Michael Palin (born 1943) is an English comedian, character actor and author, most famous for being one of the members of Monty Python.
His career after Python has included writing and starring in his own films, The Missionary and American Friends, as well as frequent collaborations with fellow Python alumni: Terry Jones (as creators of the hilarious TV subversion of traditional British adventure stories for boys, Ripping Yarns), John Cleese (as costar of the hugely successful film A Fish Called Wanda and its semisequel Fierce Creatures) and Terry Gilliam (as co-writer and -star of Time Bandits and in a starring role in Gilliam's solo magnum opus Brazil).
He has also written voluminous personal diaries (published in two volumes of about 650 pages each, covering 1969-1979 & 1980-1989 respectively), various children's stories and the adult novel Hemingway's Chair.
However, he has become best known post-Python for a series of epic travelogue series filmed for The BBC. These have taken Palin to dozens of countries on all seven continents, prompted a series of best-selling companion books based on his on-the-spot notes, and led to the so-called "Palin Effect", whereby places he's visited report a massive increase in tourism. They were also responsible for his 2009 appointment to a three-year term as President of the UK's prestigious Royal Geographic Society.
The travel series so far:
- Around the World in Eighty Days (1989), re-creating, fairly closely, Phileas Fogg's fictional journey around the world. Was completed with a few hours to spare.
- Pole to Pole (1992), from North to South, by way of some sweeping political changes.
- Full Circle (1997), in which Palin circumnavigates the Pacific Ocean.
- Hemingway Adventure (1999), in which Palin follows in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway.
- Sahara (2002)
- Himalaya (2004)
- Michael Palin's New Europe (2007), Palin's most recent series, in which he (in rather disconnected journeys), travels around Eastern and Central Europe. Sometimes verged on being an Author Tract (albeit a well written, entertaining one) for Palin's pro-European Union views.
His latest announced venture, due to air in 2012, is a tour of Brazil. He has also dabbled in Eric Idle's Python stage projects, taking a few cameo roles in Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy), and is working on a second novel.
Completely unrelated to former Alaskan governor, one-time Republican Vice Presidential nominee and Tina Fey impersonator Sarah Palin (whom John Cleese now considers to be funnier than Michael) or her husband Todd Palin. Also not to be confused with author Michael Pollan, despite similarly pronounced names.
Also, is definitely not Eric Idle. No matter what either of them claim.
His travelogues provide examples of:
- Around the World in Eighty Days ended with Palin denied entry to the Reform Club in London, where he and Phileas Fogg both started their trips, because it was closed for a function, although he did have a very nice greeting with his friends at BBC Headquarters where he presented the souvenirs he was asked to get on his trip.
- Full Circle ends with Palin off the coast of Little Diomede Island, two miles short of completing a 50,000 mile journey, unable to land because of bad weather.
- And in Pole to Pole, though it doesn't stand out as much since he did succeed in getting to the South Pole, he wins his race against time to get to the one ship in the whole year that will take him to Antarctica, only for it to be completely booked.
- Book Ends: By design in several of his travelogues -- leaving from and returning to the Reform Club in 80 Days, doing the same with Little Diomede Island in Full Circle, and going from one pole to the other pole in... well, guess.
- The British Empire: Periodically Palin runs across and comments on remnants of Britain's imperial past. In Pole to Pole he mentions that the railroad he rides through The Sudan was made by Lord Kitchener to facilitate the conquest of that country. In 80 Days he stops in Hong Kong and talks with British ex-pats worried about the looming handover to China (which took place in 1997).
- Call Back
- In Pole to Pole Palin visits the Kenyan village and school where he filmed the African scenes from The Missionary. He gives the school his blow-up globe that featured so prominently in Around the World in Eighty Days.
- In the first episode of Pole to Pole, Palin rides a train across Finland, and he sings a song to himself that any Python fan would recognize.
- In Sahara he teaches the drinking phrase "Bottom's Up!" to the nomadic tribesmen. In Himalaya he tells the Nepalese "'Bottom's Up!' As they say in the Sahara!"
- The Cameo: In Around the World in Eighty Days, Python alumni Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam show up to send Palin off and greet him on his return. Palin himself has a knack for finding parts in foreign film productions. In 80 Days Palin makes a cameo in an Egyptian movie. In Pole to Pole he plays "Frogman's Hand" in a Russian documentary about crayfish. In Full Circle, he makes a cameo in an Australian soap opera.
