Re: Keeping His Head on a Swivel

by Shannen W. Coffin

Jonah, I’m afraid your post requires me to tell my favorite brush-with-greatness story — one which I know you have heard on at least one or ten occasions. Apparently, Eric Idle doesn’t share Will Ferrell’s aversion to his own quotes.

I was in Philadelphia about a decade ago on business, arguing my first appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The night before the oral argument, I was meeting my law partner in the hotel lobby to go out to dinner. As I was waiting near the elevator, I noticed a fellow walking toward me, and I realized it was Monty Python’s Eric Idle, who was then on tour with his “Eric Idle Rips Off Python” Tour. 

Idle stopped next to me to wait for his own dinner party.  So I’m standing a few feet away from a comedy legend, and I know I have to say something to him. But the one thing I refuse to do is quote Python to him. Something about that just struck me as unnecessarily obsequious. There is an acceptable level of obsequiousness in these settings, but I wasn’t going to cross the line!

So I simply introduced myself to him and commented that I regretted that I was not able to attend his show the next evening in Washington, D.C., but I was, you see, in town for an argument. Without missing a beat, Idle responded, “Is that the five minute argument or the full half hour?” Stunned that Eric Idle was quoting Monty Python to me, I recovered from the momentary freeze to respond, “Just the five.” To which Idle responded, “Very good.” 

I told Idle that I had resolved that the last thing I would do upon greeting him was quote Monty Python, to which Idle answered, “I do it all the time.”  

A great moment from a comic genius.

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