Michael Palin

Active - 1971 - 2019  |   Born - May 5, 1943 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

British actor/satirist Michael Palin first demonstrated his writing and performing skills at Oxford University's Experimental Theatre Club. Almost immediately upon graduation, Palin was snatched up by the BBC, which made excellent use of his scathing wit and thespic versatility in such series as Twice a Fortnight and The Complete and Utter History of Britain. A relative latecomer to the fabled Monty Python troupe, Palin made up for lost time, writing and performing in the group's long-running TV series and in such big-screen projects as Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and Life of Brian (1978); he also wrote much of the musical score for Monty Python's the Meaning of Life (1983). To date, Palin and Cleese have been the two ex-Pythonites most active as solo performers. Palin was hilarious as the green-as-grass Reverend Charles Fort, ministering to "fallen women" ("Women who've tripped?") in The Missionary (1982) and as stuttering doofus Ken in A Fish Called Wanda (1988), winning a British Film Association award for the latter performance. Palin remained active in television into the 1990s with cheeky projects like Ripping Yarns (1976), Do Not Adjust Your Set (1977-79) and Palin's Column (1994). An inveterate globetrotter, Michael Palin channelled his wanderlust into several tongue-in-cheek TV miniseries, beginning with Around the World in 80 Days (1989). Palin mostly retired from acting after appearing in the Fish Called Wanda "sequel" Fierce Creatures in 1997, and has mainly focused on his travel documentaries in recent years.

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  • Fell off the stage during his first public performance as a child, when he played Martha Cratchit in a school production of A Christmas Carol.
  • Formed a comedy-writing team while attending Brasenose College with fellow future Monty Python member Terry Jones.
  • Along with Jones, was hired to write for the Frost Report, a BBC sketch comedy show that also employed future Python members Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Eric Idle.
  • Has done a number of travel documentaries for the BBC, beginning with an episode of Great Railway Journeys of the World in 1980.
  • Based his character in the comedy A Fish Called Wanda (1988) on his father Edward, who stuttered.
  • Traveled from the North to South Pole for a travel program called Pole to Pole in 1992.
  • Lent his name to London's Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children, which opened in 1993.
  • Has an asteroid named for him, 9621 Michaelpalin.
  • Serves as the president of Transport 2000, which lobbies for sustainable transportation, such as bikes, buses and trains.