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Michael Palin Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (23) | Personal Quotes (50) | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 5 May 1943Ranmoor, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, UK
Birth NameMichael Edward Palin
Height 5' 10½" (1.79 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Michael Palin is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter. He was one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python.

After the Monty Python television series ended in 1974, the Palin/Jones team worked on Ripping Yarns, an intermittent television comedy series broadcast over three years from 1976. In 1980, Palin co-wrote Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. He also acted in the film. In 1984, he reunited with Terry Gilliam to appear in Brazil. He appeared in the comedy film A Fish Called Wanda (1988), for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

Spouse (1)

Helen Gibbins (16 April 1966 - present) (3 children)

Trade Mark (2)

Frequently the most abused, ill-fated characters in a given Monty Python sketch or film
Silly characters undone mainly by their own foolishness

Trivia (23)

He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2000 Queen's Millennium Honors List for his services to television drama and travel documentaries.
He is a graduate of Oxford with a degree in History.
Member of Monty Python's Flying Circus along with John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam.
Children: Thomas (b. 1969), William (b. 1971) and Rachel (b. 1975)
Left the Reform Club in London on September 25 1988 for a journey Around the World in 80 Days (1989), accompanied by a BBC TV team.
Attended Brasenose College, Oxford University.
Whilst filming Full Circle with Michael Palin (1997), Palin helped to hatch a baby crocodile and asked the crew to get a shot of himself with a crocodile in his hand.
He is an old boy of the ultra-exclusive and expensive English public school, Shrewsbury School. The section of Monty Python's Meaning of Life (1983) set in the school of "Sudbury" is a reference to his time there.
The Virgin Super Voyager train number 221 130 named after him.
The public voted him the best-looking member of the Python troupe.
His father had a rather serious stutter. This came in handy when he played Ken (the stuttering thief) in A Fish Called Wanda (1988).
In a quest for a "Peter Jonesy sort of voice", the casting crew for the original radio series, "The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy" approached Palin to play the part of The Book (he turned the part down). The part was eventually given to the very "Peter Jonesy" Peter Jones.
The Pythons had little idea how fanatical their American audience had become until they performed the live Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) live shows that were soon immortalized. According to Carol Cleveland, as the group were exiting backstage one night, a 20-something girl ran up to Palin, screamed "Oh, Michael!", and promptly fainted in his arms. Palin had to pass the girl to others to help, as he was literally shocked into speechlessness.
His wide travels are so well known that he now has his own travel website called "Palin's Travels.".
In addition to attending the exclusive Shrewsbury School, and later, the University of Oxford; as a lad, he also attended Birkdale School in Sheffield.
Was born the son of an engineer in the industrial city of Sheffield, and remains a supporter of Sheffield United Football Club.
After Sarah Palin's nomination for John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential elections got announced, someone made a YouTube video saying that the wrong Palin got chosen. It proposed Michael Palin, jokingly using clips of him from movies and skits as evidence that he was right for the nomination.
London, England: Publication of his memoir 'Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries 1980-1988' [August 2011]
While a majority of his ancestry is English, one of his paternal great-grandmothers was Irish.
Wrote and acted for Oxford's equivalent of the Cambridge Footlights.
Knew Eric Idle and Terry Jones from university.
Son of Edward and Mary Palin. He had one sister called Angela.
Credits fellow Python Terry Gilliam with getting him to quit smoking. Gilliam had been having dinner with Palin and his wife Helen at the Palins' home one evening in April 1969. Afterwards, Michael discovered he had run out of cigarettes and became increasingly panicky when he failed to find coins for the cigarette slot machine up the road anywhere. Gilliam, half joking, half worried, called Michael an addict, resulting in Michael denying himself a cigarette and never buying a pack again.

