Born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, Michael Palin was a student of history at Oxford, where he wrote and performed in theatrical shows with Terry Jones. The two became writing partners whose TV credits included "The Frost Report," "Marty," "Do Not Adjust Your Set," and "The Complete and Utter History of Britain," before the formation of Python.
The most innocent-looking of the group -- and consequently able to play some of the most subversive parts, such as gangsters or unctuous presenters, to uproarious effect -- Palin is best known for such Python characters as the leader of the Spanish Inquisition; the devious proprietor of a pet shop selling dead parrots, or of a cheese shop devoid of cheese; the transvestite lumberjack; the host of the game show "Blackmail"; the bicyclist Mr. Pither; the mentally-challenged Mr. Gumby; the leader of the Knights Who Say "Ni!"; and Roman governor Pontius Pilate, afflicted with a giggle-inducing speech impediment.
Palin's greatest Python moment, however, might be the absurd "Fish Slapping Dance," in which he is knocked off Teddington Lock into the Thames by a man wielding a very large fish.
Outside of Python, Palin played a nice-guy torturer in "Brazil," and an animal-loving jewel thief in "A Fish Called Wanda." Palin's other credits (as writer, actor, or both) include the TV series "Ripping Yarns" (with Terry Jones); "Jabberwocky" and "Time Bandits" (with Terry Gilliam); "The Missionary"; "A Private Function"; and as the lead role in both the Alan Bleasdale 1991 TV series “G.B.H.” and the 2014 three-part supernatural thriller “Remember Me” for BBC1.
Palin gained further renown beyond the comedy world with his successful documentaries recounting his globe-trotting travels, such as "Around the World in Eighty Days"; "Pole to Pole"; "Full Circle"; "Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure"; "Sahara"; "Himalaya"; "Michael Palin's New Europe"; and "Brazil."
He has also published three volumes of his diaries, and two novels: "Hemingway's Chair" and "The Truth." His children's books including "Small Harry and the Toothache Pills." His play, "The Weekend," was produced in London in 1994.
By David Morgan, 2014