Michael Palin: who is Into Iraq presenter, how old is he, who is his wife, and when was he in Monty Python?

Actor, comedian and writer Michael Palin has a career in television stretching back to the 1960s

Michael Palin fronted his latest Channel 5 travel show, Into Iraq, which is airing now and follows his 1000 miles journey along the River Tigris through the historic country. The three-part documentary follows Palin’s earlier forays to far-flung places which include the Himalayan mountain range, the North and South Pole, and North Korea.

But what else has Michael Palin been in, how old is he, who is his wife, and what books has he written? Here is everything you need to know:

Michael Palin at the Baftas in 2019Michael Palin at the Baftas in 2019
Michael Palin at the Baftas in 2019

Who is Michael Palin?

Michael Palin is a 79 year old comedian from Sheffield who has appeared in numerous TV shows, films and documentaries over his long career. Palin studied modern history at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he met Terry Jones who he would go on to work alongside for years.

When working as a writer on the satirical series The Frost Report, Palin met Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Eric Idle - they, and Terry Jones, would go on to work together as the comedy troupe Monty Python. Palin has campaigned for sustainable transport, and in 2010 he sent a letter of support to the Dongria Kondh tribe in India who were resisting mining on their land.

Palin has received several awards over his career and was appointed a CBE in 2000, and received a knighthood in 2019 for services to travel, culture and geography. In 2019 Palin had to undergo heart surgery after a routine checkup revealed that he had a leaky valve.

Palin later joked that when Channel 5 first suggested he shoot a travel documentary in Iraq he had to feign heart surgery to get out of it.

What has Michael Palin been in?

Palin is best known for being a member of Monty Python, a comedy troupe that has had a lasting influence on British comedy. The group of Pythons were made up of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.

The group worked together on the sketch comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus which aired from 1969-1974, as well as the films Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Meaning of Life. Monty Python reunited several times over the decades, the last time was in 2014, 25 years after Graham Chapman’s death.

Palin has featured in a number of non-Python films including dark comedy Death of Stalin, animated festive film Arthur Christmas, crime caper A Fish Called Wanda, and sci-fi movie Brazil. He has also fronted a number of travel shows including Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Hemingway Adventure, Sahara, Himalaya, New Europe, and Brazil.

Michael Palin (left) with the other Pythons in 1982Michael Palin (left) with the other Pythons in 1982
Michael Palin (left) with the other Pythons in 1982

Who is Michael Palin’s wife?

Michael Palin married Helen Gibbins, a bereavement counsellor, in 1966 - the pair first met on holiday in Suffolk in 1959. Very little is known about Helen, as Palin keeps his personal life very private.

The couple have three children together - Thomas, William, and Rachel, and four grandchildren. Michael’s daughter Rachel is a TV director for the BBC and has worked on MasterChef: The Professionals and Changing Rooms.

What books has Michael Palin written?

Palin has written 10 travel books which tie into his documentary shows - these are:

  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Pole to Pole
  • Full Circle
  • Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure
  • Sahara
  • Himalaya
  • New Europe
  • Brazil
  • North Korea Journal
  • Into Iraq

He has also written several children’s books:

  • Small Harry and the Toothache Pills
  • The Limerick Book 
  • Cyril and the House of Commons 
  • Cyril and the Dinner Party
  • The Mirrorstone (with Alan Lee and Richard Seymour)

When is Michael Palin: Into Iraq on TV?

The first episode of Michael Palin: Into Iraq will air on Tuesday 20 September on Channel 5 at 9pm. There are three hour-long episodes in the series and they will be released at the same time weekly. Episodes will also be available to watch on My5 shortly after they are first broadcast.