Sunday 21 December 2014

Back to his roots Students honour Palin

Published 27/03/2008 | 00:00

IF Michael Palin was to be assured of an adoring audience anywhere, it would surely be in a university lecture hall.

As a co-creator of two films consistently lauded and excessively quoted by students of all ages during the past 30 years, the reception he got at UCD last night was hardly a surprise, even if the less-than-full house was a slight disappointment.

But Mr Palin (65), who was in Dublin to receive the James Joyce Award from UCD's Literary and Historical Society, gave the crowd what they wanted, with anecdotes from the sets of 'Life of Brian and 'Holy Grail', along with a detailed run through of his travel presenting career before a lengthy question and answer session.

The comedian even managed to wrestle his Irish roots into his rambling monologue, and blamed those same roots for his various acting, writing and presenting successes. His great grandmother, he learned 20 years ago, had left Ireland as a young girl after the Famine before being adopted by a rich family and eventually meeting his great-grandfather while touring Europe.

Describing his younger self, to much laughter, as "dreamy, imaginative" like the Irish and as someone who "liked comedy but also liked melancholy at about the same level", he said he was "always distracted" which was why he had "gone 40 years without a proper job".

His fondness for acting and writing had been apparent from an early age, he said, but he was 31 before he started to really indulge his third passion -- wanderlust -- with a trip to the US.

That passion has led to a respected career on BBC television but he admitted he will probably be best known for his Monty Python work, among it the much-loved "knights who say 'ni'" sketch in 'Holy Grail.

"It was like when Joyce wrote 'Ulysses', probably," he said of the sketch, adding that he often autographed books with "Ni" to the delight of fans.

Our picture by Niall Carson shows Mr Palin making his speech at the university last night.

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