While his time on The Masked Singer may have been brief, iconic comedian Eric Idle says the experience was truly meaningful following his successful battle with pancreatic cancer.
The Monty Python star opened up for the first time about his health journey, and he spoke with ET ahead of Tuesday’s Masked Singer premiere — where he was unmasked as Hedgehog — about the role the show has played in his life.
“The whole thing was very Zen. I really liked it. It changed my life to be honest,” Idle said of his time on the Fox reality competition series. “I had pancreatic cancer, and I have been very fortunate and lucky to survive, it was caught early, I had a big operation at Cedars and they saved my life, and I hadn’t told anybody.”
According to Idle, he was visiting his doctor following his surgery and he “plucked up the courage to ask my doctor how long I had.”
“He said, ‘Oh at least 10 years. You’re very fit, you’re healthy, the cancer’s all gone.’ And I hadn’t really counted on that,” Idle recalled. “So I thought, ‘Here’s my chance to do something good.’ I have to come out now with my cancer [battle], tell people I’ve survived, and share that experience.”
Idle teamed up with the charity group Stand Up to Cancer, and together they formed the Bright Side fund — named after Idle’s legendary song from The Life of Brian, “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.”
“We’re going to raise money specifically for research and early testing to help other people survive this thing,” Idle explained. “And it was a bit of an epiphany for me and it was entirely because of The Masked Singer experience, and I’m very grateful to them for that.”
As for his performance on Tuesday’s season 8 premiere, Idle — decked out as a giant anthropomorphic Hedgehog — delivered a fun, energetic rendition of The Beatles’ “Love Me Do,” that delighted the audience, even though he ended up getting unmasked.
“The producers said, ‘It’s a very silly show,’ and I said, ‘Well, I think I’ve been on a few silly shows in my time,'” Idle told ET with a laugh when looking back at when he signed on to do the show in the first place. “So I thought it was in my wheelhouse. It was one of the things that appealed to me.”
“You’re entire identity was hidden. From the moment I agreed to do the show, I was Hedgehog,” he shared. “Everybody just referred to me as Hedgehog. ‘Oh, good morning, Hedgehog, hello Hedgehog, how are you Hedgehog?’ It never ceased to make me giggle.”
Those interested in donating and supporting Stand Up To Cancer’s research can find more information at StandUpToCancer.org/EricIdle.
Meanwhile, The Masked Singerairs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.