Personal Quotes (50)

[From an interview about the late Graham Chapman]: "He always regarded death as highly overrated and could never understand why anybody made such a fuss about it".
I was an enormous fan of The Beatles. When Terry Jones and I were writing together during the 60s, whenever a new Beatles album came out we were at the shop first thing to get our copy. We put off a day's writing to get to grips with the White Album. It influenced us very much, not just the music but what The Beatles stood for, a quality they had in their music and their writing that was so different to the pop we'd grown up with in the 50s and early 60s. We loved the lyrics and the poetry, as well as the humour in it. The Beatles represented something sort of young and fresh that we hoped we were also a part of.
We've had disagreements over the years about lifestyle and business and money, and all the things peripheral to what we do best of all, which is produce comedy. The one thing that hasn't changed is our enjoyment of each other's sense of humour. I've always been wary of a Python reunion because we don't have Graham Chapman, who was such an important part of Python. He had his problems - he was a self-confessed alcoholic - but, God, he was a good actor and an odd, eccentric writer, too. We'd miss him if we got back together.
The freedom to do what I wanted to do was much more important to me than the shackles of stardom. The more money you earn, the higher your status, the more people are around you. I don't know how people like Johnny Depp operate. He's got about 40 or 50 people who look after his life. My people are my wife and my kids and my grandsons.
I'm not that ambitious. I didn't have a goal. I wanted to write well, act well and bring up my family well and sometimes you couldn't do one and the other at the same time.
People tend to think that those in showbiz are awful, apart from a couple of us like Gary Lineker and myself, who are nice. I think Gary is married to a younger woman now so he's lost a few points and doesn't have to be nice anymore. Lucky him!
I thought the Fish Called Wanda (A Fish Called Wanda (1988)) script was awful when John (John Cleese) first showed it to me ... and it's the most successful film I've ever done.
I don't see why it should be remarkable that you can acquire a reputation for fairness and decency. Those are qualities shared by so many people. And the great majority of people I meet are decent people, just trying to navigate their way through the world without causing too much trouble.
Fame changes everything. When you're well-known, you're expected to be different. Some people assume you must have a yacht, and four homes. Or that you're famous because you are 'A Decent Man'. Just think of the number of people who do selfless work in this country every day; nobody has even heard of them.
I am certainly more interested in interviewing than being interviewed. Sometimes you find yourself attacked from the start.
I have never claimed to be the nicest man in the world. That's a cliché that has somehow come to be widely accepted. It drives [wife] Helen mad. As she and my children [Tom, Will and Rachel, now all grown-up] will testify, I have a short fuse over certain things. Like if the one-inch nails are not where they should be in the box, and they've been moved to the three-inch section. [Pantomime bellow] Who did this?
I couldn't say that I was frightened of my father. But I never felt totally comfortable with him. Perhaps because of his stammer. When you just can't get the words out, it distances you. And it placed you - as an articulate child - in the awkward position of being able to do something which he, the adult, couldn't. I imagine that could be enervating. That might have been it. My father did have a slight tendency to put down anything I did. I don't think he meant it.
[My father] was always confronting people. Bus conductors, waitresses: he felt everyone was laying traps and should be treated with suspicion. There was always tension when he was around. I found it deeply embarrassing. That's why I hate rows and try to avoid confrontation.
[I'm] one of that cursed generation doomed to take nothing seriously.
Yes. Until [meeting the future members of Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) I had been a very obliging kind of a guy. Having to defend your material, in that company... you just couldn't be diffident. Also, I realised that I was quite good at it. They gave me great confidence.
I just loved acting with [John Cleese]. Perhaps because there was no competition between us. I was short and he was tall. He was imperious and I was defensive. He needed me and I needed him. It made those shop sketches, like the dead parrot, extremely enjoyable to do. Me trying to be endlessly obliging, him being increasingly aggressive.
I met [John Cleese] on The Frost Report (1966), after which he was offered all sorts of things, but he rang me up instead, and decided to do Python. Which was quite a risk, for a man so driven by success. When we were collaborating, the only question was: does this work or not? He was very funny, and he appreciated good writing from others. So that was fine. Until the third series, when John clearly wanted to go, and people started to ask why. Whenever humour is taken out of the equation, the Pythons don't necessarily get along that well. Comedy brought us together.
