ERIC IDLE SINGS MONTY PYTHON SONGS
J. Paul Getty Center, Los Angeles
Most people can tell you exactly where they were the moment they first saw Monty Python: in front of a screen. That shows just how memorable it was. But it was exactly thirty years ago that Monty Python's Flying Circus appeared on British TV screens. Since then the individual members have all gone on to become quite elderly people. In one case even further. But little is known of Monty Python himself, the man who created the myth. Tonight's concert is an attempt to rectify this shameful neglect of one of the great showbiz figures of the century. A man who has been kept hidden away from the limelight by the selfish bastards of the Monty Python gang, perhaps the most ruthless band of self-aggrandizing comedians ever let loose on the planet. Who was this gentle man who now lives alone and slightly gaga in an Old Jokes Home in Harpenden? A man whose picture hangs in the closet of Mike Ovitz. A man who David Geffen personally worships. Who was Monty Python?
He was born backstage during a performance of The Girl Says No! sometime in the twenties. "His twenties not the Twenties" said his pal Lefty Goldblatt, who would go on to become the first man to successfully turn down the Beatles. His mother was an actress and his father wasn't. Monty was educated at Old Queens College, Cambridge and joined British Intelligence to become an agent, but he was soon ejected and told to join William Morris. Hitler, however, had other plans. The Fuhrer had become tired of vaudeville and decided to invade Poland. "I warned him it was a bad career move" Monty was quoted as saying "But he wouldn't listen. He coulda had Chaplin's career." War broke out all over the place and Monty immediately tried to join up. But the Women's Royal Army Corps refused him. "It was my legs" he said later.
He spent the war in Bermuda, until they caught him and returned him to Europe, where he became the first man to jump out of a plane without a parachute. Fortunately the plane had landed and they soon caught him again. He was sentenced to thirty years of television, but this sentence was suspended when they discovered television did not exist yet and he was forced to join ENSA the British entertainment unit. Here he worked on vital war plans, the lighting plot of Girls, Guys and Sailors, and the attempt to smuggle a replica Bob Hope on to the beaches of Normandy to fool the Germans. He gained a reputation for "recruiting" ; picking up likely looking chaps and taking them back to his place where he was persuasive in talking them into showbiz. He escaped with a warning.
After the war he began searching the colleges and public schools of England for "a certain type of boy." But he was arrested and given two years in Panto. After he came out in 1962 he began to hang around Oxford and Cambridge and finally struck gold, saving John Cleese from a life of crime (he was going to become a lawyer), Graham Chapman from a ghastly career as a Doctor, and successfully preventing Michael Palin from becoming a TV Travel journalist for many years. He found Terry Gilliam in a flea market in Afghanistan; Terry Jones was hiding half naked in a dustbin in India; and Eric Idle was discovered at an all girls school in Reading, where he claimed to be studying lipstick, underwear and the Matron for an article in Spank Magazine. These were the boys he was looking for. He went straight to the BBC and showed them certain photographs. The rest is history. In October 1969 Monty Python limped on to British television screens. The response was underwhelming. Almost everybody who saw it, did. Several saw it again a week later. There could be no doubt about it. It was a TV show. In 1974 the boys captured America, but were forced to give it back. Like the Beatles before them they had discovered American girls and their legendary "friendliness." Boys too were hardly less friendly. Pampered and spoiled the cast soon became monsters. Maddened by success they began to deny that Monty Python even existed.
So what about the real Monty Python? Is he still alive today? Well technically yes. He is on a wife support system in an old Agent's home in Surrey. When reached at The Old Jokes Home and told of tonight's performance of Eric sings Monty he said "who?" and asked for a new bed pan. So the legendary wit has not dimmed with the passing of time and his colon.
This year, to celebrate thirty years of his show, he will be knighted by the Queen. What could be a more fitting tribute than having the legendary John Idle, or is it Eric Chapman, no, wait, he died, well having one of those guys sing his finest songs.
Eric Idle is the nicest of the six members of Monty Python.
He was born in the North of England... well when I say the nicest he isn't absolutely the nicest. Michael Palin is usually recognized as being the nicest, although Terry Jones is pretty nice too come to think of it, and Terry Gilliam can certainly be very nice at parties. Perhaps almost too nice. Graham Chapman was a very nice man and even John Cleese is a lot nicer than he used to be. I mean compared to how he was he actually is really quite nice occasionally. So Eric Idle is probably the sixth nicest member of the old Monty Python group.
He was born in the North of England... what's so great about being nice anyway? Nobody said Mozart was "nice." They didn't say "I loved Shakespeare's Hamlet but what a nice guy he is." In fact many great artists weren't very nice at all. I forget my point.
Oh yes, my point is - so what if he isn't the nicest? Big deal. Hollywood isn't exactly packed with nice people. It isn't de rigeur to be nice to live here. I bet several people in tonight's audience aren't particularly nice but we don't bang on about it in the program notes. So let's just agree to leave the nice thing to one side. In fact let's leave Eric Idle to one side, I'm sick of the whole thing.
The program note writer has been sacked.
Hello I'm Trevor the new program note writer. I'm sorry about Peter, the previous Program note writer. He's been under stress. He had Studio Notes last week on a new film of Hamlet he's writing. They told him to get rid of the boring talking Dane and create a decent part for Bruce Willis, wearing a tee-shirt and blowing a lot of people away. They asked him to make Ophelia a part for Whoopie Goldberg, and he's taken it hard. In addition everyone has passed on his comedy pilot about the Civil War. And his agent ran off with his dog. It's been that sort of a year. So, let's talk Eric Idle shall we. Why the Python thing now?
"Well" says Eric "the Getty wanted a gig and this was the best I could come up with." But it's more than that isn't it? It's a chance to recreate the musical genius of Monty Python. "I find the Monty Python song cycle, if not as brilliant as Wagner, Schubert or Mozart, certainly a lot easier to sing." We shall see. He has certainly brought with him the oddest collection of odd-beats, off-beats, down-beats and dead beats ever assembled on a public stage.
The Monty Python Memorial Orchestra is conducted by John Du Prez, who not only composed the music for several of the ditties but also arranged most of the Python music in the last two decades. He has flown all the way from England to be here tonight, so is clearly nuts.
Eric Idle's new book about comedy, sex and the Universe, The Road to Mars will be published by Pantheon in September. He is also soon in the Universal Movie Dudley Do-Right. His agent is here this evening so please applaud.
Thank you Getty people
For the cast
Musical Director: John Du Prez
The Opening Song
Eric Idle sings Monty Python is performed here at the Getty for the very first time. This show is also available for the Guggenheim, the Louvre, the Prado and The British Museum.
The Getty is not responsible for any of the contents of this evenings performance. In fact we actively disapprove of a lot of it. So if you do not like swearing, rude lyrics or gratuitous bad language then please fuck off now.