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Michael Edward Palin (pronounced ; born 5 May 1943) is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter. He was a member of the comedy group and later made a number of .

Palin wrote most of his comedic material with fellow Python member . Before Monty Python, they had worked on other shows such as the Show, , and . Palin appeared in some of the most famous Python sketches, including "", "", "", "", "" and "".

Palin continued to work with Jones after Python, co-writing . He has also appeared in several films directed by fellow Python and made notable appearances in other films such as (1988), for which he won the . In a 2005 poll to find The Comedians' Comedian, he was voted the 30th favourite by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

After Python, he began a new career as a and travel documentarian. His journeys have taken him across the world, including the and , the , the , Eastern Europe and . In 2000 Palin was honoured as a (CBE) for his services to television. From 2009 to 2012 Palin was the president of the . On 12 May 2013, Palin was made a , the highest honour that is conferred by the organisation.


Early life[]

Palin was born in , , the second child and only son of Edward Moreton Palin (1900-1977). and Mary Rachel Lockhart (née Ovey; 1903-1990). His father was a and -educated engineer working for a steel firm. His maternal grandfather, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Lockhart Ovey, , was in 1927. He was educated at and . His sister Angela was nine years older than he was. Despite the age gap the two had a close relationship until her suicide in 1987. He has ancestral roots in , .

When he was five years old, Palin had his first acting experience at Birkdale playing Martha Cratchit in a school performance of . At the age of 10, Palin, still interested in acting, made a comedy and read a play to his mother while playing all the parts. After his school days in 1962 he went on to read at . With fellow student he performed and wrote, for the first time, comedy material at a university Christmas party., also a student in Oxford, saw that performance and began writing together with Hewison and Palin. In the same year Palin joined the Brightside and Carbrook Co-operative Society Players and first gained fame when he won an acting award at a Co-op drama festival. He also performed and wrote in (called the Et ceteras) with Jones.

In 1966 he married Helen Gibbins, whom he first met in 1959 on holiday in in Suffolk. This meeting was later fictionalised in Palin's play East of Ipswich. The couple have three children: Thomas (b. 1969), William (b. 1971) and Rachel (b. 1975) and two grandchildren. Rachel is a BBC TV director, whose work includes , shown on BBC2 throughout October and November 2010. A photograph of William as a baby briefly appeared in as "Sir Not-appearing-in-this-film". His nephew is the theatre designer .

Early career[]

After finishing university in 1965 Palin became a presenter on a comedy pop show called Now! for the television contractor . At the same time Palin was contacted by Jones, who had left university a year earlier, for assistance in writing a theatrical documentary about sex through the ages. Although this project was eventually abandoned, it brought Palin and Jones together as a writing duo and led them to write comedy for various programmes, such as The Ken Dodd Show, The Billy Cotton Bandshow, and The Illustrated Weekly Hudd. They collaborated in writing lyrics for an album by Barry Booth called Diversions. They were also in the team of writers working for , whose other members included , , , , , and future Monty Python members , and . Although the members of Monty Python had already encountered each other over the years, The Frost Report was the first time all the British members of Monty Python (its sixth member, , was at that time an American citizen) worked together. During the run of The Frost Report the Palin/Jones team contributed material to two shows starring : The Late Show and A Series of Birds. For A Series of Birds the Palin/Jones team had their first experience of writing narrative instead of the short sketches they were accustomed to conceiving.

Following The Frost Report the Palin/Jones team worked both as actors and writers on the show with , and , and the successful children's comedy show with Idle and . The show also featured musical numbers by the , including future Monty Python musical collaborator . The animations for Do Not Adjust Your Set were made by Terry Gilliam. Eager to work with Palin sans Jones, Cleese later asked him to perform in together with Chapman and . The Palin/Jones team were reunited for .

Monty Python[]

Main article:

On the strength of their work on The Frost Report and other programmes, Cleese and Chapman had been offered a show by the BBC, but Cleese was reluctant to do a for various reasons, among them Chapman's reputedly difficult personality. During this period Cleese contacted Palin about doing the show that would ultimately become Monty Python's Flying Circus. At the same time the success of Do Not Adjust Your Set had led Palin, Jones, Idle and Gilliam to be offered their own series and, while it was still in production, Palin agreed to Cleese's proposal and brought along Idle, Jones and Gilliam. Thus the formation of the Monty Python troupe has been referred to as a result of Cleese's desire to work with Palin and the chance circumstances that brought the other four members into the fold.

In Monty Python, Palin played various roles, which ranged from manic enthusiasm (such as the of , or Herbert Anchovy, host of the game show "Blackmail") to unflappable calmness (such as the vendor or proprietor). As a he was often a foil to the rising ire of characters portrayed by . He also played timid, socially inept characters such as Arthur Putey, the man who sits quietly as a marriage counsellor () makes love to his wife (), and Mr. Anchovy, a chartered accountant who wants to become a lion tamer. He also appeared as the at the beginning of most episodes.

