Michael Parkinson’s greatest moments

As the nation mourns the loss of one of television’s titans, we share clips of some of his finest interviews.

The legendary chat show host Michael Parkinson reinvented the chat show format over his seven-decade career.

His relaxed interview style attracted the biggest names from the worlds of music, entertainment and sports. He was described as “truly one of a kind” by BBC director general Tim Davie.

He “passed away peacefully at home last night in the company of his family” at the age of 88, after “a brief illness”, according to a statement by Sir Michael’s family.

Michael Parkinson in 2013Credit: Shutterstock/ Featureflash Photo Agency

Michael Parkinson’s greatest moments

As well as interviewing stars including James Cagney, Shirley MacLaine, Bette Davis, Billy Connolly, Madonna and Tom Cruise, he famously almost came to blows with boxer Muhammad Ali (reportedly his favourite interviewee) in 1974 and was mauled by Rod Hull’s puppet, Emu, in 1976. He is estimated to have interviewed 2,000 guests over his distinguished career.


The life and times of Michael Parkinson

Born in Cudworth, South Yorkshire, in 1935, Parkinson followed a stint in the British army with a career in print journalism – initially on local newspapers and then on the Manchester Guardian and Daily Express. His move into broadcasting started with a late-night film review show for Granada Television before a hop over to the BBC resulted in the launch of his eponymous chat show in 1971.

As well as hosting multiple reboots of his BBC chat show, Parkinson appeared on ITV’s TV-am breakfast show as well as hosting numerous radio programmes including Desert Island Discs for Radio 4.

The presenter was made a CBE in 2000 and knighted in 2008.

In 2013, Parkinson underwent radiotherapy for prostate cancer and was given the all-clear two years later.

Tributes have been pouring in, with comedian Eddie Izzard calling the presenter “the king of the intelligent interview” and Stephen Fry commenting that “the genius of Parky was that unlike most people … he was always 100% himself. On camera and off”.

Here are just a few of Parky’s memorable moments:

Shirley Maclaine

This is thought to be the oldest surviving Parkinson show clip.

Muhammad Ali, 1974

Ali appeared on Parkinson four times in total and here talks about his fight for civil rights.


Orson Welles, 1974

The actor/director insisted Parkinson rip up his list of questions before the interview, saying “We’ll talk.”

Billy Connolly, 1975

Holding the record for the most appearances, Connolly appeared on Parkinson 15 times in all, including on the penultimate show in 2007.


Helen Mirren, 1975

The focus on Mirren’s “physical attributes” over her acting ability may not have aged well but is still compelling television.

Bette Davis, 1975

The Hollywood legend, according to Parky, was the guest who “more than anyone, made it clear she was there to plug a product, not because she was your buddy.”


Rod Hull & Emu, 1976

“I knew we should never have booked it” gasps Parky in this classic clip of bird-on-man action.

Woody Allen, 1999

The awkward moment when Parkinson mentions Allen’s custody battle.

Meg Ryan, 2003

The ‘difficult’ interview for which Parky later apologised to Ryan.

George Michael, 2007

The singer opens up about his drug issues and more.


Written by Bev Hislop