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An Evening with Michael Palin at
The Institute of Education in London
By Steve Rudd
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To say that Michael Palin is one of my all-time heroes is one hell of a serious understatement. Ever since I saw his epic TV travels in the form of Around The World in 80 Days and Pole To Pole I have been totally captivated by everything he does and says.

How many other comedians/ actors would have the balls to go the places he has, and convey such enthusiasm for such places and the people that are encountered on the way?

Michael made his name back in the seventies as an integral part of the hilarious Monty Python comedy troupe, whilst writing a whole host of brilliantly funny material for a series called Ripping Yarns.
He's also starred in a number of excellent films over the years, with probably his most unforgettable character being Ken in A Fish Called Wanda.

Still, it's as a true globe-trotting traveller that Michael is probably best known for, since 1988 when he went Around The World in 80 Days, setting off from London's Reform Club - and returning there with mere minutes to spare before the 80 day time limit officially expired.
His latest travels have taken him across the massive Himalayan range of mountains in Asia (from West to East) and through such countries as Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. And to officially launch this latest BBC TV extravaganza (and the beautifully presented book that accompanies the series, spiced with incredible photos by long-time friend of Michael's.. Basil Pao) there was this lecture organised by Foyles book shop, which is one of the foremost bookshops in London and located down Charing Cross Road in the heart of the hustling and bustling vibrancy of the West End.
Pre-lecture, one of the most surreal moments of my life came when Michael walked right by myself and the rest of the people queuing for the lecture just outside The Institute of Education's plush Logan Hall. I couldn't quite comprehend that Michael, suddenly, for a brief moment, was right by my side.. after spending the best parts of the past fifteen years losing himself amidst the crazy splendour of the world at large. If anyone can lay claim to such a title as man of the world, then it's Mr. Palin.
The event was a total sell-out with demand for tickets being sensational. We were let into the lecture hall fifteen minutes before Michael came on stage, and because Logan Hall is so smart and perfectly tiered to ensure that everybody in the hall gets a fantastic view of whoever may be speaking, it felt like the Oscars.. especially as the first three rows of seats were reserved for Michael's family, friends and press-types.
I coolly plonked myself in the middle of the fourth row and couldn't believe my eyes when I recognised the aforementioned master photographer in Basil Pao as he casually acquired a seat just in front of me, followed by Michael's wife.
The lecture itself took the form of a hugely captivating and naturally amusing slide-slow as Michael recalled anecdotes related to some of Basil's outstanding photos. Every photo genuinely did tell a story, and Basil has long been renowned for his talents in capturing unforgettable images of both landscape and people. One of the most admirable things, I think, about Michael Palin is that he is one of only a select number of comedians who can be hilarious without lowering the tone. Rarely does he resort to swearing or using smutty innuendo, instead concentrating on humourous stories that are generated by real-life situations. What's more, he's one of only a small number of comedians who can be taken seriously in the right time and place.
Obviously a trip through the Himalayas is guaranteed to yield a high sense of adventure. For instance, he got to meet and amicably chat with the Dalai Lama (who now lives in northern India after he was inhumanely forced out of his Tibetan homeland), had a fleeting run in with Maoist rebels in Nepal and felt the effects of altitude sickness whilst trekking around the Annapurna area of the same country.
Michael, naturally, got plenty of laughs from the audience courtesy of this sneakiest of sneak previews of the TV series, especially when he was relating the story of how he visited a dentist in Pakistan who was all ready to rip out Michael's teeth almost literally by hand. As Michael dryly admitted, he's had that much dental surgery over the years, his mouth resembles Disneyland as it is! Thus, he declined the well-meaning dentist's advances.

Come the end of the lecture he received a prolonged round of applause, before he rushed out of the Hall and into the foyer ready for almost everybody else who was in attendance to ask for him to sign their brand spanking new copy of the book.
Basil also took up residence in the seat beside him, which was nice, because without Basil's truly breathtaking photos that accompany Michael's prose it would be so much harder to get a sense of the types of places and people Michael and his crew had encountered en-route.
continued ...next page

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