Halfway through this half-delightful, half-infuriating book, he admits as much himself. The 75-year-old is what is known in his adoptive Los Angeles as a hyphenate. “I write, act, sing, perform, direct, produce and generally show off in all sorts of desperate ways.” He asked his wife once what she thought he did best. “Well,” she said, “‘you’re very good at dinner.”
And that, for better and for worse, is what we get in this very consumable life story of the most showbizzy, most doggedly name-dropping Python. Idle in dinner-party mode. Idle holding court about the good and the bad times he has had. And, more than we need him to, the famous friends he has had them with...It’s only a shame that you close the book feeling Idle’s art lies in concealing himself as much as it does in revealing himself.
In keeping with this, Idle’s “Sortabiography”, as he calls it, is far from pretentious. It is perky, witty and charming, even if he is fond, of not so much dropping names as carpet-bombing them – at times it seems that there is no page which does not mention his friendship with George Harrison or the fact that he wrote “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. (At one point, perhaps to save time, he simply lists the attenders of a dinner party: Robin Williams, Barbara Hershey, Gary and Michelle Lineker, Charles and Kay Saatchi, and Lin and Peter Cook.)
Idle's splendid isolation might explain my frustration with this book. There is very little intimacy with his fellow Pythons, no sense of each man's place in creating one of the greatest comedy series ever made... Instead, what we get is a brisk trot through 75 years of fame and fortune with a shameless amount of name-dropping, at the expense of self-examination... Indeed, Idle is a typical example of someone who has been made less interesting by success... Actually, I don't think commenting on the interior of a tour bus is particularly rock'n'roll, and the details of Idle's krazy life seem to skim the surface... Throughout, there is a feeling that his early years haunt him, that he is fearful of losing all that he has achieved. Sometimes he elicits our sympathy, but no sooner has Idle said something open-hearted than he says something self-congratulatory behind a veil of false modesty. At the end, Idle speculates on who the Pythons really were... Maddeningly, he never comes close to an answer.
There are no startling revelations in his trawl through his life and career, but — as you’d expect from watching anything he has ever done — Idle is engaging company. Yet the best line in the book comes not from him, but from his northerner mother. “Rome is built on seven hills,” he explains on a trip to Italy. “Oh,” she replies brightly, “just like Oldham.”
From the comic performer, founding member of Monty Python and creator of "Spamalot" comes an "absurdly funny memoir of unparalleled wit and heartfelt candour" which could hardly be called anything else. Published ahead of the Pythons' 50th-anniversary year in 2019, it takes us from his childhood in an austere boarding school, through the highlights of his career, to the 2014 reunion tour and beyond, and is crammed with name-dropping anecdotes, involving everyone from Mick Jagger and George Harrison, to the Queen, David Bowie and Carrie Fisher. Idle now lives in the US, but there will be a UK tour at publication....