Americans probably remember Michael Palin best as a member of the
six-man British comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus.
And while it surely the case that some of Palin's most memorable
work was with Monty Python, both in the group's TV series
or its films and live performances, the versatile comedian/actor
also has done much notable television work on his own, including
Ripping Yarns and Around the World in 80 Days.
comedy career began at Oxford University, where he wrote and performed
comedic revues with classmate and future Python Terry Jones. After
graduating with a history degree in 1965, Palin moved to London,
where his first TV job was as host of Now!, a teenage pop music
show broadcast by the now-defunct Television West Wales. In his
spare time, he continued to write with Terry Jones, who was working
for the BBC. The team wrote scripts for The Ken Dodd Show,
The Billy Cotton Bandshow, and other BBC shows.
and Jones first worked with fellow Pythons Graham Chapman, John
Cleese and Eric Idle in 1966, writing for The Frost Report.
Palin also worked with various future Pythons on Do Not Adjust
Your Set (1968-69) and The Complete and Utter History of
Britain (1969), a Jones and Palin production.
In 1969, Palin, Jones, Chapman, Cleese, Idle and Terry Gilliam (the
group's lone American) created Monty Python's Flying Circus,
after rejecting other possible titles such as "Owl Stretching Time,"
"Vaseline Parade," and "Bunn, Wackett, Buzzard, Stubble, and Boot."
The show ran for 45 episodes, 1969 to 1974, on the BBC, and took
on a life of its own, spawning five films, a series of stage shows
and numerous books, records and videos.
of Palin's most memorable performances in Monty Python include:
A man who believes he's qualified to be a lion tamer because he
already has the hat; Arthur Pewtie, who suspects his wife is being
unfaithful and goes for marriage counseling, only to watch the counselor
make love to his wife; a lumberjack who, in his spare time, "puts
on women's clothing, and hangs around in bars" (and sings about
it, backed by a chorus of Mounties); a cheese-shop owner whose shop
is "completely uncontaminated by cheese."
a kindly face and gentle demeanor, Palin is frequently cast as a
sweet, unassuming man (such as the cheated-upon Arthur Pewtie, or
the stuttering animal-lover Ken in the film A Fish Called Wanda.)
But he's equally good in more outrageous characters (like the transvestite
lumberjack, or, in another Python sketch, a high court judge who
removes his robe, revealing that he's wearing only ladies' underwear
the TV series Monty Python's Flying Circus ended, Palin continued
to perform with the group in films, stage shows and a series of
Secret Policeman's Balls, benefit concerts for Amnesty International
that featured several comedians and musicians. Palin also hosted
four episodes of NBC's Saturday Night Live from 1978 to 1984.
In 1976, the BBC began airing one of Palin's most memorable efforts,
Ripping Yarns. Conceived, written, and performed with Jones,
Ripping Yarns consisted of two series, one of six shows and
one of three shows. Each show had its own plot, and the plots were
not interrelated; the stories were based on English stories of the
the next several years, Palin appeared mostly in films. He returned
to television in 1989's Around the World in 80 Days,
a six-hour documentary of Palin's attempt to re-create Phileas Fogg's
fictional journey, retracing Fogg's route using only transportation
that would have been available in Fogg's day. Followed by a five-man
BBC crew, Palin travels on trains, hot-air balloons, dogsleds and
garbage barges through Greeces, Africa, India, Asia, America and
back to England.
did a similar, eight-hour series, Pole to Pole, in 1993.
In Pole to Pole, Palin and a BBC crew traveled from the North
Pole to the South Pole, through Finland, Russia and Africa.
(EDWARD) PALIN. Born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, 5 May
1943. Attended Birkdale School, Sheffield; Shrewsbury; B.A. in modern
history, Brasenose College, Oxford. Married: Helen M. Gibbins in
1966, children: Rachel, Thomas and William. Performed in plays and
revues while at Oxford and formed writing partnership with Terry
Jones; subsequently wrote for such television shows as The Frost
Report and then, with Jones, became a member of the Monty
Python comedy team, 1969; later wrote and starred in the television
series Ripping Yarns and also hosted acclaimed travel documentaries
as well as appearing in a range of comic dramas; director, Meridian
Television. President, Transport 2000. Recipient: British Academy
of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Supporting Actor, 1988;
Travel Writer of the Year Award, British Book Awards, 1993. Address:
Mayday Management, 68a Delancey Street, London NW1 7RY, England.
The Frost Report (writer only)
1966-67 The Late Show (writer only)
1967 A Series of Bird's (writer only)
1967 Twice a Fortnight
1967-69 Do Not Adjust Your Set
1969 The Complete and Utter History of Britain
1969-74 Monty Python's Flying Circus (also co-writer) 1975
Three Men in a Boat
1976-80 Ripping Yarns (also writer)
1987 East of Ipswich (writer only)
1988 Number 27 (writer only)
1989 Around the World in 80 Days
1992 Palin's Column
1993 Pole to Pole
1993 Tracey Ullman: A Class Act
1997 Palin's Pacific
Great Railway Journeys of the World
And Now for Something Completely Different (also co-writer),
1970; Monty Python and the Holy Grail (also co-writer), 1974;
Jabberwocky, 1976; Pleasure at Her Majesty's (U.S.
title, Monty Python Meets Beyond the Fringe), 1976; Monty Python's
Life of Brian (also co-writer), 1978; The Secret Policeman's
Ball, 1979; Time Bandits (also co-writer), 1980; The
Secret Policeman's Other Ball, 1981; Confessions of a Trainspotter,
1981; The Missionary (also co-writer and co-producer), 1982;
Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, 1982; Monty Python's
The Meaning of Life (also co-writer), 1982; A Private Function,
1984; The Secret Policeman's Private Parts, 1984; Brazil,
1985; The Dress, 1986; Troubles, 1987; A Fish Called
Wanda, 1988; American Friends (also co-writer), 1991;
The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball, 1991; Splitting Heirs,
Hang Down Your Head and Die; Aladdin; Monty Python's First Farewell
Tour; Monty Python Live at Drury Lane; Monty Python Live at City
Center; The Secret Policeman's Ball; The Weekend.
Monty Python's Big Red Book, with others. London: Eyre Methuen,
Python's Brand New Book, with others. London: Eyre Methuen,
Yarns. New York: Pantheon, 1978.
Ripping Yarns. London: Eyre Methuen, 1980.
London: Methuen, 1983.
Fegg's Encyclopedia of All World Knowledge. New York: Bedrick,
London: Hutchinson, 1985.
The Mirrorstone. New York: Knopf, 1986.
the World in 80 Days. San Francisco: KQED Books, 1989.
to Pole. San Francisco: KQED Books, 1992.
to Pole: The Photographs. San Francisco: KQED Books, 1994.
Chair (novel). London: Methuen, 1995.
Robert. Monty Python: The Case Against Irreverence, Scurrility,
Profanity, Vilification, and Licentious Abuse. New York: Grove,
Kim. Life (Before and) After Monty Python: The Solo Flights of
the Flying Circus. New York: St. Martin's, 1993.
_______________. The First 20 Years of Monty Python. New
York: St. Martin's, 1989.
Douglas L. Monty Python: A Chronological Listing of the Troupe's
Creative Output, and Articles and Reviews About Them. Jefferson,
North Carolina: McFarland, 1991.
Python's Flying Circus