- Cold War / The Korean War / The Neutral Zone: Palin's visit to Korea's DMZ and the truce village of Panmunjeom in Full Circle. He leaves feeling depressed.
- Covered in Mud: Palin in a mud bath in Pole to Pole.
- Did Not Do the Research: The demonstration of the Coriolis effect in Pole to Pole was a clever fraud. While the rotation of the Earth DOES have an effect on the rotation of water as it goes down a drain, the effect is very, very small, and in ordinary conditions completely overpowered by more mundane factors like the way the drain is constructed and how water is put into and taken out of it. Experiments have only been able to detect the Coriolis effect by pouring water into perfectly symmetrical containers with drains exactly in the middle, and letting that water stand for at least a day to insure that it is perfectly still.
- Dracula: He's a Transylvanian tourist attraction in New Europe.
- History Marches On: Discussed by Palin, who notes while sailing down the Yangtze River in 80 Days that all the villages and waterfronts he's seeing will disappear when the big dam project is completed. 1.3 million people were relocated when the Three Gorges Dam left their homes and towns underwater.
- Indy Ploy: In Pole to Pole Palin and crew are left stuck in South Africa, with no way to complete their trip to the South Pole along 30 degrees east, when the only ship is all booked up. So they fly to South America and to the South Pole from there.
- Karaoke Box / Follow the Bouncing Ball: Karaoke was still relatively unknown in the West when Palin sang "You Are My Sunshine" in a Tokyo bar in 1988, as featured in 80 Days.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Palin briefly, when he enters a mud bath in the Ukraine in Pole to Pole.
- Monkeys Lions and Annoyed Spaniards: Gibraltar, where Palin starts and finishes Sahara.
- Mysterious Antarctica: Guess.
- Psychic Surgery
- Palin witnesses a demonstration by a Philippine con man in Full Circle. He seems to be somewhat credulous and accepting of the veracity of the process but the accompanying book of the series -- taken from his on-the-spot diaries -- makes it clear that he's not buying any of it for a second, and frankly the "psychic surgeon" doesn't seem to, either. But it's an interesting phenomenon, and Palin's there to observe, not editorialize.
- Palin has a similar response to Buddhist horoscopes and Chinese medicine in Himalaya. While not mocking them outright he does make some humorous call backs to the idea that he was allegedly once an elephant in a past life, and lightheartedly tries to acquire some Chinese remedies because of their monetary value.
- Race Against the Clock
- Around the World in Eighty Days He spends most of the trip falling further and further behind the schedule as written by Jules Verne, but is able to make it all up by crossing the Pacific Ocean in a freight ship that moves twice as fast as the paddleboat Verne wrote.
- The second half of Pole to Pole features him needing to get across Africa in time to get to the one ship going to Antarctica all year. And then it's completely booked anyway.
- Rail Enthusiast: Palin is one, without shame. His first travelogue program was titled "Confessions of a Trainspotter" and he now has a Virgin high-speed trainset named after him.
- Santa Claus: In Pole to Pole Palin visits Santa at Santa Claus Village in Finland.
- Sequel: Around the World in 20 Years, a one-hour sequel to 80 Days in which Palin went back 20 years later to find the crew of the dhow that took him to India.
- Technology Marches On
- Works for and against Palin in 80 Days
- Email and the Internet would have made some of Palin's travel problems, like his difficulties finding a way from Suez to India, a lot easier.
- On the other hand, Palin notes that air travel has made passenger trains and boats obsolete in many parts of the world, meaning that in some places, he has fewer travel options than Fogg did. For his ride across the Pacific, Palin has to hitch a ride on a freight ship, because there are no cross-Pacific passenger ships any more.
- On the other other hand, that freighter Palin hitched a ride on was quite a bit faster than Fogg's passenger ship and allowed him to make up all his lost time.
- Throw It In: Around the World in Eighty Days was supposed to be six episodes. Palin and his crew got so much material out of his dhow journey from Dubai to India that they built a whole extra episode out of it.
- Travelogue Show: Duh.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In Full Circle, one episode ends with Palin and company stranded off of Java, looking for boat transport. The next episode finds them in Australia, without explanation. In an interview on the DVD Palin reveals that he went home after learning that his wife had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. (She recovered.)
- World War II: In Sahara Palin hooks up with a British veteran's tour of the war in North Africa.
- X Meets Y: A rural Indian coal mine in Himalaya, with an old tank engine still pulling coal cars, is described as "Apocalypse Now meets Thomas the Tank Engine".