Warning: This article contains spoilers from The Masked Singer season 8 premiere.
The Masked Singer season 8 is off to the races, and it's already full of surprises.
As EW previously revealed, the show got a major overhaul to its format, where each week only one person is left standing to go on to the next round, meaning everyone else goes home. In the premiere, this meant Harp, Hedgehog, Hummingbird, and Knight each got to share a clue package and perform their song of choice before the newly massive in-studio audience voted on their favorites.
Though all the performances were lively and entertaining, Harp's impressive pipes proved to be the fan favorite, which meant everyone else had to unmask. The judges started the new season off strong, with at least one person guessing each of the eliminated contestants right. First up was Knight, who was revealed to be Star Trek icon William Shatner (kudos to Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg for guessing him). Then, it was Hedgehog's turn to reveal himself, and under that thorny mask was none other than actor, comedian, musician, writer, and Monty Python star Eric Idle. Robin Thicke revealed himself to be a huge Monty Python fan and correctly guessed Idle. In a bit of a plot twist, we will unfortunately have to wait until next week to find out Hummingbird's identity.
In the meantime, EW caught up with the 79-year-old comedy legend, who revealed that he secretly beat pancreatic cancer, and opened up about why he wanted to prove he could do the show. Plus, Idle talked candidly about why he has no plans for another Monty Python reunion.
FOX Hedgehog performs on season 8 of 'The Masked Singer'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What convinced you to do The Masked Singer?
ERIC IDLE: Well, it was odd. I had just arrived in Europe, and I'd been gone for three years. And so I got here, and then suddenly out of the blue, they said they wanted me to be on The Masked Singer. And I went, "Oh, gosh, I have to go all the way back to LA. I just got here." Then I thought to myself, actually, this is in my wheelhouse. I played all sorts of singing animals. I've been a singing moon. It is a silly show, but I have been in a few silly shows. This would be fun. And then I had a sort of secondary reason, which I kept secret until afterwards, which was that I have been very lucky to have survived pancreatic cancer. And I thought to myself, well, you better see if you can still do it, if you can still sing and dance. If you can actually go in front of a large audience and do something daft in costume. And so that, for me, became the motivation to do it. Plus, they were very nice and very sweet on the phone and on their Zoom calls. Very early on, I chose an avatar, I became Hedgehog. And every time they call me, they would say, "Morning, Hedgehog. Hello, Hedgehog. Nice to meet you, Hedgehog. How are you?" That just made me giggle. [Giggles] See, I still giggle. I miss it now. I'm gonna ask everybody to call me Hedgehog, because I really enjoyed it. So I thought, well, this is good, I like these people, I'm gonna go back and I'm gonna do my best and see if I can get through it. And they're a great team, and they're so supportive of you, when you're the person. They make it much easier for you than it would normally be, because you are standing around in a huge costume and you have to dance and sing. So it was kind of interesting and a wonderful experience.
That's wonderful news about the cancer. Thank you for sharing that.
When I got back home, and I was thinking about the experience and what I've learned, I thought well, actually, normally, if you're asked to do interviews you go and you promote your book or your film or whatever and you plug it away. And I thought no, no, I'm going to do something. I felt this was a chance for me to come out to cancer publicly, and thank the people who saved my life, but more than that, to start raising money, so that other people who find themselves in my position can survive as well. And so that's what I'm doing, I'm going to go and spread the word and we're going to raise money. Me and my daughter, we're working with Stand Up To Cancer, we're going to particularly target pancreatic cancer and early testing and early research. And also just really to cheer people up, spread the good word that we have some good news for a change.
It was a big decision, you know, because you keep your personal life quiet, and I thought, this is a good thing: I can make them laugh, and now I can make them cry. There's more money in crying. So that's what I'm doing. I'm gonna [raise awareness] in England, I'm gonna do it in America, and I'm gonna do it in Australia, I'm gonna just be the person who says, I'll sing, [Monty Python's] "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and give us some money. We'll make sure it's spent properly and pointed directly at the research and the early testing things and screenings we want to emphasize. That all happened because of The Masked Singer. That whole experience was an epiphany for me, and was very, very important in my life. And I'm very glad to have done it, and learned that. It gives me something, rather more than usual, important to hang on to, which is, this is life and death stuff. So now we can help people. Because my song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is still the number one funeral song in England. So now, we can use it, and it reminds you that we can look on the bright side. We've got some good news, and let's share it. And that's all I decided I would do.
Does this make you want to do any more Monty Python reunions per chance?
Oh, no. Oh, no, no. They're all dead anyway. [Laughs] No, they're not. But [the last] Python reunion was like in 2014, I directed that show. And it was a wonderful experience, and Terry Jones was still alive, you know. So we're in that category now where we're heading towards the exit. We can't make people laugh now. We made people laugh then, you know what I mean? We don't address times as they are, we addressed times as they were. Python is very satirical, when it started in 1969. I'm really proud that it survives, and people still watch it and refer to it and see it even on YouTube and things like that. That's great. And there's a huge body of work. Obviously, I'm proud of what I did with the Holy Grail, which made Spamalot, which was the best musical on Broadway in 2005. I love that that show goes on. And you make people laugh, but I think trying to make people laugh now about contemporary times, there's a million people that do it better, because they're the the inheritors of us — you pass it on. And I think Python had a huge effect on American comedians. I knew lots of them. Robin Williams and Steve Martin and Garry Shandling, they all referenced Python as a great encouragement for them to become funny. And I remember the same thing happened to me with Peter Cook in Beyond the Fringe, I just thought, "This is what I want to do now. I'm going to try to be funny, and write and perform comedy." And so there we are. So this is full circle now. I've got a useful function to fulfill, I think, which is just spreading some good news and some cheering up stuff. Because people need a bit of cheering up, you might have noticed.
John Lamparski/WireImage Eric Idle
Yes, and The Masked Singer can be good for that.
The Masked Singer is that, yeah. I think it cheers people up and you know that people will dress up and do these silly things. It's all so very human and encouraging. I can't say any of the [other contestants'] names because I don't know when they're revealing everybody, I only know a couple, but it was a very extraordinary and interesting experience. And I'm very grateful to them for both supporting what I'm doing now but also asking me in the first place, because it was a sort of life changing thing for me. I'm very grateful.
Speaking of other contestants, were you aware that William Shatner had been revealed before you? Did you get a chance to catch up with him?
Yeah, I mean, when he was revealed, I sat next to him. I've known him for many years. He's wonderful. I was once in production [with him] and he's a brilliant actor. But anyway, he leaned over, and said, "Wasn't that the most difficult thing you've ever had to do in your entire life?" And I said, yes it was, because your mask — you're blinded, you're hobbled, you're standing around trying to dance and sing. It's quite hard. But I was thrilled he said that, because it made me feel a lot better. Yes, it was very hard, but you always feel good that you actually got through it. That's I think what showbiz is, you set yourself silly tasks and see if you can pull them off. And sometimes you do and sometimes you don't.
(Hedgehog also wanted to share the following statement: "We need ways to find pancreatic cancer early and ground-breaking treatments that will help make long-term survival possible. Stand Up To Cancer is transforming pancreatic cancer into a treatable disease. Give now to support Stand Up To Cancer's research at StandUpToCancer.org/EricIdle")
The Masked Singer airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox. Watch Idle's unmasking below:
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