Monty Python legend and TV adventurerMichael Palin returns to his comedy acting roots in World War One drama The Wipers Times on BBC2 next Wednesday.

Based on a remarkable true story, The Wipers Times tells the uplifting tale of a group of British soldiers who stumble across an unused printing press and decide to have a little fun in the misery of war. It’s Michael’s first comedy role in 22 years.



Michael, who plays General Mitford, said: “Mitford likes the magazine, the way it’s written and the jokes. He feels it’s good for the men’s morale to be able to say what they like about their senior officers and to see the war expressed in terms of their own experiences and frustration. He recognises it allows them to let off steam.”

 

Co-starring Ben Chaplin, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Emilia Fox, The Wipers Times is named after a general inability to pronounce Ypres, where they’re stationed. The drama is the brainchild of Ian Hislop, who made a radio documentary 10 years ago, after first discovering an original Wipers Times manuscript.



“I made documentary about it and thought ‘that’s not enough really, it’s worth more than that,’” says the editor of Private Eye, who co-wrote the feature-length tale with Nick Newman. “Nick and I both work on a satirical newspapers now. The truth is that theirs, written in 1916 in the trenches, was funnier and much harder to do.

“They were incredible. To think in the middle of it all they were sitting there writing jokes and then printing them up, under fire, is just amazing.

“If you watch the film and you think we’ve made it up, we won’t have, it’ll be true!”