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Eric Idle and George Harrison were good friends who bonded over their love of comedy. Idle said it was “love at first sight” when they met in the mid-1970s. However, the friends disagreed on a couple of things. While Idle soaked up everything the ex-Beatle said, Harrison wouldn’t listen to the Monty Python comedian’s claims about David Bowie.

Eric Idle attending the Saban Community Clinic's 39th annual dinner gala. George Harrison posing in a suit at the Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam, 1988.
(L-R) Eric Idle and George Harrison | Paul Archuleta/Rob Verhorst/Getty Images

Eric Idle met George Harrison at a screening for ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’

In his memoir, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography, Idle explained that he first met Harrison at a screening for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He wrote that he was “shy” to meet Harrison and “tried to avoid him.” However, Harrison eventually “snuck up” on Idle.

“We began a conversation that would last about 24 hours. Who could resist his opening line? ‘We can’t talk here. Let’s go and have a reefer in the projection booth.’ No telling what the startled projectionist felt as a Beatle came in with one of the actors from the movie he had just projected and lit up a joint,” Idle explained.

Idle added that he and Harrison were kicked out of the projection booth. They moved on to dinner with Harrison’s wife, Olivia, and Terry Gilliam. After dinner, Harrison brought Idle to A&M Studios, where Idle was introduced to Joni Mitchell.

“Saxophonist Tom Scott was at work on some overdubs of George’s latest album, Extra Texture, and we listened to some of the tracks and then went back to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where we talked and talked and talked for the rest of the night,” Idle wrote. “What was it like to be a Python? What was it like to be a Beatle? A thousand questions.”

Idle told Rolling Stone, “It occurred to me later that we both played similar roles inside our groups with big power blocks. Once I was moaning a little bit on Brian, saying, ‘It was hard to get onscreen with Michael Palin and John Cleese.’ He said, ‘Well, imagine what it’s like trying to get studio time with Lennon and McCartney.’ I said, ‘All right. Absolutely. Got it. OK. Check. I’ll shut up now.’ Then it occurred to me that yes, in fact, we were slightly the outsiders, playing similar roles in our groups.”

Eric Idle tried to get George Harrison to be friends with David Bowie

Idle was also close with David Bowie. He explained in his memoir that Bowie wanted to collaborate with him on a Ziggy Stardust musical.

“He asked me to collaborate with him in making a Ziggy musical, handing me a tape of Diamond Dogs to listen to,” Idle wrote (per Rolling Stone). “I didn’t know how to respond so I said, ‘It’s very loud.'”

Still, the pair became close. Although, that didn’t make Harrison like the glam rock singer. No matter how hard Idle tried, he couldn’t get Harrison to be friends with Bowie. Idle was like a sponge around Harrison. He listened to everything he said, including his spiritual wisdom. However, Harrison wouldn’t hear how great Bowie was and didn’t care.

“I would say to George [Harrison], ‘[Bowie is] wonderful and brilliant and funny,’ but then George would become very much a Beatle, ‘Oh, Bowie,’ he would say contemptuously to rhyme with ‘Bowwow,'” Idle wrote.


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The Monty Python comedian said George Harrison always found the humor in a situation

Harrison didn’t listen to Idle about Bowie, but Idle continued to listen to Harrison about spirituality. The comedian said the ex-Beatle was his guru. Harrison taught him how to live in the moment. Although comedy was Idle’s specialty, Harrison also taught him to find humor in every situation.

In 1999, Harrison and his wife were attacked during a home invasion. Still, Harrison found the humor when Idle called him about the attack. Idle wrote that Harrison said, “Why doesn’t this kind of thing happen to the Rolling Stones?”

Since Harrison died in 2001, Idle has supported his friend on multiple occasions. Idle and the rest of the Monty Python troupe performed at the Concert for George. Idle will always support Harrison’s legacy.