Michael Palin was first famous as ‘the nice one’ in the Monty Python team (despite fraudulently selling John Cleese a dead parrot), then as an actor in films from Brazil to A Fish Called Wanda. He’s now best known – and loved – as the BBC’s resident world traveller, a role that’s been recognised with a stint as president of the Royal Geographical Society.
But the multi-talented star says his favourite thing to do is writing – whether it’s keeping a diary (his have been published), writing sketches or television scripts, or even writing fiction. His second novel, The Truth, about an ageing, cash-strapped environmental journalist given the chance to profile his hero, was published this year.
This conversation with Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams covers broad ground: from Palin’s early fascination with trainspotting to the benefit of an attentive sound recordist and what it was like hosting Saturday Night Live with his mum.
Other topics include British comedy in the late 1960s, the process in the writers' room during Monty Python’s formative period, Palin’s particular sensibilities within that group, embarking on Around the World in 80 Days, the development of Life of Brian and an unusual encounter with fan Mayumi Nobetsu (whom he first met whilst filming Full Circle (watch the clip on YouTube).
He also talks about his latest travel series Brazil, his new novel The Truth, and the ‘immense relief’ of the moment when he found his tone as a traveller. And, just for balance, he considers having John Cleese ‘stuffed, holding a fish, for quite some time’.
Michael Palin’s second novel, The Truth, was published in July 2012. His new four-part BBC1 travel series, Brazil, will be broadcast in Australia in November.