Palin frequently co-wrote sketches with and also initiated the "", which included the "Nobody expects the !" He also composed songs with Jones including "The Lumberjack Song", "" and "". His solo musical compositions included "" and "".

Other work[]

Michael Palin, Nightingale House, November 2010

After the Monty Python television series ended in 1974, the Palin/Jones team worked on , an intermittent television comedy series broadcast over three years from 1976. They had earlier collaborated on the play from the BBC series in 1973. He starred as Dennis the Peasant in Terry Gilliam's 1977 film . Palin also appeared in (1978) as Eric Manchester (based on ), the press agent for . In 1980, Palin co-wrote with Terry Gilliam. He also acted in the film.

In 1982, Palin wrote and starred in , co-starring . In it, he plays the Reverend Charles Fortescue, who is recalled from Africa to aid prostitutes. He co-starred with Maggie Smith again in the 1984 comedy film . In 1984, he reunited with Terry Gilliam to appear in . He appeared in the comedy film , for which he won the . Cleese reunited the main cast almost a decade later to make . After filming for Fierce Creatures finished, Palin went on a travel journey for a BBC documentary and, returning a year later, found that the end of Fierce Creatures had failed at test screenings and had to be reshot.

Until "The Death of Stalin" in 2017, and with the exception of several made-for-TV films and voice work for animations, Palin's last film role was a small part in , a film directed by and starring Terry Jones. Palin also appeared with John Cleese in his documentary, . Palin was cast in a supporting role in the and romantic comedy , but his role was eventually cut entirely. He also assisted and others with campaigns on sustainable transport, particularly those relating to urban areas, and has been president of the campaign since 1986.

Palin has also appeared in serious drama. In 1991 Palin appeared in a film, , he wrote based upon a real event in the life of his great-grandfather, a fellow at . In that same year he also played the part of a headmaster in 's drama series .

Palin also had a small cameo role in Australian soap opera . He played an English with a fear of , who interrupts a conversation between two main characters to ask whether there were any sharks in the sea. This was filmed while he was in Australia for the Full Circle series, with a segment about the filming of the role featuring in the series. In November 2005, he appeared in the documentary.

In 2013 Michael Palin appeared in a drama titled written by and . At the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, it was announced that Palin was set to star alongside in 's . Palin, however, dropped out of the film after it ran into a financial problem.


In July 2010, Palin sent a message of support for the tribe of , who are resisting mining on their land by the company . Palin said, "I've been to the Nyamgiri Hills in and seen the forces of money and power that Vedanta Resources have arrayed against a people who have occupied their land for thousands of years, who husband the forest sustainably and make no great demands on the state or the government. The tribe I visited simply want to carry on living in the villages that they and their ancestors have always lived in".

On 2 January 2011, Palin became the first person to sign the UK-based Campaign for Better Transport's Fair Fares Now campaign. In July 2015, Palin signed an open letter and gave an interview to support "a strong BBC at the centre of British life" at a time the government was reviewing the corporation's size and activities.

Television documentaries[]


Palin's first travel documentary was segment 4 of the 1980 series , entitled Confessions of a Trainspotter. Throughout the hour long show, Palin humorously reminisces about his childhood hobby of , while he travels throughout the UK by train, from London to the , via , , , Edinburgh and . He rides vintage train lines and trains including . At the Kyle of Lochalsh, Palin bought the station's long metal platform sign and is seen lugging it back to London with him.

In 1994, Palin travelled through Ireland for the same series, entitled "Derry to Kerry". In a quest for family roots, he attempted to trace his great grandmother – Brita Gallagher – who set sail from Ireland 170 years ago during the , bound for a new life in , New Jersey. The series is a trip along the Palin family line.

Starting in 1989, Palin appeared as presenter in a series of travel programmes made for the BBC. It was after the veteran TV globetrotter and journalist turned down presenting the first of these, Around the World in 80 Days, that gave Palin the opportunity to present his first and subsequent travel shows. These programmes have been broadcast around the world in syndication, and were also sold on VHS tape and later on DVD:

  • (Travel 1988; Programme release 1989): travelling as closely as possible the path described in the famous story without using aircraft.
  • (Travel 1991; Programme release 1992): travelling from the to the , following as closely as possible the 30-degree line of , over as much land as possible, i.e., through Europe and Africa.
  • (Travel 1995/96; Programme release 1997): in which he circumnavigated the lands around the Pacific Ocean anti-clockwise; a journey of almost 50,000 miles (80,000 km) starting on Island in the and taking him through Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
  • (1999): retracing the footsteps of through the United States, Europe, Africa and the .
  • (Travel 2001/02; Programme release 2002): in which he trekked around and through the world's .
  • (Travel 2003/04; Programme release 2004): in which he travels through the .
  • (Travel 2006/07; Programme release 2007): in which he travels through and Eastern Europe.
  • (2012) in which he travels through .

