29th March 1943
|Place of Birth:
||South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England, UK
Eric Idle (Born March 29, 1943) is a comedian, actor and film director, as well as an author and accomplished guitarist/songwriter. He wrote and performed as part of the Monty Python team.
Eric was born in South Shields, County Durham, England. Idle's father had been in the Royal Air Force and survived the Second World War, only to be killed in a car crash shortly afterwards. His mother had difficulty coping with a full-time job and raising a child, so at the age of seven she enrolled him into the Royal Wolverhampton School as a boarder.
The school had begun life as a Victorian orphanage and during Idle's time it was a charitable foundation solely dedicated to the welfare of orphans and semi-orphans. Its pupils, who were mainly the children of dead English soldiers, still referred to it as the 'Ophney'.
"It was a physically abusive, bullying, harsh environment for a kid to grow up in," Idle is quoted as saying, "I got used to dealing with groups of boys and getting on with life in unpleasant circumstances and being smart and funny and subversive at the expense of authority." All this turned out to be the perfect training for his future career.
Idle stated that the two things that made his life bearable were listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes and watching the local football team, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite this he disliked other sports and would sneak out of school every Thursday afternoon to the local cinema. He was eventually caught watching the X-rated BUtterfield 8 and was stripped of his prefectship, even though by that time he was headboy. Idle had already refused to be the senior boy in the school cadet force as he was a keen CND supporter and had been on the Aldermaston march.
Idle maintains that there was little to do at school and boredom drove him to work hard. He consequentially won a place at Cambridge, where he met other members of the groundbreaking British comedy team Monty Python. Unlike the other Pythons, who wrote in pairs (Cleese/Chapman and Palin/Jones), Idle wrote alone. His work was often closely associated with long, complex speeches or catchy one-liners. Amongst the many Python sketches written by Idle is the "Nudge Nudge Wink Wink" sketch, the title of which has become a catchphrase.
Eric Idle attended Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge, where he studied English. At Pembroke College he was invited to join the prestigious Cambridge University Footlights Club by fellow Pembroke College students, the then 1963 President of the Footlights Club, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Footlights Club member Bill Oddie.
"I'd never heard of the Footlights when I got there, but we had a tradition of college smoking-concerts, and I sent in some sketches parodying a play that had just been done. Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie auditioned me for the Footlights smoker, and that led to me discovering about and getting into the Footlights, which was great".
Eric Idle became President of the Footlights Club in 1965. Other Monty Python members of the Cambridge University Footlights Club were John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
With regard to the other Monty Python members, both Terry Jones and Michael Palin attended the University of Oxford, while Terry Gilliam attended Occidental College in the United States.
During the 1960's period, the combined comedy students of both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge became known as the Oxbridge Mafia.
Further information regarding this, and about Eric Idle, can be found in the following books:
- From Fringe to Flying Circus - 'Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy 1960-1980' - Roger Wilmut, Eyre Methuen Ltd, 1980.
- Footlights! - 'A Hundred Years of Cambridge Comedy' - Robert Hewison, Methuen London Ltd, 1983.
(The preface for "Footlights!" was written by Eric Idle).
His skills as a singer-songwriter were also put to use in his work with Monty Python, having written the majority of the songs featured in their television series' and films. These include "Eric the Half-a-Bee", "The Philosophers' Song" and probably his most recognised hit "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", which was written for the closing scene of the film Life of Brian, sung from the crosses during the mass crucifixion, as something of an antidote to Death. When a clip of this song was used as part of a jingle by Simon Mayo on the Radio 1 breakfast show in 1991, it was re-released to much acclaim, and reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart. It later became a staple football chant. He also was in the prologue for The Meaning of Life which contains the following:
- There's everthing in this movie-- everything that fits.
- From the meaning of life in the universe to girls with great big tits.
- We've got movie stars, foreign cars, explosions and lot...
- Filmed as only we know how... on the budget that we've got.
- We spent a fortune on locations and quite a bit on drink...
- And there's even the odd philisophical joke... just to make you buggers think.
- Yet someparts are as deep and serious as you could wish.
- But largely it's all tits and ass and quite a lot of fish.
- Other bits are frankly childish and some are frankly rude...
- But at least we've got a lot of nice girls all banging in the nude.
- So take your seats, enjoy yourselves, and lets just hope it's funny.
- Because it's not just done to make you laugh... but to make us lots of money.
- Yes, sit back and have a good time with your boyfriend or your wife.
- Relax and just enjoy yourselves... for this is The Meaning of Life.
In the seventies he also had the role of editor of the Monty Python 'boks' (sic). Recently, he released a book, A Pocketful of Python, of some of his favourite sketches from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and some of his favourite passages from their books. These include sketches written by Idle himself, and also sketches which were written by the other Pythons.
Idle has written several books, both fictional and nonfictional. His novels are Hello Sailor and The Road to Mars. In 1976 he produced a spin-off book to Rutland Weekend Television titled The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book. In 1982, he wrote a west end farce Pass The Butler, starring Willie Rushton.
He also wrote the book and co-wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, Monty Python's Spamalot, (based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail). It premiered January 9, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois before moving to Broadway, where it received the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004-2005 season.
In a 2005 poll to find "The Comedian's Comedian," he was voted amongst the top 50 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.
An example of Idle's idiosyncratic writing is "Ants in their pants" - a poem about the sex life of ants. It starts as follows:
- Where does an ant get its rocks off?
- How does the ant get it on ?
- Do ants have it away, say three times a day,
- Is it once a week sex, or p'raps none ?
Eric Idle played one of the four members of the pre-fab-four 'group' The Rutles, which was a parody of The Beatles. The 'group' was created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes, and the Rutles' film "All You Need is Cash" was written by Eric Idle, with music by Neil Innes. Eric Idle appeared in the film in the role of "Dirk McQuickly" (the Paul McCartney character of the 'group').
The Rutles originated on Rutland Weekend Television, a sketch show on BBC2, written by Idle, with music by Innes. RWT centred on "Britain's smallest television network", situated in England's smallest county, Rutland.
Idle had a more sporadic career in the eighties, appearing in the films Nuns On The Run and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. In 1982, he also wrote a west end farce Pass The Butler, starring Willie Rushton.
He later took part in the English National Opera production of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Mikado, in which he appeared in the role of the "Lord High Executioner".
He played the voice of Rincewind in the first two Discworld computer games, along with a couple of minor characters. He was also the lead vocalist in the song "That's Death" in the opening of Discworld II.
Idle appears as the host of an "Inventor of the Year" awards show in the three-dimensional film Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, which has been an attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Epcot since 1995. The film also stars Rick Moranis and most of the other members of the original cast of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
He is also the narrator in a series of commercials for Aquafina bottled water.
He had a voiceover part in an episode of the Angry Beavers called "Dumbwaiters".
He has appeared on The Simpsons twice as a famous documentarian.
He voiced Dr. Vosknocker in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
He also played the Evil Martin in The Secret Of NIMH 2: Timmy To The Rescue.
He wrote the book and lyrics to the Tony Award-winning Spamalot, a musical "rip-off" of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
He appeared in The Transformers Movie.
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