Express & Star

'Monty Python was a disaster - I still need to work' says Eric Idle as he nears 81

Former West Midland schoolboy Eric Idle says that he is still working at the age of 80 because he needs the money.

Eric Idle pictured in 2003

The Monty Python star, who was a pupil at Royal Wolverhampton School in the 1950s, said he was surprised at how 'disastrously' his income had tailed off following the success of the comedy troupe in the 1970s.

The comedian and actor, who turns 81 next month, said he had been forced to sell his home last year.

In an series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, Idle also said: "I don't know why people always assume we're loaded. Python is a disaster.

"Spamalot made money 20 years ago. I have to work for my living. Not easy at this age."

Idle created the medieval musical Spamalot, which earned a best musical Tony after being on Broadway. He also appeared in Shrek The Third and in 2014 in Monty Python Live (Mostly) alongside some of the troupe.

Based for much of the last decades in Los Angeles, Idle also thanked his followers for the "kind words and encouragement".

"It means a great deal to me," Idle added.

He also seemed surprised by the downturn in their fortunes following the success of Monty Python.

Monty Python in their heyday: back row – Graham Chapman, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam; front row – Terry Jones, John Cleese and Michael Palin

"We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously," Idle wrote.

But he ruled out the idea of boosting his coffers by making a documentary for the online streaming service Netflix.

"I'm fine," he said. "I'm engaged and writing. It's the thing I do and like the most. Creating a new show. Something that feels so completely normal. Been doing it since 1963. I have learned a lot. But then I had some great mentors."

Born in South Shields, County Durham, Idle was sent to board at the school in Penn Road, Wolverhampton, from the age of seven. His father Ernest had been killed in a car crash on Christmas Eve, 1945, leaving his mother Nora struggling to raise the child and hold down a full-time job at the same time.

In his autobiography, the star said it was a tough time for him, but he came to terms with his difficulties by watching his beloved Wolves, throwing himself into his studies – and making other pupils laugh.

"It was a physically abusive, bullying, harsh environment for a kid to grow up in," he wrote.

"I got used to dealing with groups of boys and getting on with life in unpleasant circumstances and being smart and funny and subversive at the expense of authority. Perfect training for Python."

His 1959 school report showed that he excelled at English, scoring 80 per cent in his exam. According to the report, he also showed talent in geography, for which he got 70 per cent, and maths, 65 per cent. He attained 60 per cent in history and French, and 55 per cent in physics and chemistry. His lowest score was 45 per cent for English literature. His teacher added on the bottom of his report: "Congratulations on a very good result!!!"

Idle's mother eventually moved to the Midlands, living in Warwickshire up until her death in 1996.

In September 2022 Idle said he said he survived pancreatic cancer after receiving a rare early diagnosis, and appeared on celebrity singing show The Masked Singer in the US.

Alongside Graham Chapman, Fawlty Towers star John Cleese, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas director Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and travel writer Sir Michael Palin, Idle founded the comedy troupe in 1969.

Chapman died in 1989 of tonsil cancer aged 48 and Jones died in 2020 aged 77 from a rare form of dementia.

In 2013, a producer of the 1975 film Monty Python And The Holy Grail won a High Court royalty fight with the comedy team to get some of the Spamalot profits.