Eric Idle (born 29 March 1943) is an English comedian, actor, voice actor, author, singer-songwriter, musician, writer and comedic composer. Idle was a member of the British surreal comedy group Monty Python, a member of the parody rock band The Rutles, and the author of the Broadway musical Spamalot.
Idle is an accomplished songwriter, having composed and performed many of the Pythons' most famous comic pieces, including "Eric the Half-a-Bee", "The Philosophers' Song", "Galaxy Song", "Penis Song" and, probably his most recognised hit, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", which was written for the closing scene of the Monty Python film Life of Brian, and sung from the crosses during the mass crucifixion. The song has since been covered by Harry Nilsson, Bruce Cockburn, Art Garfunkel and Green Day. Idle, his fellow Pythons, and assorted family and friends performed the song at Graham Chapman's memorial service. Idle performed the song at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 12 August 2012 and as the farewell song of the last show of the Pythons at the O2 arena, 20 July 2014.
As Ko-Ko in the 1987 English National Opera production of The Mikado, Idle wrote his own 'Little List' on "As some day it may happen".
In 1990, Idle sang and co-wrote the theme tune to the popular British sitcom One Foot in the Grave. The song was later released, but did poorly in the charts. However, when "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was adopted as a football chant in the late 1980s, Idle's then neighbour Gary Lineker suggested Idle re-record and release the popular track. With help from Radio 1 breakfast show host Simon Mayo, who gave the song regular airplay and also used the chorus within a jingle, it became a hit, some 12 years after the song's original appearance in Life of Brian, reaching number 3 in the UK charts and landing Idle a set on Top of the Pops in October 1991. He recorded a special version of the song for Mayo's own use on air ("Come on Simon, get another song on now; why don't you put on a nice Cliff Richard record?") and changed the line "life's a piece of shit" to "life's a piece of spit" in order to get daytime airplay on radio. Idle presented Mayo with a model human foot, akin to the one used in the Monty Python title sequence, as a thank you gift for promoting the song.
In 2004, Idle recorded a protest song of sorts, the "FCC Song", in which he lambastes the US Federal Communications Commission for fining him $5,000 for saying the word "fuck" on national radio. The song contains 14 uses of that expletive. The song can be downloaded in MP3 and OGG Vorbis format at the Internet Archive.
In 2004, the musical comedy Spamalot debuted in Chicago and opened in New York's Shubert Theatre on 14 February 2005. Idle wrote the lyrics and book for Spamalot, collaborating with John Du Prez on much of the music. The original 2005 Broadway theatre production was nominated for 14 Tony Awards and won three: Best Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Sara Ramirez), and Best Direction of a Musical (Mike Nichols).
He wrote, produced and performed the song "Really Nice Day" for the movie The Wild.
In June 2007, "Not the Messiah", a comic oratorio by Idle and John Du Prez premiered at the inaugural Luminato arts festival in Toronto. Idle himself performed during this 50-minute oratorio, along with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. The composer, John Du Prez, was also present. Shannon Mercer, Jean Stilwell, Christopher Sieber, and Theodore Baerg sang the principal parts. The American premiere was at Caramoor (Westchester County, New York) on 1 July 2007. Soloists were the same as in the Toronto performance, but the accompanying chorus was made up of members of New York City's Collegiate Chorale. The show was revised and expanded for a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 2007, including two sell-out nights at the Sydney Opera House. A tour during the summer of 2008 included performances with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C., the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia, and Houston.
Idle also wrote and sang a variant of the galaxy song for Professor Brian Cox's show, Wonders of Life as well as the new theme for Cox's radio show The Infinite Monkey Cage.