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Publisher's Summary

Michael Palin has kept a diary since newly married in the late 1960s, when he was beginning to make a name for himself as a TV scriptwriter. Monty Python was just around the corner.

This volume of his diaries reveals how Python emerged and triumphed, how he, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, the two Terrys (Jones and Gilliam), and Eric Idle came together and changed the face of British comedy. But this is but only part of Palin's story. Here is his growing family, his home in a north London Victorian terrace, which grows as he buys the house next door and then a second at the bottom of the garden; here, too, is his solo effort: as an actor, his writing endeavours (often in partnership with Terry Jones), and even a pantomime.

Meanwhile Monty Python refuses to go away: the hugely successful movies that follow the TV (his account of the making of both The Holy Grail and the Life of Brian movies is riveting), the at times extraordinary goings-on of the many powerful personalities who coalesced to form the Python team, the fight to prevent an American TV network from bleeping out the best jokes on U.S. transmission, and much more: all this makes for funny and captivating listening.

The birth and childhood of his three children, his father's growing disability, learning to cope as a young man with celebrity, his friendship with George Harrison, and all the trials of a peripatetic life are also essential ingredients of these diaries. A perceptive and funny chronicle, the diaries are a rich portrait of a fascinating period.

©2006 Michael Palin; (P)2006 Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Critic Reviews

"Michael Palin is not just one of Britain's foremost comedy character actors, he also talks a lot. Yap, yap, yap he goes, all day long and through the night. Then, some nights, when everyone else has gone to bed, he goes home and writes up a diary." (John Cleese)
"A wealth of fascinating stuff about Monty Python." (The Independent, UK)

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  • Overall

A great romp.

What a treat to have Michael Palin read his own diary. The audio format of this book adds in another wonderful dimension to a great story of the ascension to fame, and the difficulties of keeping five incredible comedic geniuses focused and from flying apart at the seams.

The telling of his hosting of Saturday Night Live had me crying from laughter in my car. Other things such as John Cleese' apparent desire to branch out, Graham Chapman's alcoholism, and how Michael deals with the death of his father, are deeply touching and show that he is still an ordinary guy that just happens to be an international icon.

A great listen, and a great performance from Palin in the reading.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great Biography Of An ICON

Great Biography of a great actor/comedian/story teller. His life was well told through his own words from his book. This is a great book on an icon's life during a period of time.

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Fascinating tales of the Python creative process

If you are a Python fan, you will find this fascinating. Also, Palin seems like a solid guy who loves his family.

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Palin on Python and Palin

Just doesn't get any better than this for an inside look at the genius and beauty of their work and the frustrations of working with bright people

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The Diary of a Sometime Python

Would you consider the audio edition of Diaries 1969-1979 to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version of Michael Palin's diaries, so I only have the audio version to go on. And that's fine with me. I've always loved Python since my high school days, which of course it the best time of life to discover Python.<br/><br/>I was excited to find Palin's diary on Audible, especially since it deals with the years during which Python came together up through the Life of Brian. The Meaning of Life and their post-Python projects are covered, I'm guessing, in the sequel to this diary, which is not available on Audible. (I'd be glad if Mr. Palin decided to record that diary, by the way.)<br/><br/>This is not a juicy, detail-rich account of Palin's life as a Python. It's a very real diary of those years, though. The story proceeds through journal entries, entries much as anyone would write. Palin references writing sessions with Terry Jones (his usual writing partner), waking up to watch the lunar landing broadcast with his wife Helen, a celebratory picnic lunch with the young Pythons and their significant others, family events.<br/><br/>Because Palin was using his diary as a basis, a lot of the narrative tricks biographers use were missing. There was no foreshadowing. No building up to some climactic moment of Palin's Python years. No elaborate backstories. Rather, Diaries was a restful and--as I got more involved in it--warm and likeable account of the everyday work of comedy.<br/><br/>Palin doesn't give character sketches of his colleagues. Why would he? This was essentially the author writing to himself. But the reader starts to form impressions as the Pythons pass in and out of the story. <br/><br/>John Cleese stood out as being a very tall man, who was interested in psychology and increasingly ambivalent about his role in Python. Occasionally, Cleese would announce he was quitting the group, only to come back.<br/><br/>Eric Idle was almost absent from the first part of the book. As the reader, I was wondering, ew, wonder if those two didn't get along. But it was more a case of whom Palin spent his time with. He seemed to have a strong friendship with Terry Jones, possibly because they were the two who came from Oxford. (Cleese, Chapman and Idle, I believe, met at Cambridge.) But Palin and Jones also seemed to be the two who were strongly attached to home and kids, low-key writing sessions and sessions in the squash court.<br/><br/>If you're a Beatles fan, you'll like the passages that deal with George Harrison, who financed The Life of Brian when no one else would.<br/><br/>Palin's Diaries isn't for you if you're looking for a thorough-going biography of the Pythons or their histories or an analysis of their comic sketches and films. But you'll enjoy the book if you're a Monty Python fan and are interested in a contemporary account of one of the greatest comedy groups of the 20th century.

What other book might you compare Diaries 1969-1979 to and why?

John Cleese has published a memoir, So, Anyway...(2015), which as of today is not available on Audible but probably will be. I haven't read it but I plan to. Graham Chapman published A Liar's Autobiography in the 1980s. In 2013, it was adapted to an animated film, using Graham's own recording of the text (which you can hear on youtube) with additional voices provided by Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese and Michael Palin.

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Hoping for more

Any additional comments?

As a HUGE Python fan, the stories were of moderate interest, but there wasn't a lot of humor here. I have already read some of the histories of the "Pythons", so others may fine this a bit more informative than I did. Out of almost 5 hours of material, there were about 10 minutes of laughs - a few minutes on SNL were a riot.

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Enjoyable Listen, Light Python History

Would you listen to Diaries 1969-1979 again? Why?

Yes, I would listen again because Michael Palin has a very nice voice and it is his story. In fact, I have listened again when I was not in the mood for music and found some of the stories aI missed or wanted to hear again.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Michael Palin. :) He bothered to keep the diary.

Have you listened to any of Michael Palin’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not heard him read his writing before, but I love his performances in almost every movie or TV show in which he has appeared.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The whole diary provoked a lot of thought about how Monty Python's Flying Circus came to be and started to come apart. Memories of watching it with family or friends came back to me. Also, I liked having him in my head. I keep a journal and am trying to write more. He seems like a fun person who loves and is loved and loves life. He didn't write much about the little fish face slapping dance or coaching the crowd in Life of Brian, but he didn't have to.

Any additional comments?

I am a little disappointed that he did not include John Cleese's quote that opened the paper book.