The Czechs are the funniest people on earth, at least according to former Monty Python member Sir Michael Palin.
He made the remark to a Channel 5 News reporter just after he was knighted earlier this month by Prince William for services to travel, culture and geography. Palin has written eight travel books and hosted TV series that try to promote a better understanding of people around the world.
And Palin made an interesting choice when asked by a reporter, ‘who are the funniest people in the world?’
“The Dalai Lama was hilarious. Oh, yes. he couldn’t stop laughing. But … as a nation I think the Czechs come fairly high, yeah,” Palin told Channel 5 News after receiving his honor.
“They just have a feeling that everything is up for laughter, which the British have as well, and which some other countries just don’t have. There is a sort of laughter ceiling in certain countries. But not here, and not in the Czech Republic for some reason,” he added.
In his post-Python career, he has gone around the world in 80 days, from pole to pole, across the Sahara and through the Himalayas. He toured Central and Eastern Europe for a TV series in 2006 and ’07.
“You have to travel with an open mind. That’s the most important thing about traveling. It really does open your mind. You can’t go with a lot of judgments about places because you are usually mistaken. Go to the country, try and meet the people as opposed to the politicians or people in charge,” he told Channel 5 News.
“You will learn there are universal qualities that everyone has, and concerns everyone has, about families, about where they live, about their children’s education. There are not that many people out there who want to start wars and kill people. Travel with an open mind and you will feel the world is a safer place,” he added.
He was proud of his knighthood, but said other people had done much more. During the ceremony, which involved Prince William tapping him with a sword, he received a velvet-lined box. “It’s really wonderful, you get two things. You get the medal and the star,” he said.
His won’t be wearing either every day. “There is a certain amount of etiquette involved in when you wear it, and what you wear it on. It is just nice to have it. It is a wonderful thing to be recognized,” he said.
Palin in a different BBC interview said he would likely be the only ex-Python member to be knighted, as John Cleese refused a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) award in 1996 and a peerage in 1999.
He also told the BBC that Prince William asked where he was going next, or if there were any parts of the world he really wanted to go that he hadn’t seen already.
He resisted the temptation to make a joke by saying “Middlesbrough” and instead answered Kazakhstan. He did visit Middlesbrough in 2015 for the first time. Middlesbrough is a former industrial town in the northeast of England, once famous for shipbuilding.
Travel hasn’t been his only hobby since the end of Monty Python. He has also written children’s books, as well as fiction and non-fiction, and a play. His extensive film career includes the recent comedy The Death of Stalin, where he played Vyacheslav Molotov.
The TV show Monty Python’s Flying Circus ran from 1969 to ’74, and was followed by five films, a series of live appearances and other brief reunions.