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I still have to work aged 80 : Monty Python star Eric Idle tells fans

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Published Time: 12.02.2024 - 01:40:37 Modified Time: 12.02.2024 - 01:40:37

Original member of comedy team says he had to sell his house as he never thought the Python income streams would tail off so disastrously Eric Idle, the comedian, has revealed he still has to “work for a living” at the age of 80, claiming income from the Monty Python back catalogue has tailed off “disastrously”

Original member of comedy team says he had to sell his house as he never thought the Python income streams would tail off so disastrously


Eric Idle, the comedian, has revealed he still has to “work for a living” at the age of 80, claiming income from the Monty Python back catalogue has tailed off “disastrously”.

Idle, one of the Monty Pythons, said he has had to sell his house and it was “not easy” at his age to continue working.

“I don’t know why people always assume we’re loaded,” Idle wrote on social media, in a stream of responses to members of the public.

“Python is a disaster. Spamalot made money 20 years ago. I have to work for my living. Not easy at this age.”

Another asked how much his house was worth, he revealed that he had “sold it last year”.

His salmon pink Spanish-style home in the Hollywood Hills was listed for $6.5 million (£5.4 million) in 2023.

“We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously,” he said.

The financial problems of members of Monty Python are well documented.

Idle was among the six original line-up alongside Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

In 2013, as they announced a 10-night live O2 reunion show, they were candid about the financial imperative with Michael Palin saying “Python wasn’t earning much”.

The group had incurred $200,000 (£121,381) in damages plus court fees during a court dispute with a producer over royalties for spin-off theatre show Spamalot.

They regularly made jokes out of their various financial situations, including acknowledging that Cleese had divorce settlements to pay and Jones “a mortgage to pay off”.

The reunion, Monty Python Live (mostly) – One Down Five to Go, sold out and was followed by a documentary, Monty Python – The Meaning of Live.

‘Too late’ for financial security

In 2018, rights to much of the Monty Python television and film back catalogue were sold to Netflix.

Idle began sharing details of his income after he had asked, on social media, how he could keep “Trump-related stuff” out of his sight, and a member of the public replied to ask whether he was willing to spend “some of your Spamalot money to buy Twitter”.

Idle wrote the 2005 musical Spamalot which has been performed in the West End, Broadway and in Las Vegas for many years.

He suggested that part of the problem was that “copyright ain’t worth jack s--- any more”.

When a fan said he and all the Pythons deserved to be financially secure for life, he replied: “Too late alas.”

On the suggestion they could do a Netflix documentary, he added: “F--- Netflix and f--- documentaries.”

He went on to clarify that he did not want fans to feel sorry for him and was merely explaining why he was not as rich as they may assume.

“I don’t mind not being wealthy. I prefer being funny,” he said. “I don’t like being assumed to be wealthy. It’s different.”

He added: “I’m engaged and writing. It’s the thing I do and like the most.

“A fool and his money are easily parted. Imagine how quickly a group can do it…”

In 2016 Idle told The Telegraph that The BBC paid each of the original cast £2,000 per series for writing and performing.

Palin told The Telegraph in 2013: “The real thing was Python itself wasn’t earning much.

“Python product around the world wasn’t really being pushed very well. The cupboard was a bit bare.”

According to Companies House records, Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd made £158,544 in 2013, which dropped to £89,642 in 2014, rising again to £184,869 in 2017. In 2019 it dropped to £81,442 before recovering to £120,710 in 2022.

Python finances

The members of the Monty Python team have had very different careers and fortunes since they transformed comedy first on television and then in their films Life Of Brian and The Meaning Of Life. According to Eric Idle, they were paid just £2,000 each for a season of Monty Python’s Flying Circus which aired from 1969 until 1974.

Spamalot royalties were shared out

After the break-up of the troupe Cleese was the first to achieve enormous success in his own show Fawlty Towers, and then in Hollywood starring in A Fish Called Wanda, but he has had to pay out millions of pounds over three divorces.

Idle notably drew upon his Python past to create Spamalot, the hugely successful stage musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail which took in far more than £100 million in its initial run on Broadway alone, with royalties shared with other Python members.

While still making forays into comedy Palin branched out on a new career as a travel presenter starting with his 1989 BBC series Around The World In 80 Days. Also a bestselling author, Palin’s fortune was estimated at £14 million a decade ago.

The other surviving member, Terry Gilliam, became a leading Hollywood director whose films have enjoyed critical acclaim and occasional box office success – 12 Monkeys with Bruce Willis took £135 million – but also sometimes proved to be monumental flops, with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen pulling in just $8 million against a budget estimated at $46 million.

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