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Graham Chapman Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (22) | Personal Quotes (17)

Overview (5)

Born in Leicester, Leicestershire, England, UK
Died in Maidstone, England, UK  (spinal and throat cancer)
Birth NameGraham Arthur Chapman
Nickname Gray
Height 6' 3¾" (1.93 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Graham Chapman was born on January 8, 1941 in Leicester, England while a German air raid was in progress. Graham's father was a chief police inspector and probably inspired the constables Graham often portrayed later in comedy sketches. Graham studied medicine in college and earned an M.D., but he practiced medicine for only a few years.

At Cambridge, he took part in a series of comedy revues and shortly after completing his medical studies at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Graham realized what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to perform comedy. In 1969, Graham along with University friends John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and American Terry Gilliam formed the own comedy group called Monty Python. Their BBC TV series Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969), which aired a short while later was a an instant hit. Their often self-referential style of humor was delightfully original but completely accessible to most audiences in the UK.

Before the show appeared on public television in the US, many people assumed that Americans would find Monty Python much too British to consider it funny. But PBS never had a larger audience than when stations began to air it during the early 1970s. The classic routines have since become standard college humor.

So enduring was the Python humor that fans know entire sketches such as "The Pet Shop," "Nudge-Nudge, Wink-Wink," "Argument Clinic," and "Penguin on the Telly." Graham was a standout of the group with his tall, blond profile and his zany characters (one of the more memorable was Muriel Volestrangler, a vaguely military-type character who would stop a sketch because it was "much too silly").

Graham was openly gay long before it was socially acceptable, and was open about his long-term relationship with writer David Sherlock, who lived with him for 24 years. He even adopted and raised a teenage runaway named John Tomiczek. Graham played the title role in the movie Life of Brian (1979) as well as King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). By the late 1970s most of the Python members were pursuing independent movie projects and the group slowly faded into obscurity. In 1983 he co-wrote and starred in the movie Yellowbeard (1983), which received negative reviews.

In 1988, Graham began working on another series when his health began to decline. A longtime alcoholic, who suffered liver damage before he stopped drinking in 1977, Graham began to have trouble concentrating at work. In November 1988, a routine visit to a dentist revealed a malignant tumor on his tonsil which was surgically removed. A visit to the doctor revealed another tumor on his spine which had to be removed which confined him to a wheelchair. During most of 1989, he underwent a series of operations and radiation therapy but for every tumor that was found and removed, another would form either along his spine or in his throat. In his wheelchair, he attended the September 1989 taping for the Monthy Python's 20th anniversary special. But on October 1, he was hospitalized after a massive stroke which turned into a hemorrhage. He died at the age of 48 on 4 October, 1989 from complications of the stroke as well as throat and spinal cancer.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Matthew Patay

Trade Mark (4)

Often cast as comical authority figures (most notably the Colonel)
His pipe
Walking onto the screen and talking directly to the audience to let them know that a sketch has gotten too absurd and will now end
Towering height

Trivia (22)

