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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not at all silly
Perhaps the oddest thing about a book written by one of the foremost comedians of a generation is the lack of humour in it. But then, this was never designed to be a funny book. Rather it is the story, the journey, of how one of a group of six men became comedy icons, men who set a comedic standard that 30 years later is still to be transcended.

Comedy, we...
Published on 25 Oct. 2006 by jon ryan

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Being Michael Palin -- there are much worse things you could be.
According to Palin, this book contains about a fifth of the diary he kept between those years, and one inevitably wonders about the stuff that was left out. It could be that he has shocking secrets that would destroy his career or at least his public image; or there may be things too intimate to be shared with the public; or things that would embarrass other people; or...
Published on 28 Feb. 2012 by Police informer


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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not at all silly, 25 Oct. 2006
Perhaps the oddest thing about a book written by one of the foremost comedians of a generation is the lack of humour in it. But then, this was never designed to be a funny book. Rather it is the story, the journey, of how one of a group of six men became comedy icons, men who set a comedic standard that 30 years later is still to be transcended.

Comedy, we learn, is HARD WORK, not simply dashing off a sketch with a dead parrot in it and then settling back next to the pool, drinking Chateau de Chasselas and waiting for the bank to send a wheelbarrow full of money around. Rather, this book is about how the Pythons variously loved and hated each other, their doubts and egos, how they fought (and mostly, thankfully, won) their fights against censorship.

This is a diary, not a biography or a hagiography, and so we can take it as honest when Palin relates how, ten years after Python first came upon us, he still drives a Mini and how during a meal Eric Idle `reveals that three of the Pythons are broke` (although John Cleese has a `dirty Rolls`).

If you are looking for belly laughs, get a CD of Python. If you want to know about the egos and the alchoholism, the pain and the pleasure, buy this book. The book won`t make you laugh, but you may learn more about what makes Palin laugh. And what it cost him.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gentle, pleasant read, 20 Dec. 2006
By 
A. BUTTERWORTH (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The 600 pages were apparently edited from about five times as much original material. I think the amount chosen for inclusion should perhaps have been reduced by about half again as there are many accounts of "Python" meetings and other business meetings. That said, the diaries make a gentle and pleasant read for anyone who was around during the Python years and has an interest in the making of Monty Python and other projects in which Palin was involved. There are some insights into the personalities of the Pythons and the stresses and conflicts which emerged in the years following their initial success. The book becomes more interesting as the years pass and some well-known non-Pythons like George Harrison become part of the story though the analysis of characters and current events never attains any depth. Palin comes across as a thoughtful, likeable man, who clearly makes a great deal of money during these years but for whom money is not the primary motivation. To sum up, the book is an enjoyable bed-time read, though not a book to return to once read.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 6 Oct. 2006
This book is wonderfully vivid and engrossing - unlike so many post-Python retrospectives, which can often seem either lifeless or over-eager to grind certain axes, this takes you back to when it all happened, and also provides all kinds of delightful and insightful anecdotes about Palin, his colleagues and his comedy.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 16 Nov. 2006
some people will be moaning that the pages in this diary are not as funny as they were hoping for, simply because of the reason it was written by one of the greatest comedic group of all time.

But then again, what were they expecting? the very title, 'diaries 1969-1979 the python years doesnt exactly suggest this is simply a book about comedy. this book gives such a good insight into what not only made palin himself tick, but also how the pythons worked to become who they are.

they are after all his diaries, his personal thoughts.

as a fan of the pythons and especially michael palin, i love this book. i love being able get an insight into how human problems such as death of parents, and alcoholism have affected this super-human comedy group.

