The Early Years
Born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, on May 5th. Father an Engineer, Mother not.
1948 – 1957
Attended Birkdale Preparatory School, Sheffield. First dramatic appearance as Martha Cratchit in school production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (Fell off stage.)
1957 – 1961
At Shrewsbury School. Acting career confined to rear of classroom.
Joined Brightside and Carbrook Co-Operative Society Players whilst working in publicity department of Edgar Allen & Co. Steelmakers. Won Best Perf. Gent Award at Co-Op Drama Festival, Bradford. To Brasenose College, Oxford. Met Robert Hewison and wrote and performed first comedy material with him as cabaret at Oxford University Psychology Society Christmas Party.
Wrote and performed material in Hang Down Your Head and Die, university production which transferred to Comedy Theatre, London. Appeared with Terry Jones and others in the Oxford Revue at Edinburgh Festival. Played McCann in ETC (Experimental Theatre Club) production of Pinter’s The Birthday Party. Read a bit of History.
Wrote, appeared in and directed The Oxford Line, university revue at Edinburgh Festival. 2nd Class Modern History Degree. Left Oxford, collaborated with Terry Jones on his theatrical documentary, The Love Show. Employed as co-compere of Now, a TV pop show produced in Bristol for TWW.
April: Married Helen Gibbins, a farmer’s daughter. Wrote with Terry Jones for various TV shows – Ken Dodd Show, Billy Cotton Bandshow, The Illustrated Weekly Hudd, and was in the team of writers which won the Golden Rose of Montreux for BBC with The Frost Report (John Cleese was in the cast).
Wrote for Frost Reports, Frost Programme. Wrote, appeared in and helped script-edit A Series of Birds (with John Bird for BBC Television). Wrote and appeared in short films for Twice a Fortnight, BBC Television. Wrote pantomime Aladdin for Palace Theatre, Watford. Teamed up with Eric Idle and Terry Jones to write and perform Do Not Adjust Your Set, children’s comedy series which won Prix Jeunesse, Munich TV Festival.
Wrote for Marty Feldman (two BBC Television series). Wrote Beauty and The Beast pantomime for Watford Palace Theatre. Appeared with two Ronnies in Frost on Sunday. Appeared in special TV show, How To Irritate People, written by and starring Graham Chapman and John Cleese. Wrote and performed second series of Do Not Adjust Your Set. Wrote and performed in six-part series with Terry Jones, The Complete and Utter History of Britain for London Weekend Television.
Joined up with Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones for the first series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, broadcast on BBC Television.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus – the second series, broadcast on BBC Television. And Now For Something Completely Different (first Python movie).
Pythons in Deutschland, 45-minute TV film set in Munich. All Pythons spoke German, fairly badly. Python won Silver Rose of Montreux Award. Monty Python’s Big Red Book published.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus series 3 broadcast on BBC Television. Pythons in Deutschland second TV film for Bavaria Atelier Munich. Pythons did not speak German this time.
Monty Python’s First Farewell Tour – stage show toured UK and Canada. First American appearance on Tonight show. Joey Bishop standing in for Johnny Carson. Audience completely mystified. Co-wrote with Terry Jones a BBC Television play Secrets. Monty Python’s second book, The Brand New Monty Python Bok.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus, series 4, broadcast on BBC Television. Co-wrote and performed in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Co-wrote with Terry Jones Bert Fegg’s Nasty Book for Boys and Girls.
Appeared in Three Men in a Boat, scripted by Tom Stoppard and directed by Stephen Frears – a film for BBC Television. Co-wrote with Terry Jones Tomkinson’s Schooldays for BBC Television. Co-wrote and appeared in Python Live at Drury Lane, a four-week stage show at the Theatre Royal. Appeared with Terry Gilliam at US Federal Court, Foley Square, New York, in ‘Python vs. ABC’ case.
Played lead in Jabberwocky, a film directed by Terry Gilliam. Co-wrote with Terry Jones Their Finest Hours – two short plays performed at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, directed by David Leland. Appeared in A Poke in The Eye, the First Amnesty International Charity Show at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Monty Python Live at City Center – New York for three weeks.
Co-wrote with Terry Jones Ripping Yarns for BBC Television. (Series won the BAFTA for Best Comedy or Light Entertainment Programme in 1980).
Co-wrote and appeared in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Co-wrote with Terry Jones the book of Ripping Yarns. Appeared as Eric Manchester in Eric Idle’s The Rutles.
