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Book Review: Eric Idle - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, A Sortabiography

Eric Idle's A Sortabiography.
Of all the autobiographies I've read by Monty Python members so far Eric Idle's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, A Sortabiography has been the easiest one to read. I'd even go so far as to say it's a bit of a page turner that's hard to put down.

I'm guessing it's because he made most of it up, probably... or maybe it's just the really, really good bits, I mean he has reduced a 50 plus year career in entertainment to a mere 272 pages.

I swear you could fit three of these books inside Michael Palin's published diary of just The Python Years. Admittedly Palin was too lazy to remove all the boring bits out of his diaries.

On the plus side you get a little more Python insight than you do with John Cleese's book, So, Anyway, largely because Eric, more than any other Python, continues to repurpose/repackage Python material for modern audiences, with stage shows like Spamalot, and the O2 Python reunion show.

Actually this book is a very easy read that really does cover a lot of highlights of Eric's entire career both publicly and behind the scenes. Eric isn't afraid to name drop a few famous names that have become good friends, and there is a particularly great chapter dedicated to his close friend Robin Williams, whose death was clearly a blindside to even those who knew him well.

Eric is known for many things but he will forever be known for the song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which I find is kind of strange to be the number one song requested at British funerals. It's kind of the theme song to the human experience rather than a song to go out on - even though they do in Life of Brian.

For a long time I thought Bright Side was a Max Bygraves song because it sounds like something he would sing (my Mum was a fan), until it takes a turn into death. I don't think I ever heard the whole song until several years after the release of Life of Brian when it came to home video perhaps? People generally don't sing the 'bright side of death' part too often, and I was a little too young to see Life of Brian in the cinema.

Anyway, it's a song that kind of sums up Eric's outlook over the years. It's hopelessly optimistic even about death, and that seems very much like Eric based on this book.

If you only ever buy one of the autobiographies from the members of Python, Eric's is the easiest, and most optimistic one I've read thus far. Noting that I've still to read Graham Chapman's (mostly lies by his own admission, probably), Terry Jones (not sure if he even has one), and Terry Gilliam's (of course he has one). Then I probably need to read the Python Autobiography so I can buy all the same words repackaged in a bumper collectors edition (clearly with all the boring bits from Michael's diaries taken out since it's only 368 pages).


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