Eric Idle (born 29 March 1943) is an English comedian, actor, author, singer, writer, and comedic composer who wrote and performed as a member of the popular British comedy group Monty Python.
Idle was born in South Shields, County Durham (now Tyne and Wear) in Harton Village, the son of Nora Barron (née Sanderson), a health visitor, and Ernest Idle. His father served in the Royal Air Force and survived World War II, only to be killed in a hitch-hiking accident on Christmas Eve 1945. His mother had difficulty coping with a full-time job and raising a child, so when Eric was seven, she enrolled him into the Royal Wolverhampton School as a boarder. The school began as a Victorian orphanage, and during Idle's time it was a charitable foundation dedicated to the welfare of children who had lost one or both parents. Its pupils, mainly the children of dead English soldiers, still referred to it as the 'Ophney'. Idle is quoted as saying: "It was a physically abusive, bullying, harsh environment for a kid to grow up in. 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."
Idle stated that the two things that made his life bearable were listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes and watching the local football team, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite this, he disliked other sports and would sneak out of school every Thursday afternoon to the local cinema. He was eventually caught watching the X-rated film BUtterfield 8 and stripped of his prefecture, even though by that time he was head boy. Idle had already refused to be senior boy in the school cadet force, as he supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and had participated in the yearly Aldermaston March. Idle maintains that there was little to do at the school and boredom drove him to study hard. He consequently won a place at Cambridge.