Eric Idle

Active - 1966 - 2019  |   Born - Mar 29, 1943 in South Shields, Durham, England  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The "matinee idol" of the motley Monty Python crew, Eric Idle attended Cambridge University, where he served as president of the Footlights Revue. Idle's fellow college troupers included future Pythonites John Cleese and Graham Chapman. After getting his start on such TV series as Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Frost Report, Idle served as performer and co-writer for the zany weekly series Monty Python's Flying Circus. He remained a loyal Python throughout the group's many film, TV-special and book projects. On his own, Idle has co-starred in such films as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989), Nuns on the Run (1990), Mom and Dad Save the World (1992), and Casper (1995). One of his best screen showings was his sidesplitting bit as an accident-prone cyclist in National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985). Among Idle's contributions to American television was his star turn as snobbish ghost Grant Pritchard in the 1989 comedy/fantasy series Nearly Departed. He starred in the 1990 farce Nuns on the Run, and three years later wrote and starred in the comedy Splitting Heirs. He continued to appear in various projects, often lending his voice to animated works like Quest for Camelot, The Secret of NIMH II, and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. He directed a second Rutles movie in 2003, and that same year appeared in the documentary about the tribute concert performed after George Harrison's death.

He narrated Ella Enchanted in 2004, but the next year he would have one of the biggest successes of his career when he masterminded Spamalot, a smash-hit Broadway musical that reworked Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He appeared in the documentary The Aristocrats, and voiced Merlin in Shrek the Third. In 2011 he was one of the many pepole who discussed his relationship with George Harrison in Martin Scorsese's documentary about the former Beatle.

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  • Following his father's death during World War II, attended boarding school at The Royal Wolverhampton School from the age of 7 on.
  • Met future Monty Python members John Cleese and Graham Chapman through Cambridge's Footlights comedy club; became club president in 1965 and was the first to open membership to women.
  • Was the only Monty Python member to write sketches alone, rather than with a partner.
  • Made his directing debut in 1978 with the made-for-TV Beatles parody The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash.
  • Has released several books, including the novel Road to Mars (2000) and the travelogue The Greedy Bastard Diary: A Comic Tour of America (2005).
  • Revived the big-screen comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) with the creation of Spamalot, a Broadway spinoff that won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005.
  • Turned Life of Brian into an oratorio titled "Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)" (2007) for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, whose conductor is Idle's cousin.