Graham Arthur Chapman (January 8, 1941 — October 4, 1989) was an English comedy writer and actor known for his work with Monty Python. Fans will recognize Chapman from his roles as King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Brian in Monty Python's Life of Brian, as well as his involvement in countless now-classic sketches in Monty Python's Flying Circus. Alongside John Cleese (his long-time collaborator, whom he met at Cambridge), Chapman co-wrote "The Parrot Sketch", one of the most beloved comedy routines in British culture, if not the English language as a whole. Cleese recalls that Graham would sit silently through long writing sessions, before suddenly introducing an idea so absurd that it changed the course of the sketch i.e. changing the defective appliance to a dead parrot, and deciding that it's a "Norwegian Blue". While not exactly the easiest person to work with, Cleese and the other Pythons all acknowledged that Chapman had a great instinct for what made something funny - or even funnier. Somewhat counter-intuitively, one of his most memorable characters was that of an Army Brigadier who cut narratives short for being "far too silly".Chapman was a fully-qualified Doctor of Medicine, which (like many of his fellow Pythons) made him vastly over-educated for his primary line of work.note He was also an alcoholic, and ultimately gave up drinking in 1977. During the seventies he admitted publicly that he was homosexual, and began to speak out for LGBT rights.He died of throat cancer in 1989, the day before the 20th anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus (Terry Jones called this "the worst case of party-pooping in all history"). His memorial service can be found on YouTube; emotionally fragile Tropers who love Python would do well to avoid the video altogether. Despite turning his funeral into a celebrity roast, which the Pythons all insist he would have enjoyed right down to John Cleese saying "good riddance to him, the free loading bastard", some sources note claim that Cleese was deeply saddened by Chapman's death and had to be escorted out by hospital physicians when he passed away.
Graham Chapman is known for the following works:
- Monty Python's Flying Circus
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Monty Python's Life of Brian
- Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
- How to Irritate People
- At Last The 1948 Show
- Our Show For Ringo Starr (unproduced)
Tropes associated with him include:
- Acting for Two: He played many of the characters in the Monty Python movies.
- The Alcoholic: He went cold turkey while filming The Holy Grail and often caused delays in filming due to severe DTs. He quit for good before filming Life of Brian.
- The Cameo: He appears in Iron Maiden's "Can I Play with Madness" music video as an art teacher who hates his student's modern creations, then gets tormented by their mascot Eddie. He's the best part of the video, by far.
- Comically Serious: Perhaps his greatest talent, playing the straightlaced King Arthur and Brian Cohen while surrounded by insanity, and making it all the funnier by contrast. His Colonel character from Monty Python's Flying Circus was one of the definitive studies of humorlessness played for comedy.
- The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Because AIDS was taboo and associated primarily with gay men at the time of Chapman's death, many people incorrectly assumed that he died from AIDS or that reports of his cancer were just a cover-up or euphemism.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: His preferred way to smoke.
- The Fun in Funeral: John Cleese quoted "The Parrot Sketch" at Chapman's funeral ("Graham Chapman has ceased to be ..."), called him a "freeloading bastard", and went on to say that Chapman would never have forgiven him if he hadn't done so.Cleese: Anything for him but mindless good taste. I could hear him whispering in my ear as I wrote this eulogy, "Now look here Cleese, you're very proud of being the first man to say "shit" on British television. If this memorial service really is for me, I want to you to be the first person, at a British memorial service, to say 'fuck'."
- Hair-Trigger Temper: According to Michael Palin on Parkinson, Graham was angry because he was gay at a time when it was quite difficult to be gay and was frustrated most of the time.
- Full-Frontal Assault: His nude scene in Life of Brian.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With John Cleese.
- Jerkass: During the filming of Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Graham would get drunk and start yelling abuse at the cast and crew. Bernard McKenna, who co-wrote the film Oddjob with him, said he was a nightmare to work with.
- Manly Gay: He described himself as "a great raging pouffe, but a butch one, with a pipe" and enjoyed such pursuits as mountain-climbing and rugby.
- Overly Long Gag: The song "I Like Traffic Lights" from Monty Pythons Contractual Obligation Album, which is just Chapman singing this phrase over and over again, with occasional extra lines such as "but not when they are red". The song ends with him eventually succombing to the imbecility of it all, by sighing: "Oh God..."
- Serious Business: While he never went into practice, Chapman took medicine very seriously. Behind-the-scenes footage on some Python films show him acting as the crew doctor and dispensing advice and medicine and arranging follow up appointments with no trace of humor whatsoever.
- Straight Gay: Chapman frequently played straight characters, including some who were adamant gay-bashers. He also, ironically, frequently played the Straight Man to other, more outlandish characters played by the other Pythons (when not playing outlandish characters himself). In one sketch, the words "Straight Man" flash on the screen in large green block letters as his character is shown.