Member of the comedy group "Monty Python".
Studied Medicine at Cambridge University.
Co-wrote several episodes of Doctor in the House (1969) and its sequels with John Cleese.
While at Cambridge University, was a member of the prestigious Cambridge University Footlights Club. He went to the USA with the Cambridge University Footlights Club revue in 1964 - appearing on stage in Broadway, and on the "Ed Sullivan Show".
Longtime (24 years) companion of David Sherlock. Together, the two raised a son, John Tomiczak.
Born at 8:30am-BST
Died of cancer on 4th October 1989, just one day before the 20th anniversary of Monty Python. Terry Jones called it "The worst case of party-pooping I've ever seen.".
Co-author (with Barry Cryer) of the play "O Happy Day," which was discovered among his manuscripts and produced nearly eleven years after Chapman's death. "O Happy Day" had its world premiere on September 22, 2000, at Dad's Garage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. A portion of Chapman's ashes were in attendance for the premiere.
Was going to play the part of the reporter in Red Dwarf: Timeslides (1989), but died before filming could begin. The part instead went to Ruby Wax, the wife of one of the show's directors Ed Bye.
Was the second tallest member of the Monty Python troupe, being an inch taller than Eric Idle and just over two inches shorter than John Cleese.
While filming Life of Brian (1979) in Tunisia, he put his medical knowledge to good use and opened a surgery for the cast and crew. He brought along and dispensed much-needed medication for things like dehydration, food poisoning and other Tunisian complaints.
His parents were Walter and Edith.
Before joining the Cambridge Footlight Dramatic Society, while studying medicine at Emmanuel College, he founded his own cabaret show. When he was invited to join the Society, he did the same year that John Cleese joined.
Qualified at St. Bartholomew's hospital as a medical doctor.
Struggled with alcoholism, especially during the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). According to Terry Gilliam, Chapman constantly forgot his lines and was so drunk during filming that he couldn't make it across the Bridge of Death, so the assistant cameraman had to double for him. Additionally, Chapman was genuinely struggling with the rock climbing scene because of his alcohol struggle, which surprised the other Pythons since they had known him to be an excellent climber and wondered if his suit was interfering with his climbing.
Is the only member of Monty Python's Flying Circus who never worked in one of Terry Gilliam's non-Python projects.
Member of Monty Python along with John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam.
He and his longtime partner, TV writer David Sherlock, were among the co-writers of the British sitcom Doctor in Charge (1972). After Chapman's death, Sherlock contributed to The Pythons book. David was also the inspiration for many Monty Python sketches, including "Anne Elk" and was the originator of the Python sketch "Death of Mary Queen of Scots". David was one of several co-authors on "A Liar's Autobiography," the official Chapman memoir, and co-writer of the movie Yellowbeard (1983) in which Chapman played the title role.
His last appearance on film in Iron Maiden's promo for "Can I Play With Madness" was directed by Python Editor, Julian Doyle.
Was asked to play the cameo role of Asylum director Dr. Armstrong in _Lifeforce(1985)_.
According to John Cleese, his writing partner before and during Monty Python, Cleese himself did most of the actual writing while Chapman sat back quietly smoking his pipe not saying anything for long periods of time before throwing out an idea that often changed the course of the script for the better. Case in point, Cleese's original idea for the dead parrot sketch was that of a man trying to return a broken toaster before Chapman suggested that it be changed to the man bringing back a dead parrot on the grounds that it was funnier.
Chapman published his memoirs, "A Liar's Autobiography", in 1980, choosing the title because he said "it's almost impossible to tell the truth".

Personal Quotes (17)