Co-wrote with Terry Jones three more Ripping Yarns. Co-wrote and was contributing editor on Montypythonscrapbook. Appeared in The Secret Policeman’s Ball, Amnesty International Comedy Gala at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Wrote and presented the British episode of Great Railway Journeys of The World, from London to Kyle of Lochalsh, for BBC Television. Monty Python Live at The Hollywood Bowl, stage show.
Co-wrote with Terry Gilliam and appeared in Time Bandits, a film directed by Terry Gilliam and co-wrote accompanying book.
Wrote Small Harry and the Toothache Pill, a children’s book.
Wrote and appeared in The Missionary, a film with Maggie Smith and Trevor Howard. More Than 35 Minutes with Michael Palin, performed at the Belfast Festival. Wrote and appeared in Comic Roots, an autobiographical film for BBC Television. Co-wrote and appeared in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life which won Grand Prix Special du Jury at Cannes Film Festival.
Played Jack Lint in Brazil, a film directed by Terry Gilliam. Played the chiropodist in A Private Function, alongside Maggie Smith and Denholm Elliott. Played naughty husband in Ava Sereny’s short film, The Dress, with Phyllis Logan. Recorded children’s audio books Jack The Giant Killer, Scrapefoot, Mowgli’s Brothers and How Fear Came. Co-wrote with Terry Jones Dr Fegg’s Encyclopeadia (sic) of All World Knowledge (formerly the Nasty Book for Boys and Girls).
Wrote Limericks. The Longest Running Show of its Kind in the World, performed at the Belfast Festival.
Wrote three children’s books, Cyril and the Dinner Party, Cyril and The House of Commons and The Mirrorstone, a project with Alan Lee and Richard Seymour. Became Chairman of Transport 2000, an environmental lobby group aiming to improve transport in the UK. Regular columnist for Options for Men.
Michael Palin’s 500 and One-Man Show, performed at the Belfast Festival. Wrote film, East of Ipswich for BBC Television. Wrote and appeared in The Chairman for Central Television, about the work of Transport 2000. Retired from the Chair, made President of Transport 2000.
Played Ken in the film A Fish Called Wanda. (Won Best Supporting Actor BAFTA Award) Monty Python team received the Michael Balcon Award at BAFTA. Wrote film Number 27 for BBC Television.
Wrote and presented Around the World in 80 Days, travel documentary series for BBC Television. Wrote Around the World in 80 Days for BBC Books to accompany the series. Recorded audio book of Around the World in 80 Days. Michael Palin’s One Man Show, performed at the Belfast Festival. Presented seven programmes in series The Art of Travel for BBC Television.
Co-wrote and played lead part in American Friends, a film based on the life of Michael’s great-grandfather. Played Jim Nelson in GBH, a seven-part drama series by Alan Bleasdale for Channel 4 Television.
Wrote and presented Pole to Pole, travel documentary series for BBC Television. (Won Cable ACE Award for Best Recreation or Leisure Special or Series) Wrote Pole to Pole for BBC Books to accompany the series. (Won ‘Publishing News’ Best Travel Writer Award) Recorded children’s audio book, The Man by Raymond Briggs.
Recorded children’s audio book, Jack and the Beanstalk. Appeared in A Class Act with Tracey Ullman for Meridian Television. Played The Dresser with Freddie Jones as “Sir” in BBC Radio 4 Drama. Wrote and presented an episode of Great Railway Journeys of the World, from Derry to Kerry, for BBC Television. Contributed a chapter to BBC book, Great Railway Journeys of the World.
Wrote and presented Palin’s Column, documentary series filmed on the Isle of Wight for Meridian Television. Wrote The Weekend, a stage play. Opened in Guildford in March, followed by six-week regional tour. Moved to West End in May. Recorded children’s audio book, Esio Trot, by Roald Dahl. Wrote text for Pole to Pole: The Photographs, a book of photographs by Basil Pao.
Wrote first novel Hemingway’s Chair, for Methuen. Voice of Ratty in Carlton Television’s animated The Wind in the Willows programmes.
Appeared as the Sun in The Wind in the Willows, directed by Terry Jones.
Wrote and presented Full Circle, travel documentary series for BBC Television. (Won Television and Radio Industries Awards for Best Documentary and Best Presenter, Won Best Documentary at the National Television Awards 1998) Wrote Full Circle for BBC Books, to accompany the series. Played Bugsy, the insect-house keeper, in the film Fierce Creatures. Recorded audio book of Full Circle (Won Best Film or TV tie-in at the British Talkies Awards 1998) Co-wrote and presented Palin on Redpath, an arts documentary about painter Anne Redpath, for BBC Television.
