Book Review: Eric Idle: Always Look on The Bright Side of Life

Posted: February 9, 2020 in Books

Always Look On The Bright Side

Eric Idle was born I 1943, in South Shields, in England.  His father was a member of the Royal Air Force, and died in an auto accident when Eric was a child.   Unable to cope with a full time job, and raising a child alone, his mother Norah enrolled him in a boarding school in Wolverhampton.  Eric studied hard and won a spot in Cambridge University, where he was part of the Footlights Club, and became president of the theatrical club, and he was the first to allow women in that club in 1965.  After Cambridge, he starred in a children’s show called Do Not Adjust Your Set, with fellow Pythons , Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam.  Graham Chapman and John Cleese often watched the show and thought it was very funny.  Cleese and Chapman asked Idle and the rest to join them on a late night show on the BBC in 1969, and Monty Python, one of the most influential comedy troupes in history was born.

I love Monty Python.  Monty Python and The Holy Grail is one of my favorite movies of all time and one of the best satires of all time.  I watched Monty Python’s Flying Circus regularly on PBS, the Spam sketch, the  Argument sketch, the Money Programme and so many other sketches radically affected my views on comedy for the better.

So I was eagerly awaiting this book, for insight from one of my favorite Pythons about insight into the inspiration behind the “Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink” Guy or the man behind the Rutles, but no such insight was forthcoming, and what followed was a rather bland, and only occasionally funny autobiography.  Always Look on The Bright Side read like a rather dry laundry list Idle’s accomplishments as an actor and writer, supplemented by a voracious amount of name dropping of famous people and exotic locales where he wrote and filmed. Idle name-dropped so much, he even joked about it, so certainly he was aware of what he was doing, but he may not have been aware of how off-putting the name dropping is to the general public.  There should have been much more to this book, but there is very little to recommend this book and that is disappointing.  A lot of people will buy this book because of fond memories of Monty Python and maybe some for his writing of the Rutles movie, but they will be disappointed by the impression left by the book that Idle is a big star, who chums around with royalty.  He only mentions Prince Charles, and hopefully he didn’t party with Prince Andrew.

There are chapters that stand out however, a chapter that speaks of George Harrison, the former Beatle and close friend of Idle’s, was particularly emotional.  It was enjoyable to learn how close these two were, and I learned a lot more about George Harrison by reading a book on Eric Idle, who would have figured that?  Harrison played a very important role in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, that even a devout Python fan, may not know about. Idle wrote a similarly laudatory chapter of fellow comedian Robin Williams after his suicide, that chapter was not as personal, but still heartbreaking.  He speaks glowingly of his second wife, Tania, who he’s been married to since 1981, he deserves credit for that certainly, and for speaking so eloquently about his love for his wife after nearly 40 years of marriage.

This could have been a very good book by a very good writer, instead it’s a mediocre book by a very good writer.

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life:  Not a good way to spend your idle time.

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