We don't deliberately set out to offend. Unless we feel it's justified. And in the case of certain well-known religions, it was justified.
I hope I will have achieved something lasting.
John Howard Davies was not a very human person ... if you made a mistake of any kind, any sort of pause in speech, he would treat you rather as if he was a schoolmaster.
[Chapman and the other members of the Monty Python group traveled to visit the site of Dachau concentration camp in Germany, but were told by staff that they were too late and the museum was about to close] Tell them we're Jewish.
[1974; on whether his Monty Python work serves to get something out of his system that needs to be gotten out] Certainly in terms of writing. You get the argument from a lot of people that you're supposed to write to make people laugh. That's true. But also everything you do is written from something in your own experience. Nothing is written from outside the universe. You can't do a good situation comedy about stones. It's got to be animate. It has to be about human beings. Writing is therapeutic for me because - as you say - it gets something out of my system, some frustration, some anger. You almost have to be angry to write, I think. If you're angry about something, then you can always put something down on paper. If you're not, if you're just totally happy - and I don't actually know anyone in the whole bleeding world that is - you wouldn't be able to write a single thing. But if you're angry about something, it's possible to be witty, possible to be interesting, possible to write.
[1974] I've always been a pacifist myself, and I've found that it's a very good thing because when someone attacks you physically - and it's happened to me quite a few times - if you behave passively and just say, 'Oh, go on and do it,' they can't do anything. They're just unable to commit actual physical violence against you. It happened to me, for example, in a pub. I was being a bit show-offy I suppose, talking to a strange guy's girl friend, and he got a bit uppity about it, and he started bashing my head on the wall. But I offered no resistance and he couldn't carry on with the act of violence. It's best just to succumb and lie on your back like little dogs do. If a big dog comes around and gets aggressive, the little one just lies down on its back and puts its paws up in the air and everything's all right: the big one won't bite him.
[1974] I'm aggressively humble. On location for this Holy Grail film when we were in Scotland I went into a pub where there was a crowd of the regulars of that place: young people, old people, quite a mixture. And I thought they were all a bit uptight, because they were all out with their wives and girl friends having nice drinks. And I'm afraid there's a trait in me that's rather aggressive in that I try to split that up and make them think again, because I know how basically unhappy most of them are. So I decided to kiss the entire pub. I went round, man and woman, boy and girl, trying to kiss the lot, and succeeded mostly, except that one particular person was very annoyed and I got thrown out. The next day I decided that the only thing to do was to go back to the same place and not be frightened. So I went back. Met the same bloke. Immediately when I walked in the door he said, 'Oh, I suppose you're going to kiss everybody again tonight, are you?' That got a bit of a laugh from his friends. I took no notice, went up to the bar, bought myself a drink, and then went and sat down right next to him and said, 'I think you're rather boring, and you're probably the kind of person that only talks about cars and the number of girl friends you've had.' And the girl who was sitting next to him suddenly said, 'You're right. He does. That's all he does.' And other people started joining in. 'That's all he talks about. Nothing but that.' He went bright red. It was a lovely moment. But it doesn't always work out. Sometimes you get your head bashed in.
[1974] [Psychiatry is] an awful job. A lot of people in medicine are conservative because they come from conservative backgrounds. They're usually sons and daughters of doctors. That's one of the things that has held psychiatry up for so long. People who are doing it are incapable of looking into other people's minds because they don't know what normal people are like - not normal - average, one could say - all these words are horrible. But psychiatry students are theorising about their own thoughts. The way they're made at the moment has very little to do with real people. It has to do with getting a medical degree and then deciding to specialise in psychiatry. But during that time the student has met no average people. He's been in a medical school - an ivory tower. Psychiatrists, as we loosely call them, should be living in the society they are trying to help. It's a bloody difficult job.
I left Cambridge with a BA in Natural Sciences (lower second class), several bottles of the college sherry and a Ph.D. in Claret.
When the time came at school to think about the future - I was thinking of medicine merely because my brother was at medical school - I saw a piece of the Cambridge Footlights Revue televised, so I thought 'I'd like to go to Cambridge!' I hadn't realised that had entered my thinking - it had subconsciously - so I found out how to get to Cambridge ... so that's where I went to do my medicine rather than straight to a London hospital.
I, at the age of seven or eight, used to be an avid listener to a radio programme called The Goon Show, and at that age I wanted to be a Goon, but that didn't seem to be a very creditable career, certainly to my parents, I didn't even dare mention it. But then later on, around about the age of fourteen, I saw an excerpt on television of a revue produced by the Cambridge Footlights and that had in it a gentleman called Jonathan Miller and I thought, 'That's very good. That's the university I'll go to to read medicine.' [The Footlights] explained that if one wanted to join, one had to be invited to audition. That seemed rather unattainable, so I joined the Mummers instead.
My parents, Tim and Beryl, sorry, Tim and Betty, were outraged when I arrived because they'd been expecting a heterosexual, black Jew with several rather amusing birth deformities as they needed the problems. They lived in an enormous Gothic castle in the South of France called Dundrinkingginandslimlinetonicwithicebutnolemonin, which was originally built by Marco Polo for himself and a few friends he wanted to invite round to his place after the pub closed.
Cambridge. A university town built in a featureless flat landscape - so featureless and flat you wonder why anyone chose it as a location for anything. 'The magnificence of St John's, the noteworthy splendour of Trinity, the sheer pauntliness of "The Backs" ... and gazing at the magnificent, noteworthy, sheer splendour of the pauntley King's College Chapel, it would be a world weary traveller indeed who did not pause to think "Why the fuck didn't they build the whole town two inches to the right?"'
I remember thinking, "Why does Terry Jones laugh so much?" They couldn't read out their material without laughing all the time. We weren't like that. What was interesting was that out of the twenty or so writers on The Frost Report the most prolific ones came together - Michael [Palin] and Terry [Jones] used to be very good at writing the bits of film that were used, Eric Idle was excellent at oneliners, and John [Cleese] and I used to go for a more verbal style of comedy - we realised that we all had something different to offer, and Barry Took brought us together with the idea of doing a series. Terry Gilliam I didn't know, but John did, and I think that he was responsible for bringing him into the group.
Whatever the failings of the Footlights it was in fact more important than Cambridge University. Invisible to the outside world, but painfully obvious when you went for your first fitting, the University wore rose-coloured contact lenses. All it could offer was three years of dull and pointless work, with no hope of a job at the end of it, while Footlights had a much more practical and enjoyable syllabus, ending with a very good chance of achieving what every human being really wants: fame.
I still hadn't been invited to join Footlights, the only purpose of my university career.
We always used to rib Terry Gilliam somewhat because of his paucity of English language. John Cleese used to say his language use was limited, so things were either 'Great' or they 'really pissed him off '. Not many shades of meaning in between there. I do remember on one occasion we were touring Canada and we were flying over Lake Superior and Terry looked down at Lake Superior and turned round to the rest of us and said 'Hey you guys - a whole bunch of water' which I didn't feel adequately summed up the lake. He had noticed John Cleese when both John and I were in a revue in New York called Cambridge Circus and he was working for some cartoon magazine at the time and he wanted the archetypal English city gent - pin-striped trousers, bowler hat, rolled umbrella kind of person - to have in a photo-montage cartoon of a city gent who has an affair with a Barbie doll. So there are some rather nice pictures in existence of John Cleese doing naughty things with a Barbie doll.

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