Interview with Eric Idle: Idle bastard

Idle bastard

Photo: Idle: keeping busy

Eric Idle will do Monty Python songs for cash

If you’re the first person to diss yourself, you leave the other guy with nothing to do but buy tickets. Eminem knew it during the last battle at the end of 8 Mile, and so does Eric Idle. His Greedy Bastard Tour 2003, after all, is named after himself. And slam, bam, thank you ma’am, before you can even think "rehashing Monty Python – ha!" a line in his very own press release goes, "… as long as there is an innocent nickel to be made from the gullible Python-starved public I shall be out there, dressed in silly frocks singing filthy lyrics." (Factoid: During his plug on the TV show Good Morning Canada, they wouldn’t allow him to say the name of his show on the air. Toronto.)

Idle, by the way, is the songwriter responsible for Sit on My Face and Tell Me That You Love Me, Bruce’s Philosopher’s Drinking Song, and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. The list goes on; just reading this, you’ll want to break into song. Which, apparently, is the main purpose of his stage shows – it’s a place for all those people who know all the words to Python skits to go and be with others like themselves.

Idle is effusive on the phone from Toronto, telling me in typically candid fashion that he’d really rather be out catching the Bill Murray movie and that he almost pooched the interview. Fair enough. Let’s get on with it then.

Hour While Palin, Cleese and Gilliam have, um, sort of gotten on with their lives and their careers, you have chosen to go on the road with this live act. So is it really just a rehash of old Python skits? Not that that’s a bad thing.

Eric Idle Absolutely not! I have new material as well, including a song I wrote with George Harrison, The Pirate Song, and a bunch of new sketches. But I have to do the old stuff, too, because that’s what people expect and what they love. It never ceases to amaze me the way the best-known stuff always outshines the best stuff. It’s like being the Stones; they can be up there on stage for four hours, and all everybody wants to hear is Satisfaction. So I sing Satisfaction.

Hour So that’s it, isn’t it? Comedy is about repetition. Does it make you bitter at all that you’ll always be better known for Python than for, say, the Rutland albums?

Idle Bitter? No, it’s fun to have people sing along with me. And this way, I’m [making money].

Hour Your candour is refreshing.

Idle Yeah, because most people in Hollywood are, you know, doing it for the audience’s well-being and to make the world a better place, right?

Hour: It would seem so.

Idle No, this is just simply a marvellous night of entertainment. For people who want to stand up and sing along and shout out and yell along with the sketches, and who want to dress up and be obnoxious, this is the place to be.

Hour People dress up?

Idle Absolutely!

Hour Dare I ask?

Idle Well, one time the curtain came up and the entire front row was dressed as a caterpillar. Once these two young women came dressed as judges… and in the lobby afterward it turned out underneath their robes they were wearing black Victoria’s Secret getups… And sometimes people come dressed as blancmange.

Hour Speaking of lingerie – can we expect a nice helping of the Greedy Bastard in ladies’ garments?

Idle I’m afraid not this time. Because besides being greedy, I’m also a lazy bastard. I did think, hey, if Eddie Izzard is there wearing women’s clothing, heck, let me get up there – but it takes a lot of effort to hobble about onstage in heels and all those eyelashes and fingernails. Great thing women’s clothing. Spent all my life getting clothing off of them, and then got stuck wearing them. I think that was another Python innovation, actually. The ugly drag.

Hour So you live in California now. That must be comedy.

Idle Well it is the era of the Greedy Bastard right now. First the Bushes, and now we’re going to fall for another greedy bastard again… Schwarzenegger is being paid by Enron… Bastards! At least I’m being honest about it. Really honest. I even have an encore bucket up on stage. So come with cash.

Eric Idle’s Greedy Bastard Tour
Théâtre St-Denis, Oct. 13, 8 p.m.

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