this is essential reading if you love the pythons, just dont be expecting belly laughs. it is after all his personal thoughts. hes not going to be writing in comedy script all the time is he.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 70's revisited, 6 Dec. 2006
By 
Mr. Simon Clarke "simbadiow" (Isle of Wight) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I spent a while reading this book (I did read a couple books of fiction in between) but I felt that this was a very amenable way to get through these 600 pages. I enjoyed my revisit to the 70's which as a young adolescent went on pretty much unnoticed around me. I was astounded to read innocuous things (like 1st January not being a Bank Holiday, decimal currency, 90% tax etc) and loved this as a lightning stop tour of the 70's. I was genuinely moved by his descriptions of his ailing father and kept thinking of Mr Palin's own views on this as he approaches a similar age. Unfortunately the deep thoughts and feelings of Mr Palin are absent which I was disappointed by but at least this was consistent throughout. The lust for life exhibited by the author was inspirational and a good deal of it was very funny. Michael Palin would not want this to be an average Diaries and he has succeeded admirably. I will await the autobiography and 80's diaries with bated wallet.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Palin Diaries, 5 Oct. 2007
By 
Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
I feel I should start by saying I love Michael Palin's works, from film, TV to travel literature. That is why I feel slightly disappointed by his diaries. They were interesting for an insight into Python's workings and how Pailn worked during the seventies, but they did begin to drag awfully. There are only so many Python meetings, or film recordings one can read about before getting a little bored by them. Saying that, there are some fascinating anecdotes, as well as touching moments with his family. I especially liked when they climb up inside the Statue of Liberty and look forward to reaching her underwear! If you love Palin, or Python, then this book is worth a go, otherwise I'd say you could give it a miss and not worry too much.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful. An epic story of a truly talented personality, 15 Oct. 2007
Some know Michael Palin for his exotic trips shown on BBC, some older ones for films such as A Fish Called Wanda, others for the Python films, and those around longest recall the Monty Python TV programmes. Like many greatly talents, Palin's skills are the result of not just his innate ability to relate to people and to tell stories, but also to years of hard work. This volume covers the period when the Monty Python TV shows were nervously getting first approvals from the BBC, then later managed to get win over the US, during which time the Pythons often wavered back and forth about whether or not they had more to give as a team or by going their separate ways. Palin recounts his own solo efforts, in particular the Ripping Yarns series, and the film Three Men in a Boat, while coming to terms with his increasingly ill father, bringing up a family and more. The volume ends with the spectacular success of Life of Brian, which brought the Pythons together better than they had been in all their 10 years. The book is an odyssey, and it is hard to believe that despite the success of that film, that Michael Palin went on to do so much more - I look forward to the next volume.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated and harshy reviewed, 11 Nov. 2006
I am enjoying this book enormously and part of that is precisely because of the light and shade, the mixture of serious and funny, public and private. The moods ebb and flow from the tragic yet dignified descriptions of parental decline and death to the absolutely hilarious description of dancing with live cats down his trousers on Saturday Night LIve. If you just want Palin the Celeb, skim read this, there is plenty here. But for a more satisfying read, take in the whole book for a genuine portrayal of a human being
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Being Michael Palin -- there are much worse things you could be., 28 Feb. 2012
According to Palin, this book contains about a fifth of the diary he kept between those years, and one inevitably wonders about the stuff that was left out. It could be that he has shocking secrets that would destroy his career or at least his public image; or there may be things too intimate to be shared with the public; or things that would embarrass other people; or opinions about colleagues and friends that he would rather keep to himself; or things that he and his publishers thought would not interest the general reader or even the hardcore Python fan. I suspect a combination of the above, except for the shocking secrets.

Certainly the book contains but a few stinging criticisms of individuals, and even those are reasoned and not vindictive - the nearest to an exception being his (justifiably) rather bitter comments about the Bishop of Southwark after their clash over The Life of Brian. And there are only hints at the sexual profligacy that we know from other sources the Pythons indulged in. Judging, as one must, by what is in the book rather than by what might have been left out, Palin comes across as intelligent, hardworking, kind-hearted, tactful, reasonable and caring, a man who does not trample on others to achieve his goals, but treats everyone with respect and courtesy and maintains many long-term friendships. He turns down a lot of lucrative advertising and acting jobs that do not accord with his values, and seems rather embarrassed about the prospect of making a lot of money (which by the end of this book he has done). He is a good father to his kids, frequently taking them swimming and often shipping them abroad to spend time with him when he is filming, but his relationship with his wife Helen is given the sketchiest treatment.

