Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

by Eric Idle

Paper Book, 2018

Status

Available

Collection

Publication

New York : Crown Archetype, [2018]

Description

"From the ingenious comic performer, founding member of Monty Python, and creator of Spamalot, comes an absurdly funny memoir of unparalleled wit and heartfelt candor"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member DavidWineberg
Eric Idle doesn’t seem to know anyone who isn’t famous. Everywhere he goes or lives, the famous turn up as neighbors or partiers. If The Rolling Stones knock on the door at midnight, it’s just another night wherever the Idles happen to be. Elvis Presley a huge fan who imitates Monty Python characters in bed? Par for the course. Getting married in Lorne Michael’s midtown apartment followed by the reception at Paul Simon’s place, or living in Dan Aykroyd’s Bowery loft – just business as usual. How about having dinner with Billy Connolly and Prince Charles calls and asks if could come over and join them. George Harrison wants to pop in for the Lumberjack song. It is endless. It even seems like everyone he went to school with became a prominent celebrity. They all helped each other achieve stardom. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, indeed.

It reminds me of the Peter Cook-Dudley Moore sketch Bloody Greta Garbo. It’s too absurd to be remotely true, but that’s the life of Eric Idle. He says.

This collection of memoirs is about as positive as anything can be. Idle got break after break, got swept along to bigger and better things and was continually invited to new ventures, where he succeeded to great acclaim his first time out, be it sketch writing, film, opera, records or Broadway. Oh. And everyone adores him.

Idle loves adding adjectives before names. Everyone is amazing or wonderful, excellent or brilliant, fantastic or incomparable. The whole book is gossipy, teenage fandom style.

All the time-worn stories the other Pythons tell are here, uncontradicted. How they pitched their TV series without a script, treatment, plan or even a name. And were instantly given the go-ahead for 13 episodes. At least they had to battle the establishment: “We didn’t know what we were doing, and insisted on doing it.”

The Idles are never idle for long. Everyone is constantly inviting them to vacations in the South Pacific or the Caribbean, lending them houses in the south of France or Mustique or London or New York. David Bowie was kind and generous. So was Mick. And Robin. Most of all, George Harrison. There is not one mention of a fabulous get together at the Idle home.

As you can tell from the title, the main achievement of his was the song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life that he wrote for Monty Pythons’ Life of Brian. It has become a part of life around the world. It is the number one piece played at funerals in the UK, for example. Sports fans sing it loud when their team is losing. What would Spamalot have been without it? It’s the Greensleeves of the 21st century.

As Idle explains early on, there is an unending shelf of books, documentaries and products keeping the Monty Python myth alive. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is certainly one of them.

David Wineberg
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LibraryThing member BillieBook
I would have enjoyed this much more without all the name-dropping. I mean, I get that celebrities know other celebrities, but they also know and interact with "normal" people and I would have loved to hear more stories about those people, about the mundane bits of life, about who Eric Idle is when he's not Eric Idle. Still, an amusing way to pass the time.… (more)
LibraryThing member tgraettinger
Enjoyed it a lot, much more than another of Idle's efforts, "The Greedy Bastard Tour". It was refreshing to read his thoughts about so many of his collaborators over the years - and he universally praised them and was very grateful to them.
LibraryThing member ErickaS
I grew up watching Flying Circus, and loved it, even though I was really too young to understand or decipher the accents (“Spam” notwithstanding). I’ve passed my love of Monty Python onto my kids, even visiting Doune castle to buy coconuts and recreate Holy Grail (with my daughter playing Terry Gilliam, I as Graham Chapman), like thousands of other daft tourists.

Your face will ache from smiling while reading this, and it’s chock full of name-dropping, which, TBH, is everyone’s secret shameful reason for reading a celebrity memoir (AmIRightAmIRight – NudgeNudge!) And there are lots of photos, which I appreciated. This book made me laugh out loud while I was sneak-reading at my kid’s Open House at his elementary school. Whoops.

I loved all the anecdotes of Eric hanging out with famous people, and the backstory of how many sketches came to be. I even learned about some projects of his that I was unaware of, having been unfortunately born too late (stupid 1975) and in the wrong country (stupid Yank) to encounter many of them on the BBC. I paused many times while reading to get on YouTube and catch up.

Eric’s kind heart is obvious, as shown through his endearing friendships with George Harrison and Robin Williams, not to mention all the Pythons. He’s had a rich life full of love and good friends. Laughter really does bring people together. I’d love to hang out with him sometime. I’ll even supply the booze.

