Feel the NeiL
For someone who might leave most Yanks scratching their heads and wondering "Who?" Britain's Neil Innes has put together a remarkable career. His Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band contributed "Death Cab for Cutie" to the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour special; he was Monty Python's main musical collaborator, appearing as Lance the exceedingly frank minstrel in Monty Python and the Holy Grail; and the Rutles, the Beatles spoof band Innes started with Python Eric Idle, carried the endorsement of pal George Harrison and spawned a cult all its own. "What I'd like is for the word 'Rutle' to go into the dictionary as a verb," says Innes, now touring the U.S. in a van with his wife, during a Palm Springs stopover. "Meaning, 'To copy or emulate someone you admire, especially in the music business.'"
TCB: Who or what makes you laugh?
Neil Innes: Carol Burnett. I saw a documentary about her with that wonderful sketch where she makes a dress out of the curtains. She appears at the top of the stairs in this frightful green velvet outfit with a turban. The Rhett Butler character says, "Darling, you look wonderful," and she says, "Oh, I saw it in the window and I just had to have it." I like classy stuff like that.
TCB: Which Beatle had the best sense of humor?
NI: Ooh, that's tough. They all had a great sense of humor. George is probably not known as widely for his sense of humor. He had a wicked sense of humor. One day he came in from the garden and said, "Can someone get me a picture of a Moray eel off the Internet?" So they Googled a Moray eel and printed it out, and George wrote underneath, "That's amore," and went back into the garden.
TCB: How often do people quote Monty Python to you?
NI: Well, you see, I've got the best of it all, not being a fully fledged member. I'm not quite in the firing line so much. I have been quite smart over the years, not putting myself into the front line of fame.
Neil Innes plays Antone's Friday, Nov. 12. Darin Murphy opens.