Following each trip, Palin wrote a book about his travels, providing information and insights not included in the TV programme. Each book is illustrated with photographs by , the stills photographer who was on the team. (Exception: the first book, Around the World in 80 Days, contains some pictures by Pao but most are by other photographers.)

All seven of these books were also made available as audio books, and all of them are read by Palin himself. Around the World in 80 Days and Hemingway Adventure are unabridged, while the other four books were made in both abridged and unabridged versions, although the unabridged versions can be very difficult to find.[]

For four of the trips a photography book was made by Pao, each with an introduction written by Palin. These are large coffee-table style books with pictures printed on glossy paper. The majority of the pictures are of various people encountered on the trip, as informal portraits or showing them engaged in some interesting activity. Some of the landscape photos are displayed as two-page spreads.

Palin's travel programmes are responsible for a phenomenon termed the "Palin effect": areas of the world that he has visited suddenly become popular tourist attractions – for example, the significant increase in the number of tourists interested in after Palin visited . In a 2006 survey of "15 of the world's top travel writers" by , Palin named Peru's (canyon below the Machu Picchu) his "favourite place in the world".

Palin notes in his book of Around the World in 80 Days that the final leg of his journey could originally have taken him and his crew on one of the trains involved in the , but they arrived ahead of schedule and caught an earlier train.

Art and history[]

Palin in 2015

In recent years, Palin has written and presented occasional documentary programmes on artists that interest him. The first, on painter , was Palin on Redpath in 1997. In The Bright Side of Life (2000), Palin continued on a Scottish theme, looking at the work of the . Two further programmes followed on European painters; Michael Palin and the Ladies Who Loved Matisse (2004) and Michael Palin and the Mystery of Hammershøi (2005), about the French artist and artist respectively. The DVD Michael Palin on Art contains all these documentaries except for the programme.

In November 2008, Palin presented a documentary about , 11 November 1918, when thousands of soldiers lost their lives in battle after the war had officially ended. Palin filmed on the battlefields of and for the programme, called the , produced for the BBC's Timewatch series.

Awards and honours[]

Class 153, no. 153335 'Michael Palin' at .

Palin was instrumental in setting up the in 1993. Also in 1993, each member of Monty Python had an named after him. Palin's is Asteroid . In 2003, inside the a commemorative stone was placed - Palin has his own stone, to mark donors to the theatre, but it is misspelt as "Michael Pallin". The story goes that John Cleese paid for the stone, and mischievously insisted on misspelling his name.

In honour of his achievements as a traveller, especially rail travel, Palin has two British trains named after him. In 2002, Virgin Trains' new £5 million high speed train number 221130 was named "Michael Palin" – it carries his name externally and a plaque is located adjacent to the onboard shop with information on Palin and his many journeys. Also, named a (unit number 153335) after him. (He is also a enthusiast.)

In 2008, he received the of the in Dublin. In recognition of his services to the promotion of geography, Palin was awarded the of the in March 2009, along with a Fellowship to the Society. In June 2013, he was similarly honoured in Canada with a gold medal for achievements in geography by the . In June 2009, Palin was elected for a three-year term as President of the . Because of his self-described "amenable, conciliatory character" Michael Palin has been referred to as unofficially "Britain's Nicest Man."

In September 2013, Moorlands School, Leeds named one of their school houses "Palin" after him. The awarded Palin an degree during their June 2017 graduation ceremonies, with the degree recognising his contribution to the public's understanding of contemporary geography. He joins his fellow Pythons and in receiving an honorary degree from the Fife institution.


Travel books[]

All his travel books can also be read at no charge, complete and unabridged, on his website.

Autobiography (contributor)[]



Children's books[]


Selected filmography[]


  • The Weekend (2017, adapted from his 1994 stage play)
  • - "The Wroxton Box" (Series 2, Episode 6; 2017)

BAFTA Awards[]

Other awards[]

  • 2011 Was awarded the Visual Comedy Legend award for "significant contributions made to the world of comedy".


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Further reading[]

  • Jones, Mark (2010), The Famous Charisma Discography The Record Press/Bristol Folk Publications   – discography of Monty Python's record label, includes foreword by Michael Palin
  • Novick, Jeremy (2001), Life of Michael: an Illustrated Biography of Michael Palin Headline Publishing (a division of Hodder Headline)  
  • Ross, Robert (1997). Monty Python Encyclopedia B.T. Batsford Ltd, London  
  • Wilmut, Roger (1980). From Fringe to Flying Circus: Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy 1960–1980 Eyre Methuen Ltd  

External links[]

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