Something about John Cleese was always very unsettled, I felt. There was always something else he wanted to do. He seemed constantly driven by this sense that there was a nirvana somewhere; some unique place where mind, body and soul would be utterly satisfied.
Well, John Cleese, of course, is from Weston-super-Mare. So he knows all about pleasure and fulfillment. I think he set himself a very high standard of achievement and possibly feels he never quite attained it. He's always moving: first to New York, then to California, now Monaco. Where next? I always wanted to say to him: 'John, you're so talented. You have a lovely wife and kids; just relax.' But there was always something more that he wanted, to a point that was almost destructive.
We did enjoy writing sketches about Marcel Proust. And we were actually trying to debunk that sort of elitism. But you do have to know about something, in order to debunk it. Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) has suffered from very high praise. There were some things that quite laboriously didn't work. The television shows were, as you suggest, uneven. Really good material was in there, among a lot of dross. I still think some of the obscure stuff is good, and often needed to be there.
No, I don't think [my father] quite... got Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969). Also, he was developing Parkinson's and the medication was giving him hallucinations. Graham Chapman was a medical man, as you know. He was fascinated by the fact that my father was seeing hamsters running up his trouser leg. In fact, my mother would have to retrieve them and put them in a bag ... I was grateful then that we could laugh, and Graham found it extraordinary that it was so surreal and Pythonic. My mother, bless her, defended Python. I don't know how much she understood it.
[Michael's sister Angela] so much wanted to act. She never got big parts; it didn't really work out for her. But I think she had depression going way back. She was gifted, intelligent and very funny. But for some reason she just couldn't value herself enough.
People look for patterns in everything. It's what keeps us sane, I suppose. I struggle to see any patterns in my life. I think I can understand depression a bit because of my sister. My own feelings of ... I'm aware that, if you feel down, it can be strangely unrelated to circumstances around you. That's just the way life is.
I loved Spike Milligan, yet I never realised, until I got to know him, that this person, who made me so happy, was desperate, and that writing the comedy I adored was tearing his life apart. When I interviewed him for Comic Roots (1982), I asked him what it felt like to work on The Goon Show (1968). He said, 'It was like one good summer.'" What a moving phrase that is. 'One good summer'. Something fleeting, that you can never recapture. That sense of: was it all just a dream? I think it was extremely perceptive of Spike to say that.
When I read profiles of myself I sometimes think: I have spent my whole life struggling to understand my motivations and impulses, and I've never quite sorted them out. To be absolutely frank with you, I'm still not sure I understand them. Then these people wander in, and suddenly they've cracked it in half-an-hour. I always assumed that, with age, I would understand myself better. Unfortunately, it's proving to be quite the opposite. I'm no closer to defining what it is that I really am than I ever was - other than somebody who is intensely curious about life.
Fame really is a trap. When I start complaining about this, [my wife] Helen quite rightly says: 'Well, here's an idea: don't make another 10-part television series.' But fame would cut anybody off from the kind of things that I like to do, [such as] observing the world. Learning about trains. Discovering new music. You also find yourself bearing other people's expectations. I don't want to bear anybody's expectations. I just want to do... what I can do. And to be judged on that. All of this comes back to what Ernest Hemingway said: 'Don't talk about writing; just write.' And I sometimes tend to think: 'Don't talk about living; just live.'
[on the death of Robin Williams] His ear for mimicry was superb and he could do parody brilliantly. I can imagine that having that ability is a bit like being possessed - the devil of comedy is in you and it must have been hard to live with.
[on the thought of performing with Robin Williams] It would have been like being invited to play in a jazz band when you couldn't play an instrument.
[on Robin Williams] He could do it all, he could do absolutely everything, and he could do everybody.
Being feted in Hollywood is quite irresistible. They are very warm and very generous. But as soon as the takings go down and you have a bad third week, the calls aren't returned.
[Explaining how Terry Gilliam, unlike himself, has carved out a film career] Gilliam is a battler. He's like some sort of samurai warrior; wherever he goes, there are corpses.
[on the different kinds of fans he meets] One are the people who know me from Python, and want a bit of a laugh, especially if they've had a drink or two. A lot of the others now are people who've seen me traveling, and they're slightly more sober, and they're just interested in travel, where I've been, all that sort of thing. And the third lot are the people who've seen Ripping Yarns, who, like George Harrison, I revere.
