Even if you‚Äôve watched Monty Python‚Äôs 1979 Biblical satire, ‚ÄúLife of Brian,‚ÄĚ a skillion-and-one times and thus know by heart the song for which Python member Eric Idle named his ‚Äúsortabiography‚ÄĚ ‚Äď ‚ÄúAlways Look On the Bright Side of Life‚ÄĚ (Crown Archetype, 304¬†pp.,¬†‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ out of four)¬†‚Äď¬†you probably should reacquaint yourself with Idle‚Äôs song before starting his book. ¬†
The first reason is because it‚Äôs funny. The second is that the song comes up a lot throughout this affable, leisurely and occasionally enlightening tour of a full and, generally, happy life. Punch up the song in your head or on your computer while we list five things you learn from Idle‚Äôs book, beginning with a question:
1. Does the world need another book about Monty Python‚Äôs Flying Circus?
Idle kind of raises this not-bad question in citing¬†‚Äúmemoirs, diaries, books about the Pythons, books by the Pythons about the other Pythons, articles about the books about the Pythons, countless interviews, autobiographies, documentaries‚Ä¶so many documentaries‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
You get the picture. But Idle presumes, correctly, that there‚Äôs still a lot we don‚Äôt know about him as opposed to say, Sir Robin, the nervous knight he played in the 1975 spoof, ‚ÄúMonty Python and the Holy Grail,‚ÄĚ which almost 30 years later provided the foundation for Idle‚Äôs Tony-winning hit musical, ‚ÄúSpamalot.‚ÄĚ
So Idle, 75,¬†keeps the focus on his own life with other members of¬†the zany British comedy troupe¬†‚Äď the late Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin ‚Äď¬†along with the rock stars, movie directors and dozens of others who fly into his orbit.
2. A classic Graham Chapman story,¬†Bavarian-style.
The Pythons were once asked to come to Germany and make a comedy special for Bavaria TV.¬†After arriving in Munich, the guys were spirited off in cars and, for reasons still obscure to Idle, were whisked to Dachau, getting lost along the way and, thus, arriving at¬†the erstwhile concentration camp so late that they were told it was about to close. ‚ÄúTell them¬†we‚Äôre Jewish,‚ÄĚ Chapman said. Which apparently was enough to get them in. ‚ÄúLuckily,‚ÄĚ Idle adds, ‚Äúthey let us out again.‚ÄĚ
3. And the award for Eric Idle‚Äôs Best Rock Star Friend goes to‚Ä¶
George Harrison, a devoted Python fan, who helped Idle research his 1978 fake-Beatles TV mock-u-mentary, ‚ÄúThe Rutles: All You Need Is Cash.‚ÄĚ He also paid the entire $4.5 million budget for ‚ÄúLife of Brian‚ÄĚ because the controversial subject matter scared off other potential investors and producers. ‚ÄúI wanted to see the movie,‚ÄĚ Harrison explained. Observes Idle: ‚ÄúIt is still the most anyone has ever paid for a cinema ticket.‚ÄĚ
4. You can‚Äôt have a bright side without a dark side.
Harrison‚Äôs death in 2001 and its immediate aftermath strike¬†some of the saddest and most resonant chords in the book, whose latter section also takes time to mourn some of Idle‚Äôs other absent friends, notably Robin Williams, whose own comedic genius is recounted in shrewdly observed short takes. Chapman‚Äôs earlier death, in 1989,¬†is also recounted with both melancholy and wit, which is about as much a summation of the human condition as anything could be.
5. For meanness, pettiness, envy and other¬†‚Äútell-all‚ÄĚ memoir elements‚Ä¶look elsewhere.
Idle has no interest in settling scores because he apparently has none to settle. What you see in ‚ÄúAlways Look‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ is what you get: A very funny Englishman with a wicked sense of humor, a long and happy marriage and, despite intimations of mortality that crop up now and then, a sunny, agreeable disposition.
¬†To quote from one of Idle‚Äôs more legendary Python routines: Say no more. ¬†
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2QoAgMy