If you love Python, or saw the title of this book and began to whistle, or just know him as the guy from the Figment ride at DisneyWorld, you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s entertaining, hilarious, and insightful. Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Penguin First to Read for the advance copy in exchange for my review.
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LibraryThing member nmele
This "sortabiography" by Eric Idle had me laughing out loud, and not at the recycled Monty Python's Flying Circus jokes. Worth a read.
LibraryThing member icolford
From extremely humble origins in small-town northern England … enduring a childhood marked by misfortune … toughened by years of hard knocks at public school where irreverence, a cheeky attitude and an ability to make people laugh ensured his survival … then on to Cambridge University, where he discovered his love of preforming and a genius for comedy, and where he made contacts that would change the course of his life … The unlikely story that unfolds in Eric Idle’s genial “sortabiography,” Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, is bracingly candid, often self-effacing, reassuringly humane and always entertaining. Many people reading the book will, of course, be on the hunt for naughty gossip about Monty Python’s Flying Circus and inner-circle revelations regarding the creation of the group’s surreal and audacious brand of sketch comedy. Eric Idle doesn’t disappoint but he also doesn’t devote disproportionate space to the five years of the series’ run, though certainly the outlandish success of Python made everything that followed possible. What we discover in these pages is that there is much more to Eric Idle than Monty Python. We discover a man who is truly grateful for the success that, against the odds, has come his way, one who acknowledges that he has often been absurdly lucky, and someone for whom friendship is a sustaining force on a par with food and drink. Idle writes eloquently and with compassion about his many creative partners and all the other people, some of them famous, whose support and encouragement helped steer him through the bleak times. We finish the book with the impression of a supremely gifted, highly intelligent, multi-faceted performer who after fifty years in show business still possesses the resolve to make things happen and the energy to get the job done. Covering everything from WWII to a meeting of the surviving Pythons in 2017, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is as inspiring as it is enjoyable.… (more)
LibraryThing member theWallflower
I'm of two minds about this book. On one side, it's a dull narrative of celebrity encounters. He tries to be humble about hanging out with rock stars like the Rolling Stones, the Star Wars cast, various Beatles, and all the various women and drugs he did and slept with.

On the other, it's Eric Idle, one of the leading Monty Pythons. A progenitor of modern humor. Is it witty? Intelligent? British? Charmingly droll? Most definitely.

I figure, unless you're a Monty Python fan, there isn't a lot you'll get out of this book. But you won't know who Eric Idle is unless you're a Monty Python fan anyway. So the question becomes, will you enjoy it if you are?

And the answer's yes. It's not a quick book, and there isn't much about Monty Python therein. It includes the origins and the aftermath though. And really, you've probably already seen all that Behind the Scenes already, so there's no need to repeat it. There sure is a lot about his relationship with the book's title. One could say it's partly about that famous song as much as its author. Ellie Kemper's biography was a little punchier, but not as much stuff in it.
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LibraryThing member hhornblower
Eric Idle has always been my least favorite Python. Which isn't to say I had antagonistic feelings towards him; he was extremely funny member of an extremely funny group of guys. It was more the impression I built of him since I first learned of Monty Python in my early teens in the 80s. He was the one Python that never seemed to have moved on, always seemingly trying to milk that gravy train for just a few dollars more. He just always came off as a bit smarmy; which is probably why, the more I think about it, he always seemed to play the smarmy sycophants in the original series. He was just playing to type.
Well, this book does nothing to change my opinion of him; in fact, I harbor a much diminished opinion of him after having forced my way though this self-serving pile of garbage. This really isn't an auto-biography, he really doesn't provide much detail of his formative years. Yes, there is the growing up poor, going to boarding school, getting in to Cambridge and becoming a member of the Footlights, sure, but nine tenths of the book is spent talking about who all the wonderful famous people he has ever encountered are. From all that I've ever read about him George Harrison was a very nice, thoughtful person, but do I really need to know that he gave Eric a jukebox for Christmas? Every Python fan has heard the story about how George financed The Life of Brian because he wanted to see it, but do we, again, need to reminded of that fact 4 different times? How the Rolling Stones, and The Who, and Pink Floyd are just a bunch of wonderful people and they just love comedians and let's all spend time lounging in the Caribbean together. That's all this book is, all the people he's ever met and how they all just love him and he loves them all.
I have never allowed myself to not finish a book (except for Grapes of Wrath assigned to me freshman year in high school). I know that life is too short to spend time on something you're really not enjoying, but I don't want to give up hope that just maybe it gets better. I almost threw the book across the room once I got to the chapter on how he met David Bowie (and what a wonderful person he was).
Then he gets to Spamalot (see above regarding milking the gravy train) and how everybody loved it and all the stars that attended opening night, how Eddie Izzard had to take a night off his European tour to fly in to attend. Then how horrible it was when he didn't win a Tony award for best book of a musical. Oh the horrors!!
Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm worried about how I might react the next time someone mentions "Always look on the bright side of life." Sure, it is a very funny song (many of the songs Eric has written are funny), but it seemed at times that he wouldn't allow himself to complete a paragraph without mentioning the song at least once (the song does take up half a page in the index, so there you go).
Speaking of indexes, if you are at all famous, don't bother reading the book, you can just look yourself up in the index and save yourself the time.
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LibraryThing member GeoffHabiger
Eric Idle delivers a informative and entertaining look at his own life and his involvement in comedy, music, and film across 70 plus years. If you are a fan of Eric's from his work in Monty Python, or any of his many other works, then you will be delighted as Eric recounts his own story. From his earliest days in a boarding school for orphaned boys, to college and starting out in comedy skits, to his time with Monty Python and the many years afterwards, you are given a detailed and fun look into Eric's life. I liked learning about his work as a comedian, and his time spent with the other Pythons, but I really enjoyed his recounting of his friendships with people such as George Harrison, Robin Williams, and others. Eric may be best know as a member of Monty Python, and his song Bright Side (first sung at the end of Life of Brian) has become an international sensation sung at football (soccer) matches and even at funerals, but learning about Eric's work after Flying Circus and the Python movies really made this book stand out. While still coming back to their seminal work from Flying Circus in reunion tours and special events, Eric shows you how varied and different the rest of his career has been.

I highly recommend Eric's "sortabiography" for anybody who is a fan of Monty Python, or who has a love for comedy and entertainment. You will be entertained, and maybe learn a few things. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Eric, and if you have a chance I recommend you read this book in that format. Having Eric narrate, sing, and do the various voices added a new level of entertainment to his story.
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