By Eric Idle

Crown Archetype


290pp/$27.00/October 2018

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Cover by Michael Morris

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 1980, Graham Chapman published A Liar's Autobiography: Volume VI to present a fictionalized version of his life, focusing on his time with Monty Python, but also discussing his life away from that comedy group. Eric Idle's own addition to the collection of Python autobiographies was released in 2018 with Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, named after one of the most popular songs Idle wrote while he was with Monty Python. Subtitled a Sortabiography, Idle appears to stay pretty close to the truth, or his recollection of it, rather than including completely fictitious aspects of his own life.

For many readers, the focus of the book will be on those chapters in which Idle discusses his work with Monty Python, and he doesn't skimp on details, discussing the creation and run of the television series, the various movies and their various reunion performances. Idle talks about the group dynamics, noting that any individual Python had full veto project over any project, and specifically calling out a time when he exercised that veto power. His recollections of the group dynamic mesh well with what other Pythons have said and, although the group didn't always get along and had closer alliances among certain members, Idle clearly has affection for all of the members. He also gives the impression that in addition to Spamalot, he was the driving force in making sure that many of their later reunions occurred.

Idle spends quite a bit of time talking about his relationships with various other actors and producers. He describes how they have helped propel his career, such as Lorne Michaels suggesting that if he allows NBC to produce The Rutles rather than the BBC, he would receive a much larger budget. It also seems as if Idle spends most of his waking time lounging on the beach in the Caribbean, although he makes it clear that he gets quite a bit of work done there, networking with other people who can help him and writing in the islands. When compared to his early life attending school in a former orphanage, the lifestyle he managed to aquire seems practically a fantasy.

Idle's personal life also comes into play. He describes his first marriage to Lyn Ashley and takes responsibility for many of his failures that led up to their divorce, although he also passes those failings off as a boys-will-be-boys mentality, claiming that all men are like that until they learn better, which he did by the time of his second marriage to Tania Kosevich, which has now lasted for 40 years. In discussing his marriages, he also alludes to his two children, one by each wife, without going into too much detail about either of them, although he does discuss visiting his son in Australia.

Although in general, Idle keeps the tone light, there are a couple of places where he captures true emotion, most notably the chapters in which he discusses the deaths of George Harrison and Robin Williams. While their fans suffered a sense of loss when each of those men died, Idle was long-time friends with both of them and has shared stories of those friendships. In Harrison's case, those stories include a reminiscence of visiting the former Beatles' house in the aftermath of the brutal attack on Harrison and his wife two years before his death.

In all, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life feels very much like a monologue by Eric Idle. His references to the films and television shows he worked on, from his bit parts on At Last the 1948 Show to Monty Python Live (Mostly) will make the reader want to pause in their reading to spend some time watching Idle's performance and the skits and songs he has created over the years. Idle has produced an informative and entertaining autobiography that helps readers understand the man who created so many classic pieces of comedy.

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