Birth Date: January 8, 1941
Date of Death: October 4, 1989 / Age: 48
Biography: Graham Chapman (January 8, 1941 – October 4, 1989) was a British comedian and writer. He was one of the six Monty Python members and lead actor in their two narrative films King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Brian in Life of Brian).
Chapman was educated at Melton Mowbray Grammar School and studied medicine at Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge, where he began writing comedy with fellow University student John Cleese. He qualified as a medical doctor at the Barts Hospital Medical College, but rarely ever practiced medicine.
Whilst at Cambridge, Graham Chapman joined the famous Footlights. Fellow members were John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie, David Hatch, Jonathan Lynn, Humphrey Barclay and Jo Kendall. Their revue A Clump of Plinths was so successful at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that they renamed the revue Cambridge Circus, and took the revue to the West End Theatre in London, and then took the revue to New Zealand and Broadway. The revue appeared in October of 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Graham Chapman and John Cleese wrote professionally for the BBC during the 1960s, primarily for the ubiquitous David Frost but also for Marty Feldman. Chapman also contributed sketches to the BBC radio series I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again and television programmes such as The Illustrated Weekly Hudd (starring Roy Hudd), Cilla Black, This is Petula Clark and This is Tom Jones. Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Tim Brooke-Taylor then joined Marty Feldman in the television comedy series At Last the 1948 Show. Chapman (and John Cleese on occassion) also wrote for the long-running television comedy series Doctor in the House. Chapman also co-wrote several episodes with Bernard McKenna and David Sherlock.
In 1969 Graham Chapman and John Cleese joined Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and American artist Terry Gilliam for Monty Python's Flying Circus. Cleese and Chapman's classic Python sketches include "The Ministry of Silly Walks" and "Dead Parrot". One of Chapman's most famous characters was "The Colonel", a stuffy army officer who occasionally appeared out of nowhere to order the end of a sketch for being too silly. After Cleese left the series in 1973, Chapman wrote alone, as well as a bit with Neil Innes and Douglas Adams for the final fourth season. He then developed a number of television and movie projects, most notably Out of the Trees (TV), The Odd Job and Yellowbeard (both films). In "Yellowbeard" he starred along side Cleese, Peter Cook, Cheech and Chong and Feldman (who died during the finals days of production).
In the late 1970s Chapman moved to Los Angeles where he guested on many US television shows, including The Hollywood Squares, Still Crazy Like a Fox and the NBC sketch series The Big Show (TV show). Upon returning to England he became involved with the Dangerous Sports Club (an extreme sportsclub which introduced bungee jumping to a wide audience), and he began the first of a lengthy series of US college lecture tours in the 1980s. His memoir, "A Liar's Autobiography", was published in 1980 and, unusually for an autobiography, had five authors: Chapman, his partner David Sherlock, editor Alex Martin, David Yallop and Douglas Adams. At the time Adams became involved 1977 he was a virtually unknown writer, fresh from Cambridge, whom Chapman took under his wing. They later had a great falling-out and did not speak to each other for several years.
Chapman was in many ways the looniest Python member who basically lived the sort of life that most people believed a Monty Python lived. His best friends were fellow loonies Keith Moon of The Who, singer Harry Nilsson and Beatle Ringo Starr. Chapman drank alcohol excessively in the 1970s, and he also kept his homosexuality a secret, at least from the public, for much of his adult life although he did out himself on a British chat show in the mid-1970s (one of the first celebrities to do so) and was a vocal spokesman on Gay rights afterwards. Chapman's homosexuality was kept secret for many years, even from his friends. He revealed his homosexuality first to John Cleese (whom Graham Chapman had known the longest of the Monty Python group), and then, several days later, he came out to a group of friends at a party held at his home in Belsize Park where he officially introduced them to David Sherlock as his boyfriend. One of Michael Palin's favourite stories about Graham involved Palin's trips to collect him every morning for Python related business, he would call up to Chapman's window and be greeted by a collection of young men before Graham eventually surfaced pipe in mouth. After Chapman made his homsexuality public (on a television show hosted by British jazz musician George Melly) a member of the public wrote to the Pythons to complain that she had heard a member of the team was a homosexual. Eric Idle sent a reply confirming that the culprit had been found and shot.
Chapman died on October 4 1989 of throat cancer which had metastasized to his spine. His death was one day before the 20th anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus - in Terry Jones' words, "the worst case of party-pooping in all history". John Cleese delivered a eulogy for Chapman, during which he deliberately used the word "fuck", and got away with it in the BBC. Cleese's eulogy was so funny that it was noted that some people at the funeral "almost died laughing". Cleese has said that Chapman would have liked that.
The remaining Python members have acknowledged that, while brilliant, Chapman was exasperating to work with, and difficult to know. But none of the other Pythons could have played King Arthur or Brian as well as Chapman. After his death, speculation of a Python revival inevitably faded. As Idle said, "we would only do a reunion if Graham came back from the dead. So we're negotiating with his agent".
Chapman's life story is currently being developed into a major motion picture. His estate has produced several posthumous works by Chapman, including a new reissue of his novel Yellowbeard (co-written with David Sherlock) and "Calcium Made Interesting" a collection of previously unseen essays, sketches, scripts, letters and other items.