Eric Idle Sketchfest 2024.

Eric Idle Kicks Off SF Sketchfest by Taking Us Down Comedy Memory Lane

Thursday night, Eric Idle returned to the stage for his first show in 7 years. The Monty Python member and comedy icon was joined by Jeff B. Davis to kick off SF Sketchfest with an epic show that served as a look-back at an impressive career.

The show - which lasted two and a half hours - was a mixture of greatest hits and new songs the audience hadn’t heard before. While Idle has said that this could be his final time onstage in the United States, he clearly didn’t show any signs of slowing down onstage. He didn’t so much walk onstage as much as he jogged. There was no official introduction. Just Idle coming out to greet everyone personally.

He kicked things off with a very personal revelation. He talked about a musical he wanted to write, titled Death: The Musical. It follows a writer who is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A few years after writing it, Idle got his own cancer diagnosis: It was pancreatic cancer. Luckily, he beat it. And he proudly shared that he “survived the four C’s: COVID, cancer, crucifixion, and Cleese.” His fellow Python John Cleese was the punchline for quite a few jokes throughout the night.

Eric Idle and Jeff B. Davis; Photo Credit: Jakub MosurEric Idle and Jeff B. Davis; Photo Credit: Jakub Mosur

Idle then brought Davis out onstage to join him, and they kicked the show off with a few songs from Death: The Musical which were very funny. Following that, the show - which was created just for the occasion of Sketchfest - turned into a hilarious combination of sketches, songs, and clips summarizing a lot of Idle’s career.

Naturally, there was a strong emphasis on the Python of it all. Early on, Davis asked Idle what his favorite sketch was, to which Idle offered up two: One was the Fish Slapping Dance, and the other was The Battle of Pearl Harbor reenactment, in which he reveals they wound up rolling around in literal pig feces. When Davis revealed his favorite sketch was the innuendo-laced “Nudge Nudge,” Idle dismissed the idea of performing the sketch. It became a running joke, before in the second half of the show, Idle brought back the classic sketch.

So much of the show was filled to the brim with enough nostalgia to make any Python fan happy. Other highlights included sketches like, The Man Who Speaks in Anagrams, as well as songs such as Sit on my Face, The Penis Song, The Galaxy Song,  and Bruce’s Philosophers Song - dressed up in full costume. The show also featured a Python sketch that had never been seen anywhere before. The sketch was written for The Meaning of Life, and featured Idle and Davis as two pilots that was very funny.

Eric Idle & John Cleese at Sketchfest 2024.
Eric Idle & Jeff B. Davis at Sketchfest 2024.

Of course, Idle has done lots of stuff outside of Python that also got its fair share of respect. There was a large tribute to The Rutles, a parody of The Beatles he put together back in the 70’s. Perhaps the most touching part of the night, however, was when Idle played a song he had written when Robin Williams passed away. Idle wrote a special song for Robin’s memorial, and played the song while a slideshow of photos showcasing Idle and Williams’ long friendship was shown.

Of course, you cannot have an Eric Idle event without his signature tune, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. It ended the show, and you would be hard-pressed to find a single member of the audience who was not joining in. It’s, inarguably, the most memorable song from the entire Monty Python catalog.

Eric Idle and Janet Varney; Photo Credit: Jakub MosurEric Idle and Janet Varney; Photo Credit: Jakub Mosur

The show clocked in at over two and a half hours with one brief intermission. It’s a remarkable and a triumphant feat when you factor in Idle’s age. There wasn’t a single moment onstage where he and Davis sat in the same chairs for more than 15 minutes. They were bouncing all over the stage performing sketches, songs, and anything else you could think of that one could - legally - do onstage. Idle even danced a little bit during The Galaxy Song, though Davis and Sketchfest founder Janet Varney did the majority of the dancing in that sequence.

Eric Idle & Jeff B. Davis at Sketchfest 2024.
Eric Idle & Jeff B. Davis at Sketchfest 2024.

This year marks 55 years since the Python group first formed for the BBC series, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Being in the room the other night, you must believe me when I tell you that the material doesn’t feel like it is over half a century old. It remains as fresh - and as funny - as it was the day we first saw it. And the audience couldn’t have been more overjoyed to be taking that trip down memory lane with Idle. If Idle ever does this again in a town near you, you would be stupid to not be there.

SF Sketchfest is currently running, and tickets for some of their great shows can be found here. Can’t make it to San Francisco? Some of the shows can be streamed, which you can learn more about here

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