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Michael ​Palin has kept a diary since newly married in the late 1960s, when he was beginning to make a name for himself as a TV scriptwriter (for the Two Ronnies, David Frost etc). Monty Python was just around the corner. This first volume of his diaries reveals how Python emerged and triumphed, how he, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, the two Terrys – Jones and Gilliam – and Eric Idle, came together and changed the face of British comedy. But this is but only part of Palin’s story. Here is his growing family, his home in a north London Victorian terrace, which grows as he buys the house next door and then a second at the bottom of the garden; here, too, is his solo effort – as an actor, in Three Men in a Boat, his writing endeavours (often in partnership with Terry Jones) that produces Ripping Yarns and even a pantomime. Meanwhile Monty Python refuses to go away: the hugely successful movies that follow the TV (his account of the making of both The Holy Grail and the Life of Brian movies are pager-turners), the at times extraordinary goings on of the many powerful personalities who coalesced to form the Python team, the fight to prevent a American TV network from bleeping out the best jokes on US trasmission, and much more – all this makes perceptive, funny and rivetting reading.

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