British comedy legend and travel documentarian, Michael Palin has received a lifetime achievement award from the UCD Arts Society, University College Dublin for his outstanding contribution to the Arts.
Accepting the award, Palin spoke of his early writings at school. He explained how he was drawn to comedy writing at a young age, and how he wanted his brain to work like the brains of surreal, anarchic comedy writers like Spike Milligan, Marty Feldman, Ray Galton, Alan Simpson, and Barry Took.
“The writers were the ones I always envied. They were the primary creators. Nothing happened until somebody wrote something,” he told the audience gathered at the Fitzgerald Debating Chamber at University College Dublin.
“I think comedy comes from acute observation of human behaviour,” Palin said. “An almost forensic interest in how people look and gesture and speak and dress and move”.
“I spent far too much of my time in the classroom observing my teachers at school rather than listening to them. And this observation led to wanting to write about what I’d observed and also led to imitation which is where the acting bit comes in,” he added.
While at Oxford University, Palin met Terry Jones, “a likeminded fellow with similar tastes to [his] own”, but with more ambition than him. Together they set out to not just make themselves laugh, but also lot of other people. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Michael Palin and Terry Jones were soon to become two of six members of the British surreal comedy group Monty Python. The other four members were Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Eric Idle.
Their TV comedy sketch show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus first aired in 1969. An innovative stream of consciousness matched with surreal animation, Monty Python’s Flying Circus broke all the acceptable norms and standards of comedy at the time. It presented an entirely new style and form which became a seminal influence on all future comedy.
Following Monty Python, Palin followed one of his long held passions and became a travel writer and documentarian. In 2000, he was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to television. In 2013, he was made a BAFTA fellow, the highest honour conferred by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
The award from the UCD Arts Society to Michael Palin was presented by Joanna O’Malley, Auditor (2015/2016) of the UCD Arts Society, University College Dublin.
For more on UCD Arts Society visit societies.ucd.ie/arts.