The early part of the book is rather a disappointment, for the Python TV series seem to slip by all too quickly, the content of the programmes receiving far less attention than the planning and politics that went into making them. (It's interesting that despite its almost universal popularity, the programme was not held in high esteem by the chaps who ran the BBC Light Entertainment department.) Some Python fans will have heard the story of how the Spanish Inquisition sketch came about, but it is not noted in this book. I was expecting quite a lot of commentary on the more famous sketches, but it isn't there. By the time Jabberwocky comes around, though, things have looked up a bit. We get nice pen-portraits of Max Wall and Harry H. Corbett, among others, and in general the writing seems livelier. As his career success snowballs, Palin meets increasing numbers of very famous people: George Harrison, who became a good friend as well as Python-sponsor, Led Zeppelin, Ronnie Wood, Keith Moon, etc., etc. He likes his rock gods.

The relationships between the various Pythons, their divergent career paths and their differing attitudes to work and money, come out clearly. Cleese is an unsympathetic, apparently selfish, figure in the early part of the book, showing the least commitment to Python and absenting himself from the final TV series. But by the end, he is back in the fold, and generally seems a warmer and nicer person. Chapman is the self-destructive one, and is always trawling around for gay bed-companions. Idle seems a bit of a loner, going off hob-nobbing with the Stones; Gilliam a bit of a misfit, visually inspired and as enthusiastic as a puppy; while Jones, Palin's writing partner, is progressively left behind as Palin's solo career takes off.

Palin's first appearance on the American TV show Saturday Night Live seems to have meant an awful lot to him, giving rise to some of the longest and most detailed entries, and no less than three pages of photos. The Pythons' working holiday in Barbados also provokes some vivid prose, though Palin notes that this part of the diary was "intended for publication", having been requested by a magazine.

Palin is a sharp-eyed observer, noting many details of the weather (understandably, as he often had to act in it), journeys, money, hotels, food and drink (he eats and drinks out a great deal - very convivial bloke) and of course the huge number of people he meets; he details the decline of his father through Parkinson's Disease, and his eventual death; records aspects of the deals he is offered; and chronicles the politics of making Python films. One gets a sense of how busy his life is, and how ordinary are his concerns in the midst of this extraordinary showbiz life. Near the beginning of the book, Palin declares himself a Socialist, and he seems to retain a left-wing sensibility at least to the end of this volume; certainly he has an unexpected class-animus towards the rich (rock stars excepted), and a repeatedly expressed concern for the good treatment of people much lower down the food chain.

Surprisingly, there aren't many big laughs in this book, the only memorable one concerning Alan Bennett doing the washing-up. But there are moments of pathos, for example when he takes stock of his life, and his thoughts on his ailing father. Palin writes like a historian, which is what he is by training, and by recording telling details (e.g. being refused food by his hotel after a long day's filming and having to make do with a packet of crisps) successfully conveys the texture of his life.

This book really gives you a sense of what it is like to be Michael Palin, and I found it a pleasure to experience life through the eyes and ears of this very likeable, admirable, and, of course, richly talented man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant lightweight company more than any form of essential reading., 31 Oct. 2011
By 
Reviewing serves the purpose of concentrating the mind and finding out - maybe for the first time - where you place such-and-such an artist or writer. Never thought of Michael Palin as anything other than a pleasing lightweight comedian or actor for whom history has been kind, but maybe we need a few lightweights in our lives?

(This book didn't change my opinion - if you can't wait for the rest of my review!)

Despite his fame as a comedian he is not - on the evidence of this book - a natural extractor of humour. Mild irritation seems common when meeting mediocrity, incompetence or plain stupidity. Unlike, say, Alan Bennett, who seems to get his best material from the absurd being dumped on his plate.

Yes, these are diaries. Written at the time and - maybe - turned in to proper autobiography later. There is lots of trivia, some of it so small that if you mentioned it to your partner (at the time) they would roll their eyes: No food being available at the end of a shoot, waiting for rain to stop, the boredom of filming, the dilemma of whether to do (lucrative) advertising.

He clearly loves food and drink and nothing seems to put a damper on his appetite. Even seeing his father in a much diminished state through Parkinson's Disease. one of the nastiest things imaginable - if you are lucky enough not to have witnessed the condition.

There is a lot of pages to this book and it took me over six months to read it. Often not picking it up for a week or two. This is, indeed, the kind of book you can pick up and put down as often as you want. At least if you read this in bed then you are in no danger of still being awake at four..
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