I'm a Wallander (2008) fan. Another favourite is Mad Men (2007) and, on radio, almost anything on BBC 6 Music, which takes me out of my musical comfort zone.
[2015] As soon as Tom was born, I decided to quit smoking. I'd always been an enthusiastic smoker, but whenever he wanted a cuddle, I had to put out the fag, find an ashtray, then make sure he didn't eat it - for a while he had a thing for eating butts. He was an angelic child. And very law-abiding. I remember trying to park the car and he kept saying: "Dad, are you sure we can park here?" He was terrified about what would happen if we did something wrong, which surprised me, because we weren't particularly strict. Strict enough, but nothing like my father.
Part of the tradition of Oxbridge cabaret and revue was that you had songs as well. A lot of people who couldn't sing very well would have to get up and sing, because that's the way it was. Eric [Idle] was probably the most musical and was very gifted at writing these songs which were quite cabaret-like in their way, sort of Noël Coward, that kind of thing. And Terry J [Terry Jones] also liked songs. But Terry was odd because he wasn't supremely musical but he did love music, and I think he had a guitar and all that. I hope he won't mind me saying it, but he wasn't a natural, elegant, easy, gifted musician, though he did love music. So Terry and Eric were quite keen to do songs, and the rest of us were not much good really. John [Cleese] was probably tone deaf, and I was just very shy of singing and it was one of those ridiculous things. I'm not a great one for going back to my schooldays and saying, 'Yeah, that's where I went wrong, that's where I became a sex maniac,' but I do remember going to a music class at school, and we all just sang jolly songs for three quarters of an hour. Mr Biltcliffe, who was our music master, said, 'Someone's singing flat over there,' and my good friend, whose sixtieth birthday I've just attended, pointed to me and said, 'It was Palin', as a bit of a laugh. We were only about ten and I had to go up and stand by the piano and do a scale. Of course I was very nervous and didn't do it very well, so Mr Biltcliffe said, 'You're right, you're sitting amongst the non-singers.' So there was this idea of a table full of non-singers, people who could not sing. That was it, there was no 'relax a bit and then we'll help you to sing, everyone has got music naturally in them'. No, you were a non-singer. And oddly enough I recollect having this conversation with John and the same thing happened to him when he was at school: he was told he was a non-singer in some way or another. So we were rather frightened of singing. I knew I could sing, but doing the 'Lumberjack Song' was quite an ordeal for me because I didn't have the confidence of a powerful voice and I had to sing solo. So I got through it by being the character and slapping my leg a lot and doing lots of burly things and of course once it was taken up by the chorus it was fine and it was all very funny, but it didn't come easy to me.
As I've said, my father was a man of regular habits, and I think he would ideally have liked me to replicate his career, which is what you did then. He wanted me to go to Clare College, Cambridge, if the storybook of life worked out. I took an exam and they said no, they couldn't take me, because English was very oversubscribed that year and if I had chosen to read forestry or something like that, I probably would have got in. Too late by then to go back and say, 'Oh yes, I want to be a lumberjack.'
I grew up in a fairly protected world, and I remember being very shocked at some age when I heard two people, not my own parents, having a public row. I was just so surprised. I thought that children did that, but we grew out of it. Grown-ups don't do it.
After he [my father] died I had to go through some of his papers, and I found out that when I was at Shrewsbury my school fees were half what he earned. That was how important it was for him to send me to a public school.
I felt they [the writers and performers of Beyond the Fringe] were a bit out of my league, very metropolitan, especially Peter Cook who was so amazingly elegant and confident, and I felt a million miles from them, but then living in Sheffield you felt a million miles from most things.
I've always felt that civilised behaviour was generally on a knifeedge. I can remember feeling that at school assemblies when someone would get up there and start talking. I can just remember thinking, 'Gosh, if a man on a length of wire, stark naked suddenly swung across the stage, what would happen?' 'What would happen if I ran up there and stuffed a banana in his face?' - something like that. I could almost do it. I don't know if there's a sort of syndrome for that. But I just felt these people are all playing a certain game, terribly sort of straight and focused, but only inches away from insanity.
I have odd sorts of memories of the first two or three years at school. I even have early sexual memories of teachers that I fancied. I can only have been six or seven and there was one lady, who may still be around, called Miss Cadell, and she was known as 'Bosoms Cadell'. 'Bosom' was a very naughty word for young boys at that time, very, very naughty, and it cropped up a lot in the Bible so there was a lot of giggling at that. There was another teacher called Miss Twyford, who had lovely, long blonde hair, golden hair. I remember her terribly well. She'd have been about twenty and there was something I did respond to - glamour and looks - at that age. It did me no harm.
