Michael Palin did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Window Washer / Harry / Fish No. 5 / Mr Pycroft / Dad / Narrator No. 1 / Chaplain / Carter / Spadger / Regimental Sergeant Major / Pakenham-Walsh / Man in Rear End / Female TV Presenter / Mr Marvin Hendy / Governor / Leaf Son and Debbie Katzenberg in The Meaning of Life.
Well I will say it again Michael Palin is easily my favorite Python as a performer, and in general his ability in the sketch comedy also alludes to why he was also the best actor of the group in general. This as the other member typically worked within a more exact type, John Cleese as the pompous fool or genius, Eric Idle as a at least slightly daffy excitable fellow, Graham Chapman as the relative straight man, and then the director Terrys as some kind of grotesque sort. Palin's characters tend to be a bit more of just that, even in the microcosm we see of them here. This as he plays about 18 different roles, and in each Palin manages to bring a bit more than just a quick comedic bit. This as he offers the blind naivety of a dopey school boy for a moment, the excessive propriety of a tv hostess, though not say particularly proper things, even the different kind of propriety of an American wife, the low key smugness of a hospital director, the smugness of an overly proper British soldier, or the strange randomness of a man in a tiger suit at the opposite end of that soldier. In each Palin captures a bit different in his presence as these different roles, this making him typically a little bit amusing even when some of the bits he's featured in aren't all that amusing overall. There's just something about his range of voices and expression, that can garner a little chuckle. What I'm really here to discuss are his sort of central sketches, which actually Palin gets very few of, perhaps one of the issues with the film, in fact he only has two where he is the focus. The first being the film's big Oliver!esque musical number about a poor father describing to his brood of children why he needed to have so many, explaining that "Every Sperm is Sacred". Palin's performance here being an enjoyable sort of twist on the modest means father befitting an Oliver Twist novel, with an aw shucks expression and a world weary voice. This though with all the heart he can must in his eyes and of course his voice as he sings to all about his fundamental beliefs. Palin belting it out with a hilarious passion, and again that heart, even as he sends off all his kids for scientific experimentation. His other scene is as a drill sergeant. This where Palin again fashions a different personality of a wild eyes befitting the profession, and lips with mind of their own as he barks out orders like a proper English screw. This finding the comedy as Palin brings this ridiculous intensity even as the sergeant is extremely accommodating to all his soldiers who feel they could do something better than routine drills. Palin being great as he maintains that same stature no matter what happens. Both these bits are great, and for my money the best bits in the film, or at least two that wholly worked for me. Is it coincidence that they both star Palin? I'm going to say probably not, as both feature his delightful talents, as a comic performer that grants the particular type of investment in his performances that sell the comedy all the more.