John Cleese responds to fellow Monty Python Eric Idle: “We have always loathed and despised each other”

Connie Queline

John Cleese responds to fellow Monty Python Eric Idle: “We have always loathed and despised each other”

John Cleese responds to fellow Monty Python, Eric Idle, who recently had some choice words for his old “friends”

Update: John Cleese has responded to Eric Idle’s recent comments, and there doesn’t appear to be any love lost between the former Monty Python performers. Cleese defended Python manager Holly Gilliam, who Idle had suggested was responsible for dwindling income streams.

I have worked with Holly for the last ten years,” Cleese tweeted, “and I find her very efficient, clear-minded, hard-working, and pleasant to have dealings with. Michael Palin has asked me to make it clear that he shares this opinion. Terry Gilliam is also in agreement with this.” Just in case there was any confusion over the status of the relationship between himself and Idle, Cleese drove the point home by saying, “We always loathed and despised each other, but it’s only recently that the truth has begun to emerge.” Yikes.

—Original article follows below—

Eric Idle may have written “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, but that doesn’t mean he has taken that into this 80s. Idle went on a social media tear early this week, taking former Monty Python members Terry Gilliam and John Cleese to task.

Posting on X on Monday, Eric Idle confessed that funds have dried up from his Monty Python days, writing, “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.” He then pointed to the Gilliams: former Python member Terry and his daughter Holly, who handles management of Monty Python. “We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously.  But I guess if you put a Gilliam child in as your manager you should not be so surprised. One Gilliam is bad enough. Two can take out any company.” Idle also confirmed that it was indeed Gilliam that forbids a Spamalot movie from happening.

Monty Python would have numerous reunions following their official 1983 split, including Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go in 2014, which was notably missing Graham Chapman (as alluded to in the title). Terry Jones would pass away in 2020, leaving just four original members today. That event would also mark one of the last times Eric Idle spoke to John Cleese. As he also wrote, “I haven’t seen Cleese for seven years…It makes me happy.” Ouch…At the same time, Idle did note that he wish he had worked with another troupe at least once: The Muppets. Perhaps he’s a little jealous of Cleese’s appearance on The Muppet Show…?

Unfortunately, it all runs so much deeper than that. It’s always tough to see longtime collaborators not only split but talk poorly about each other. This is especially so now, as all surviving Monty Python members are in their 80s. It would seem a fine time to reconcile, to put aside any issues in the past as they approach their final act. 

When one of his followers suggested that Monty Python be the subject of a Netflix doc that could highlight the tumultuous nature of the comedy team, Idle responded, “F*ck Netflix and f*ck documentaries.” Oh come on, Eric, don’t grumble, give a whistle!

What do you make of the continued feuds within Monty Python? What remains your favorite sketch or scene?

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