If the team behind the Monty Python franchise had a dollar for every time a college student quoted their work, they’d probably be financially set for generations. But according to one of its founding members, it’ll take a lot more than that to turn a profit in an age of streaming and falling royalties, lawsuits, and alleged mismanagement from a co-founder.
Eric Idle, one-sixth of the Monty Python comedy troupe behind films like The Holy Grail and Life of Brian, took to X in a series of posts to rail against the perception that he was a wealthy man 55 years after his group first formed.
Python not paying the bills
“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,” Idle said.
Spamalot—a musical inspired by the Pythons’ Holy Grail movie and penned by Idle—was a massive commercial success when it first premiered in 2004. The first tour went on to generate $175 million in revenue for 1,500 shows.
The wider Python franchise is enshrined in the British media royalty.
Idle even performed Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, a song from Life of Brian, at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.
The franchise’s popularity, much of it before the new era of low-margin streaming, would be expected to have made all its members set for life.
According to analysis from entertainment lawyer Ezra Doner, Idle and his fellow Pythons each receives about 5.7% of the profits from their TV shows and movies, while they share 50% of the profits from any spin-offs, including Spamalot.
However, it seems that hasn’t been enough to appease Idle’s financial woes, leading him to work at the age of 80 despite being in control of the proceeds of a portion of the Python catalog.
“We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously,” he said.
Profits from royalties and residuals have dried up across the TV and movie industry since the proliferation of streaming, as fewer people watch shows on traditional networks and purchases of DVDs, Blu-rays, and CDs plummet.
Idle blamed platforms like Spotify and YouTube for making copyright worthless, while he also gave the idea of a Netflix documentary on the Pythons short shrift.
“F*** Netflix and f*** documentaries,” Idle said.