Eric Idle has made himself immortal with a legendary, grotesque film scene. At the end of Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” he is doomed to try to create atmosphere at a mass crucifixion and cheer up Brian who has been crucified by accident. At the cross, Idle begins to sing: “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”.

The song became even more famous than the film. It’s a classic of British humour, an uplifting hymn and the most played song at funerals in the UK, according to a 2014 study. For Eric Idle, who turns 80 on March 29, it is also a kind of motto in life.

At college he gets to know his peers

The British comedian, actor, writer and musician rose to fame as a member of the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python in the 1960s and 1970s – first on television with the revolutionary sketch series ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, later in cinema with comedies such as ‘ The Knights of the Coconut”, that cult satire “The Life of Brian” or “The Meaning of Life”.

The son of a nurse and a sergeant in the Royal Air Force (RAF) was born in 1943 in South Shields, England. In 1945, Idle’s father died in a car accident. The RAF paid for his schooling. After school he went to Pembroke College, Cambridge University, to study English literature. Idle graduated from there with a Bachelor of Arts in 1965.

However, Pembroke College was a fateful career move for him in another respect. Because there Idle met his future Monty Python colleagues John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Terry Jones, with whom he soon appeared in comedy shows.

After graduating, Idle first acted in revues and in theater before turning to television. He has acted in television productions for the BBC and is also a writer for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s radio and television programmes. He co-starred with Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam on the award-winning children’s series, Do Not Adjust Your Set, whose absurdist humor has increasingly enthralled adult viewers.

The success of the series led to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which incorporated many elements of Do Not Adjust Your Set. Because the sketch series initially ran in the late program, the BBC gave the comedians a largely free hand. “Everything was possible,” Idle recalled last year in the “Guardian” interview. Nobody seriously expected that the strange humor would appeal to a larger audience. In fact, the success only started with a delay and after the broadcast in the USA.

Idle played stiff-necked TV hosts, joke salesmen, or Harry, the dealer who drives Brian to despair with his haggling in “Brian’s Life”. One of his most iconic roles was playboy wannabe Arthur, who punctuates his sexual insinuations with the constant “Kink crack, wink wink” phrase before finally coming out as a virgin.

Eric Idle has been married to US model Tania Kosevich since 1981. “It was love at first sight,” he wrote in his 2018 autobiography. “I told her I would never leave her. And I never did.” Their daughter Lily was born in 1990. The couple lives in Los Angeles. Son Carey was born from his first marriage to Australian actress Lyn Ashley.

Idle has preserved its unmistakably British style in exile. Just like his sense of humor, which he didn’t lose even after suffering from pancreatic cancer a few years ago. “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” – it became his mantra then at the latest. And Idle was lucky, the cancer was surgically removed.

After his time at Monty Python, Eric Idle worked, among other things, as a writer for radio shows, wrote novels, a children’s book and plays. He acted in TV series and films, not all of which were memorable, including “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”, “Nuns on the Run” or “The Heirs Sneak Forever”. He has also acted as a voice artist in video games and animated series, including “The Simpsons” and “South Park”.

The passionate guitarist, who was close friends with ex-Beatle George Harrison, also recorded music on and off. Meanwhile, “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” was a hit as a single in 1991, reaching number 3 in the UK Singles Chart. At the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Eric Idle performed the iconic song to an audience of millions around the world.

Whatever Idle did, Monty Python never completely disappeared from his life. He wrote the musical “Spamalot”, which is based on the film “Knights of the Coconut” and has received several Tony Awards. In 2014, the surviving members – Graham Chapman died in 1989 – reunited as Monty Python for nine live shows in London. They have little in common privately. “It’s not like we’re friends,” Idle told the Guardian. “We were colleagues, that’s a big difference.”

Idle always seems to have a mischievous grin on his face and a gag on his lips. On Twitter, he regularly amuses his followers with funny comments. And if you click on “Auto biography” (the space is intentional) on his website, you actually get an auto-biography, i.e. an overview of the cars that Idle and his family have owned over the years. Wink, wink.

His autobiography – Idle prefers to call it “a kind of biography” (“A Sortabiography”) – is peppered with gags and funny anecdotes from his life. The title of the extremely entertaining bestseller was of course obvious: “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”.