New edition of Limericks published by Red Fox, also recorded audio book. Given Royal Geographical Society’s Ness Award for ‘travels leading to a wider public appreciation of the world’. Michael Palin – Thirty Years Without a Proper Job, performed at The Belfast Festival.
Wrote and presented Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure a four-part travel documentary series for BBC Television. Wrote accompanying book published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Recorded audio book of Hemingway Adventure. Contribued to Python Night, a special evening to mark the 30th Anniversary of Monty Python, transmitted October 9th on BBC Television. Contributed to live coverage of the Millennium Events for BBC Television.
Michael was made a CBE in the 2000 New Years’ Honours List for his services to television drama and travel. Awarded Butlins Billy Award 1999/2000 for ‘Most Fun TV Travel Presenter’. Pocketful of Python, a personal selection of favourite Python works, published by Methuen. Presented and co-wrote The Bright Side of Life, documentary on the Scottish Colourist painters, for BBC Television.
Awarded Butlins Billy Award 2000/2001 for ‘Most Fun TV Travel Presenter’ (2nd year running).
Wrote and presented Sahara with Michael Palin, a four-part series for BBC Television. (Won Best Documentary Programme at the Television and Radio Industry Club Awards) Accompanying book Sahara with Michael Palin published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Received Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Comedy Awards.
Presented Michael Palin and The Ladies Who Loved Matisse, arts documentary for BBC Television.
Wrote and presented Himalaya with Michael Palin, six-part series for BBC Television. (Won the Royal Television Society Best Presenter Award and a TRIC Award for Best TV Music and Arts Programme). Accompanying book Himalaya with Michael Palin published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. (Won British Book Award for Best TV and Film Book of the Year) Audio book of Himalaya with Michael Palin released.
Presented with a BAFTA Special Award. Presented Michael Palin and the Mystery of Hammershoi, arts documentary for BBC Television.
Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1978 The Python Years published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Wrote and presented New Europe with Michael Palin, a seven-part series for BBC Television. Accompanying book New Europe published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Audio book of New Europe released.
Presented The Last Days of World War One a Timewatch documentary for BBC Television. Presented Around the World in 20 Years, a one-hour special for BBC Television. Around the World in 80 Days Special 20th Anniversary Edition published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
President of the Royal Geographical Society for a three-year term. Michael Palin Diaries 1980-1988 – Halfway to Hollywood published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
The Truth, Michael’s second novel, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Wrote and presented Brazil with Michael Palin, a four-part series for BBC Television. Accompanying book Brazil with Michael Palin published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Awarded the BAFTA Fellowship. Played General Mitford in The Wipers Times written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman for BBC Television. Presented Wyeth’s World arts documentary for BBC Television.
Performed Monty Python Live – One Down Five To Go, ten-night sell-out show at the O2 Arena, London. Michael Palin’s Diaries 1988-1998 – Travelling to Work, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Performed Travelling to Work – Live Tour, 21shows throughout the UK. Played Tom Parfitt in Remember Me a three-part contemporary ghost story written by Gwyneth Hughes for BBC Television.
Performed Travelling to Work – Live Tour across Australia and in New Zealand. Narrated The Clangers, a new version of the classic children’s TV series for BBC Television. Presented Michael Palin’s Quest for Artemisia, an arts documentary for BBC Television.
A new edition of A Sackful of Limericks was published by Random House. Presenter for Michael Palin meets Jan Morris.
Appeared as Molotov in Armando Iannucci’s film The Death of Stalin. Performed in two plays for Radio 4 an adaptation of his play The Weekend and The Wroxton Box for John Finnemore’s Double Acts.
Played Thackeray in an ITV adaptation of Vanity Fair. Erebus: The Story of a Ship was published by Hutchinson Presented a two-part series Michael Palin in North Korea for Channel 5.
Michael was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) for services to travel, culture and geography in the New Year Honours. Performed Michael Palin, Erebus, Python and Other Stories live on stage at 13 UK theatres. Michael Palin’s North Korea Journal was published by Hutchinson. Played The Green Man in two-part adaptation of Worzel Gummidge starring and directed by Mackenzie Crook for BBC Television.
Performed in A Bit of Waiting for Godot. A Lockdown Theatre performance with Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley. Guest appearance as a museum curator in a new episode of The Simpsons. Michael Palin: Travels of a Lifetime. A four-part series for BBC Television in which Michael looks back at his travels.
Cameo appearance in series 2 of the BBC comedy Staged with Michael Sheen and David Tennant.