Eric Idle is a comedian, actor and film director, as well as an author and accomplished guitarist/songwriter. He wrote and performed as part of the Monty Python team.
He was born on March 29, 1943, in South Shields, County Durham, England. Idle's father had been in the RAF and survived the Second World War, only to be killed in a car crash shortly afterwards. His mother had difficulty coping with a full-time job and raising a child, so at the age of seven she enrolled him into the The Royal Wolverhampton School as a boarder.
The school had begun life as a Victorian orphanage and during Idle's time it was a charitable foundation solely dedicated to the welfare of orphans and semi-orphans. Its pupils, who were mainly the children of dead English soldiers, still referred to it as the 'Ophney (http://uk.geocities.com/ophney77/)'.
"It was a physically abusive, bullying, harsh environment for a kid to grow up in," Idle is quoted as saying, "I got used to dealing with groups of boys and getting on with life in unpleasant circumstances and being smart and funny and subversive at the expense of authority."  All this turned out to be the perfect training for his future career.
Idle maintains that boredom drove him to work hard and he eventually won a place at Cambridge, where he met other members of the groundbreaking British comedy team Monty Python. Unlike the other Pythons, who wrote in pairs (Cleese/Chapman and Palin/Jones), Idle wrote alone. His work was often closely associated with long, complex speeches or catchy one-liners. Amongst the many Python sketches written by Idle is the "Nudge Nudge Wink Wink" sketch, the title of which has become a catchphrase.
His skills as a singer-songwriter were also put to use in his work with Monty Python, having written the majority of the songs featured in their television series' and films. These include "Eric the Half-a-Bee", "The Philosophers' Song" and probably his most recognised hit "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", which was written for the closing scene of the film Life of Brian, sung from the crosses during the mass crucifixion, as something of an antidote to Death. When a clip of this song was used as part of a jingle by Simon Mayo on the Radio 1 breakfast show in 1991, it was re-released to much acclaim, and reached the UK Top 10. It later became a staple football chant.
Film-making and music
Idle has written several books, both fictional and nonfictional. His novels are Hello, Sailor and The Road to Mars. He also wrote the book for the Holy Grail spinoff musical, Spamalot which premiered January 2005 in Chicago before moving to Broadway, where it received the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004-2005 season.
In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.
An example of Idle's idiosyncratic writing is Ants in their pants - a poem about the sex life of ants.