Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Book: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle

Idle, Eric. 2018. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography. New York: Crown Archetype.

This book practices what it preaches in the sense that it very much describes the bright side of Eric Idle's life, from growing up in an orphanage through Monty Python and on to, well, mostly more Monty Python, including Spamalot, various tours with John Cleese and on his own, various books, and the big reunion shows a couple of years ago.

It is clear that there have been some bumps along the way. Growing up in an orphange (or pseudo-orphanage as Eric technically was not an orphan, just someone whose father died in the war and whose mother was not up to being a single mom) for one, the divorce from his first wife, some business dealings gone wrong when the Pythons trusted people they should not have, and some drug and alcholol issues, serious enough to merit a decade-long abstinence at one point in late middle age. Yet the text remains always upbeat. For example, Eric cheerfully pleads guilty to letting the little head sink his first marriage, and seems genuinely sad about it, but there is no dwelling and no hand-wringing and no soul searching, at least not that the reader learns about. In that sense, it would hard for this memoir to be more different than, say, either of Craig Ferguson's. As another example, Eric is more or less explicit that some drug and alcohol excesses might well constitute a price happily paid for the chance to hang out with Robin Williams in his younger years.

Another thing that struck me was how well all the Pythons seem to get along. Eric reports that they have adopted a unanimity rule about all projects Python, and seem to have the humility and mutual respect to make that work.

Finally, it would be tough to understate Eric's prodigious name-dropping. One of my former colleagues at Michigan is noted for his name-dropping (so much so that it sustained an entire video at skit night one year) but my former colleague should be taking lessons from Eric Idle. There are Beatles, and Bowie, and Stones and actors and actresses and more music figures and the queen and prince charles and on and on and on. Eric has put his fame to good use on the social network front!

All that said, I had a lot of fun reading it, and learned lots of Python history, so it is surely recommended for Python fans.

Amazon book page
Barnes and Noble book page
I do not recall where I bought this one.

Addendum: It is really a memoir and not any sortabiography.

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