Short Interview with Michael Palin

Q&A: Michael Palin

Rosanna Greenstreet, Saturday 12 September 2009 00.10 BST

Michael Palin, 66, was born in Sheffield and educated at Oxford University. He made his name with Monty Python's Flying Circus, who made their last appearance together in the 1983 film Monty Python's Meaning Of Life. He went on to write and appear in The Missionary, and won a Bafta for his role in A Fish Called Wanda. He has also presented several television travel series. The second volume of his diaries, Halfway To Hollywood, is out now.

When were you happiest?
Flying in over London on a cool, clean morning after a long time away.

What is your greatest fear?
Being taken seriously.

What is your earliest memory?
Buying National Health orange juice with my mother in Sheffield.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
David Attenborough, for constant good work in the face of popularity.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Doing an Eccles impersonation on the one occasion I met Peter Sellers.

What is your most treasured possession?
Ian Allan trainspotters' guide, Combined Volume 1955.

Where would you like to live?
In a palazzo off the Grand Canal.

What makes you unhappy?
Unread books.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My head.

What is your favourite book?
Cassell's Dictionary Of Slang.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Large-size Toblerone.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
Hancock's Half Hour.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Chewing the ends of things.

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
A carrot.

What is the worst thing anyone's said to you?
"Be funny."

What do you owe your parents?

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Helen Gibbins.

What does love feel like?
Never having to say you're from Surrey.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Desmond Tutu, Shane Warne and Katharine Whitehorn.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"How" and "interesting".

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Not being fluent in another language.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
My footballing career.

How do you relax?
Running on Hampstead Heath.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A huge kitchen.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My 15ft vertical plunge into the water during the fish-slapping dance.

What keeps you awake at night?
A really exciting day ahead.

How would you like to be remembered?
With a broad smile.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Nobody knows anything.
He will definitely be remembered with a broad smile!

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TheRealGilliamFan: CamelSpotter and TheNicePython, these are both great interviews. Thanks for posting! I love these kinds of personal Q&A type interviews. And LOL that he tried to steal a hotel bathrobe!!

TheNicePython: Another interview...

Michael Palin: I'm a closet bathrobe thief

By Frances Hardy

Last updated at 12:29 AM on 10th October 2009

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Michael Palin on his fear of birds, wild nights with Warhol and Capote – and the very naughty habit he picked up with all that travelling.

Michael Palin, 66, remains best known as the perennially 'nice' member of the madcap Monty Python team. He also has careers in film acting and travel writing/ presenting, and won international acclaim – and a Bafta – for his role as a stuttering would-be assassin in the movie A Fish Called Wanda.

Palin, who lives in Gospel Oak, north London, with Helen, his wife of 43 years, has three grown-up children, Thomas, William and Rachel.

What would your friends say is your greatest quality?

It's a bit presumptuous – and I don't know what they say behind my back – but I think it's my affability.

John Cleese always says that I work so hard at being affable that I don't have time for anything else. It's better than being called 'nice' though, isn't it?
Michael Palin

Michael Palin: 'My fancy dress costume would be a carrot in homage to my fellow Python,the late, great Graham Chapman,who once went to a Cambridge Union debate encased in a carrot suit'

Who has been the greatest influence on your life?

My wife Helen. We met on the beach at Southwold in Suffolk 50 years ago, and she's been with me continuously since we married in 1966. I know her better than anyone else, and she influences me quietly and subtly in a multitude of ways.

The way we live (reasonably modestly) and the friends that we have are shaped by her. We've been together so long we have an intuitive understanding of each other.

What attracted you to your wife and what keeps you together?

Her sense of mischief. When I first saw her, she was trailing reluctantly behind a hale-and-hearty uncle, who was going for his morning dip in the North Sea. This attractive, wayward, curly-haired girl was making no attempt to enjoy herself.

We've stayed together because we're very happy and have shared so much, including three children and two grandsons. Our home is full of comfortable memories. I'm a faithful husband, and that's down to temperament as much as anything else. I'm not given to wild flights of fancy.


* Emilia Fox: Losing a baby cost me my marriage
* Tom Baker: How I felt about being Doctor Who
* Me, a sex god? Spooks star Richard Armitage on his army of female fans

How did your childhood affect the person you are today?

I had a secure, middle-class childhood, and my father ploughed a third of his income into a private education for me and my sister. At one point, my mother sold some of her jewellery to ensure that I could stay at my public school, Shrewsbury, and go on to Oxford.

I'm sure that my father had earmarked me for a career in accountancy or medicine. He thought acting was a dangerous waste of his limited funds. Monty Python was, absolutely, a reaction to the conservatism of my background. It would have been his nightmare.