[on trying to get a place at various Oxford colleges] Then I tried for Magdalen College and I can remember some wonderful gaffes on one of the papers. They had a question about Le Corbusier: 'A house is a machine for living in - Le Corbusier. Discuss.' I didn't know who Le Corbusier was. I assumed he was French. I began it by saying, 'Well, of course, it was all very well for Le Corbusier in the days when he lived ...', and I wrote this whole thing about the days before the Black Death. They must have had fun reading it and laughing at me. My earliest comedy scripts must have been my exam papers.
My mother's family are from Oxfordshire and my father's from Norfolk, and on my mother's side the family were kind of 'gentry', I suppose you'd call them. My father wasn't gentry, but they were both clearly from the professional classes. My father was the son of a doctor and he'd been quite well educated at Shrewsbury school and then Cambridge. My mother was the daughter of the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, and she'd been presented at court. You'd go to Buckingham Palace and be presented to the king or the queen, who'd come along and say hello, and then a big debutante ball would be given. It was a society thing, all about cementing social contacts, and it was expected to happen to you if you were from a certain background. She was part of that because my grandfather on my mother's side was a big landowner in Oxfordshire. In fact he actually lived right on the borders of what became George Harrison's house, Friar Park.
I wanted to be close to my father, I had the usual feelings towards him. He was my dad and I enjoyed it when we played cricket together or something like that. He took an interest in what I was doing, I suppose. I can't remember year for year, but my general impression was that my mother was much more sympathetic and probably just more relaxed generally. She didn't have to go out to work. She was there more. Most of the time I spent with my mother and in the end my mother was the one who was much more understanding and indulgent. My father was always kind of preoccupied. But I wanted to please him and I wanted him to be a good dad, like other people have good dads and all that.
Generally speaking, authority has to win respect now, when in those days it was automatically granted it. I think there was a terrific need after the war to get back to the old hierarchies and make sure church, army, politicians and all that were in place again. I always thought it was interesting that the Labour government won after the war and then pretty quickly they were replaced by the Conservatives as people thought this was what we really need, order not revolution.
[on meeting John Cleese for the first time] I can't remember our first words, probably 'Shut up' on his part or 'What? Don't bother me now.'
And then came Beyond the Fringe, for instance, the first programme to start putting in jokes about the Prime Minister. I wish in a way that I was able to go back in time and remind myself of what the taboos were, because they were terribly strong and affected our freedom of speech very powerfully. We live in a time now where there seem to be few taboos on anything.
My father was a bit difficult and there would always be quite a number of moments when it was very tense around the table and I could tell he was being a bit sharp with my mother, but I never felt that that was anything that was going to fracture the family. There were moments later on as I grew up when I remember saying to my mother, 'Why don't you divorce him?' I had found this wonderful word 'divorce'. Her response was 'Don't be so silly, dear. You get your nose out of that dictionary and go and plant the marigolds.' Overall, though, I think I was happy in the sense that I liked my father when he was in a good mood and I wanted our general father- son relationship to work. I think I was aware that, because he had a stammer, people would laugh at it behind his back. I stood up for my father in situations like that. Well, I think I probably tried to.
At the end of my time at Oxford, I had a lot of acting offers and things like that. By that time I had worked with Terry [Jones] on the Oxford revue, and acting with Terry, there were certain things we did together which seemed to work awfully well and awfully easily and there was a rapport between us.
At times during the rest of my early life there were moments when I was slightly embarrassed by the fact that my father would never turn any lights on in the house unless there was someone actually in that room. We lived in a pool of light round the fire, while the rest of the house remained completely dark. And he used to get very angry if my sister spent more than two and a half minutes on the telephone. I wasn't absolutely certain if it was just my father being naturally like that or whether we really didn't have the money. We did things, we went on holiday for two weeks in the year, which is what people did.

Salary (1)

Jabberwocky (1977) £6,000

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