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Michael Palin - Part One

Michael Palin The Early Years

Michael Edward Palin was born in Sheffield on May 5 1943 (father an engineer, mother not). His attendance at Sheffield's Birkdale Preparatory School saw Michael's first dramatic appearance as Martha Cratchit in a school production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol (fell off stage).

At Shrewsbury School (1957-61) his acting career was confined to the rear of the classroom but in 1962 he joined Brightside and Carbrook Co-Operative Society Players and at the Co-op Drama Festival in Bradford, he won Best Perf. Gent Award.

While at Brasenose College, Oxford, Michael wrote and performed his first comedy material with Robert Hewison as a cabaret at the University's Psychology Society Christmas Party. He also wrote and performed in Hang Down Your Head (a university production), appeared in the Oxford Revue at 1964's Edinburgh Festival (starring, among others, fellow Python-to-be Terry Jones), acted in Experimental Theatre Club's production of Pinter's The Birthday Party and wrote, appeared in and directed The Oxford Line (a university revue at 1965's Edinburgh Festival). Oh, and he read a bit of modern history.

Michael's TV career began in 1966 as a writer (along with Terry Jones) for various TV shows, such as the Ken Dodd Show, Billy Cotton Bandshow, The Illustrated Weekly Hudd and The Frost Report and Frost Programme. In 1967, along with Eric Idle and Terry Jones, Michael wrote and performed in Do Not Adjust Your Set, a children's comedy series which won the Prix Jeunesse at the Munich TV Festival.

He also appeared in Frost on Sunday, How to Irritate People (a TV special written by Graham Chapman and John Cleese) and wrote and performed another series of Do Not Adjust Your Set and (with Terry Jones) The Complete and Utter History of Britain.

Post Python, Michael appeared in the BBC TV film Three Men in a Boat (1975). The same year he wrote (with Terry Jones) and appeared in Tomkinson's Schooldays, which led to a series of Ripping Yarns (1976) for the BBC (winner of the Broadcasting Press Guild's award for Best Comedy or Light Entertainment Programme, 1977).

In 1980 Michael wrote, narrated and appeared in an episode of the BBC's Great Railway Journeys of the World. The travel theme continued in 1989 with the BBC documentary series Around the World in 80 Days, wherein Michael retraced Phileas Fogg's famous journey. The series was nominated for four Ace Awards in the US and Michael's book of the journey became a best seller both in the UK and Australia.

After starring in the Channel 4 drama GBH (1991), Michael travelled from the North to South Pole for the series Pole to Pole (1992) and wrote the accompanying book, winner of the British Book Awards Travel Writer of the Year Award. In 1994, Michael presented a four part series Palin's Column, plus an episode of Great Railway Journeys. Full Circle, a BBC documentary series of Michael's travels around the Pacific Rim, was broadcast in 1997.

Michael Palin - Part Two

Michael Palin The Python Years

May 1969 saw Michael team up with Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones for the first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus. A second followed in 1970, along with the first Python movie, And Now For Something Completely Different.

The TV film Pythons In Deutschland (1971) saw all Pythons speaking German, fairly badly. However, it didn't stop Python winning the Silver Rose of Montreux award the same year. The third series of Monty Python's Flying Circus (1972) coincided with the second Python In Deutschland wherein the pythons did not speak German.

Monty Python's First Farewell Tour travelled around the UK and Canada in 1973. The Pythons also made their first US appearance on the Tonight show (audience completely mystified). The fourth Monty Python series, plus Monty Python and the Holy Grail appeared in 1974. There also followed Life of Brian (1978) and The Meaning of Life (1983), winner of the Grand Prix Special du Jury at Cannes.


Michael's film career includes appearances in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky (1976), Eric Idle's The Rutles (1978), A Private Function, Terry Gilliam's Brazil (both 1984) and Fierce Creatures (1997). His appearance in A Fish Called Wanda (1988) earned Michael a BAFTA award for Best Supporting Actor.

He also co-wrote the script and appeared in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits (1980), wrote and starred in The Missionary (1982) and wrote and played the lead in American Friends (1991), based on the life of his great grandfather.

Aside from writing books for Monty Python and his various TV series, Michael has written a number of children's books, including Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls (1974) and Dr Fegg's Encyclopeadia (sic) of All world Knowledge (1984, both with Terry Jones), Small Harry and the Toothache Pill (1982), Cyril and the Dinner Party, Cyril and the House of Commons and The Mirrorstone (all 1986). He has also written a book of Limericks (1985) and a novel Hemingway's Chair (1995).

Michael lives in moody splendour in North London with his three children (Thomas, William and Rachel), their three cats (Albert, Edith and Elsie)...oh, and Helen Gibbins, whom he married in 1966.

He lists his recreations as 'reading, running and railways - preferably all three in a foreign country'. He became president of Transport 2000, an environmental lobby group aiming to improve British transport, in 1987.

Information and photograph of Michael Palin supplied by Kirsten Whiting @ The Gumby Corporation Ltd.

By the way my spell checker thinks "Shrewsbury" should be "Shrewd Berry"

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A. Lupin: very interesting article, thanks for sharing! lol @ "shrewd berry" Makes me think of the "your father smelt of elderberries."