Monday, May 19, 2008


DIARIES 1969-1979: The Python Years by Michael Palin - Front CoverAnd now for something completely different: a book review. I recently read DIARIES 1969-1979: The Python Years by Michael Palin, a weighty tome (over 600 pages) of entries from his personal diaries. The bulk of the book is quite dry, and some of it is probably only meant for his own family to recollect, but much of the behind the scenes creative stuff is interesting for a Monty Python fan like myself.

Some things I learned:

* Michael seemed to be the most level-headed, sensible, and family-oriented of the bunch. I mean, the man went home and wrote a diary most days, so you're not going to find any really wild groupie stories here.

* There didn't seem to be any rampant drug use amongst the six Python members, just a lot of drinking and some occasional smoking of weed. Maybe he didn't really see most of what when on (he was and is devoted to his wife and kids), but I found that rather surprising considering their absurdist senses of humor.

* There were two main camps in Python: Eric and John, and Michael and Terry J, who were regular squash partners. Terry G did his own thing, and Graham Chapman's major allies were gin and tonic (always late for Python writing meetings, he suffered a nervous breakdown before filming Life of Brian and was told at the start of 1978 to never drink again).

* Though Michael doesn't really have a bad word to say about any of his colleagues, John Cleese comes off as an insufferable, arrogant asshole. The eldest and most selfish of the group, he basically wanted nothing to do with the Python show on BBC after the first two seasons, even before Channel 13 in New York premiered the show in US in April 1975 (he left after season 3). Never joining them on publicity tours in the States, he was content to make money on voice over and commercial work, and while writing Life of Brian he basically declared that the movie had better make him a lot of money. He was driving a Rolls Royce at the time, and in the midst of splitting up with his first of three wives, Connie Booth.

Of course, he is very good as a pitchman, as evidenced by the Compaq commercials that ran during the 1984 Olympics.

* Beatle George Harrison was a huge fan, and even had the group re-record "The Lumberjack Song" at his studio. He also appeared onstage with them (uncredited and unannounced) during a Live At City Center stage show in NYC in February 1975.

Here are a few great sketches featuring Michael Palin.



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