What's your most embarrassing possession?

The bathrobe that's hanging on my bedroom door. I still blush scarlet when I think how I acquired it.

I was staying in a very smart hotel in Saudi while filming Around The World In 80 Days for the BBC, and I secreted it into my suitcase, not intending to declare it. As I checked out, the receptionist asked if there was anything extra to go on my bill. 'Just the room,' I said piously.

'And the bathrobe, sir?' she added. 'Oh, yes!' I said, as if I'd just remembered it had fallen into my case. I had guilt written all over my face.

If you were going to a fancy dress party, what would you wear?

In homage to my fellow Python, the late, great Graham Chapman, I'd go as a carrot.

Graham was a true eccentric who once went to a Cambridge Union debate encased in a carrot suit. Why? Don't ask me. There certainly wouldn't have been a vegetable theme to the debate. That would have been far too logical for Graham.

What's your biggest fear?

Being trapped in a room with a bird – of the feathered kind.

Did you know?

Michael would like Judi Dench to play him in the movie of his life 'because she inhabits each part she plays so perfectly and it would be an interesting challenge for her'

What song would you have played at your funeral?

Hole In The Ground by Bernard Cribbins, because funerals should reflect your life, and mine has been sustained by laughter.

I'd also have George Harrison's Here Comes The Sun, because I was very fond of George and death held no fears for him.

Who would you like to be marooned on a desert island with and why?

Jamie Lee Curtis. She's very beautiful, very clever and very funny.

I also discovered, when we were filming A Fish Called Wanda, that she's extremely practical. She could make a raft out of three bits of driftwood and a cactus.

When did you last use public transport?

I'm president of the Campaign for Better Transport, and I travel by bus or Tube several times a week. I dislike driving round London because everything's against the motorist: congestion charges, parking meters, battling with traffic. And I know it sounds a bit poncy but, as a writer, I like being in touch with the travelling public.

What's the most showbiz party you've ever been to?

It was in 1978 at Studio 54 in New York. Andy Warhol and Truman Capote were the hosts, and every A-list celebrity from the worlds of rock, art and film seemed to be there: Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, Salvador Dali, Brooke Shields, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd.

There was plenty of cocaine around. I have done some in the past – but not on that particular evening. I was just drinking fearsomely strong cocktails.

What's your speciality in the kitchen?

Fetching, carrying and appreciation are what I do very well. I empty bins, serve the wine and set the table, but I don't cook. I say to Helen, 'Someone has to enjoy the food and talk to the guests.'

Tell us a secret…

I know all the words to To Know Him Is To Love Him by the Teddy Bears off by heart.

What makes you cry?

Tears of joy spring to my eyes very readily these days. Usually it's in response to something sweet that my grandsons Archie, three, and Wilbur, one, have done.

And your biggest vice…?

Strong coffee.

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katithepythonfan at 11:44 pm December 05

Really nice interviews. Me likey...

Cardinal Ximenez at 11:59 pm December 05

but omg, cocaine? I was surprised at that
and ugh, he met his wife when he was 16? sorry, but that bugs me (i'm just a pessimist like that, I don't care for teenage sweeheart stories and such, *gag*)

TheNicePython at 8:07 am December 06

I was surprised about the cocaine as well, but after all he was very young at the time I suppose, so I don't really blame him trying out these kind of things.. luckily he didn't became addicted...

mrsCutout: Hihi!! Funcy dress costume? A carrot!!!!

the_thina: What is your greatest fear?
Being taken seriously.

hahaha! oh what a sweet trip inside the mind of good sir palin. :)

jeremytoogood: I had to look up Shane Warne and Katherine Whitehorn-had no idea who they are, and Cricket is still totally beyond me. I watched part of a game the other day being held in Covington, Ga-had no idea why they did what they did, and probably never will.

Lancaster Bomber at 1:55 pm September 16

As a Yorkshire cricket fanatic I could explain it for you but you might think life is too short. Or I could start a blog on here which you could ignore when you're bored. I'll look for Python links first otherwise no-one will read it.

jeremytoogood at 11:21 am September 17

I just can't grasp cricket at all by watching it, but if I had some idea of the basic rules, maybe I could.

kisch: What a lovely read. As usual:)))

Suz: wow love, he will definatly be remembered. espeshially in a giant carrot!:D

flopsy_mrs: verry nice intervieuw :) thanks for this :) and a verry intrasting man

gr iris

and ofcourse he'll be rememberd with a broad smile :)

it bloody repeets

TheSister91: he's such an interesting person!!

CSI's Division's Headquarter:
the second star on the right and then straight to the morning light!