Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sorta biography
Publisher: Random House Audio
Audible.com Release Date: October 2, 2018
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
As Eric Idle himself says in the introduction to his new memoir, over the years we've been given a deluge of histories, documentaries, and other memoirs about the careers of the six Monty Pythons. So can Idle's "sorta" autobiography give us anything new?
Not having read all the books Idle alluded to, I can't fairly answer that question. I suspect if you're one of those who have, in fact, read and seen everything related to the funniest comedy troupe of all time, I suspect you'd still enjoy a book that is as funny as the Pythons used to be. After all, Idle has written comedy material since 1963 and his new book demonstrates just how comic one writer can be.
But if you're one of those who loved and enjoyed Monty Python without getting immersed in all the appreciations and analysis they've received over the years, than Eric Idle's new memoir is a real treat. And very revelatory. For example, one delight for me was learning about Idle's pre-Python work in British comedy we Yanks never saw. And the post Python projects like Spamalot and his many tours with John Clease.
It's still difficult for me to grasp that the heyday of Monty Python ran from 1969 to 1983 with occasional projects sprouting up from time to time thereafter. As my 14 year old grandson is a Monty Python junkie, you'd think they were still pumping out new material. Nope.
Of course, no one's life is all just their most celebrated achievements, so we learn much about Eric Idle's personal life in his breezy memoir. Poignant chapters discuss his painful growing-up years, his time at Cambridge, and his friendships with the likes of George Harrison and Robin Williams and their tragic ends. So this memoir isn't a laugh fest on every page and shouldn't have been.
Still, along the way, Idle gives us generous samplings of old skits like the "Eric the "half-A-Bee" song and repeated discussions of how his most famous song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," has been used and reused in all manner of both expected and unexpected places. I must agree with other reviewers who complain that some sections, especially in the latter half, are jammed thick with gratuitous name-dropping and overlong passages describing Idle's active social life, partying with the stars. In such patches, skimming might be the way to go.
Without question, if you can get this book in its Audible Audiobook format as read by the author, that's the way to do it. You can feel his style, hear him occasionally verge on breaking into laughter, hear him sing, and get the full Eric Idle treatment. And that's the reason you got this book to begin with, right?
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 14, 2019: