Graham Chapman

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Graham Chapman (8 January 1941 – 4 October 1989) was a British comedy writer, comedy actor, and physician. Chapman is best known for his work as a member of the comedy troupe Monty Python, which he co-founded in 1969. He and comedian John Cleese were writing partners for about 20 years.

Whilst studying medicine at the University of Cambridge's Emmanuel College, Chapman joined the Cambridge Footlights. This led to work writing comedy scripts for BBC Radio and BBC Television. He co-created and co-starred in the sketch comedy series At Last the 1948 Show and Monty Python's Flying Circus, and starred in the feature films Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), The Odd Job (1978), and Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979). Chapman died in 1989 of complications from cancer and stroke.


  • It's fear. … There's no point in [homophobia]. We should just love each other, and do it in our own way. That's the only thing that's important.
  • I think … [what attracted me to show business] was the early radio shows. I was an avid listener to radio shows like Take It from Here; before that, Jewel and Warriss, Hancock, all sorts of radio shows. And then, later—when I was around thirteen, fourteen—The Goon Show, of course. Here came a show which was not like any of the other shows. It didn't have the same kind of rules. It didn't have any rules. It didn't even like the medium that was putting it out, particularly; it didn't like the BBC. Wonderful! There was something I could relate to, and did.
  • The very first day of filming of The Holy Grail, in fact, we were halfway up a mountainside in Glen Coe, and I hadn't gotten my daily dose, and it was seven o'clock in the morning that we left the hotel. The bar wasn't open; I hadn't realised this, and hadn't gotten anything prepared the night before that I should have if I'd researched my drinking properly. And so I had DTs on the mountainside while having to try and remember lines and (uh) stand up. … It was then that I decided next time that I do a job like this I'm going to be clean for it. It's not fair to the other chaps in the group, it's not fair to me, it's not fair to what I've written, and it's very stupid.
    • Parkinson interview (October 1980).[2] The first day of filming was 30 April 1974.[4]
  • Once the decision had been made, once I decided to stop [drinking], it was easy—except for the … three days of unpleasantness, of—well, of having things crawl all over me and hallucinating. … One of the worst things was not being able to remember if I'd slept or not, whether I was dreaming, or whether I was awake. I didn't know.
    • Parkinson interview (October 1980).[2]
  • [My parents] came to grips with the drinking … much more easily, I think, than [with my sexuality]. Yes. But, things are rather better now than in those days, of course. It was some time ago. And now, even the Church of England, I think, regards a homosexual as merely being handicapped.
  • There was one occasion when John Cleese and myself actually felt guilty about laughing at something we were writing, because it was in incredibly bad taste. So bad was the taste that we just couldn't help laughing at it. It concerned a gentleman walking into … an undertaker's premises with his dead mother in a sack. And from there it got worse.
  • Ultimately, I think writing is more … satisfying [than acting], … because if you write something, later on in the day … you can read it through again and you know that it's … good. That's a very satisfying feeling because [the work] is there, it's something you've created. … Acting is … a skill which a lot of people have. Less so with writing …. But, I'm enjoying acting now much more than I did. It was torture for me at one point, in the latter days of [Monty Python's Flying Circus]. But then, after sobering up, I really began to enjoy it again.
    • From "Performing Versus Writing", an interview excerpt included on the posthumously released comedy album Looks Like Another Brown Trouser Job (Rykodisc, 2006).

Quotes about Graham Chapman

  • John rings. He’s been away in the country for the weekend. Has just returned to find a message that Graham has had a nervous breakdown.
  • Dropped in to see Graham in Southwood Lane. He came out of hospital yesterday and is not supposed to drink ever again. He looked sallow and tense. It’s going to be a great struggle for him. Barry Cryer was there too. We sat and sipped tea and Barry and I joked rather forcibly. It seemed the only thing to do at the time.
  • [The other Pythons all lead] boring lives, but Graham lives what we do on the screen for real. … It's constantly surprising, what he does. … Graham was at his best, usually, in very conservative restaurants when we'd be out dining, and there'd be some nice, middle-aged, middle-class couples dining, and you'd suddenly discover Graham was no longer at the table, but was underneath the table, and other people's tables, and kissing people's feet.
  • He was the most "extremely" person I think I've ever met. It didn't really matter what the adjective was, because he would be extremely that—whether it was kind or unkind or good or bad or funny or not funny, I mean there was nothing he ever did that he didn't do … much more extremely than anybody else would. … "[S]ubversive authority figures" … sounds rather like a paradox, and it's a very good paradox as far as Graham is concerned; … but, actually, the person he continually subverted was himself. … Because he was always this rather tweedy person on first meeting him, and that was an impression that lasted at least three seconds into any relationship. … But, there was always a sort of danger there, because you never actually knew what was going to happen next.
  • [I]t took about four men to live [Graham Chapman's] life. There was the quiet pipe-smoking tweed-jacketed doctor, who could elucidate complicated medical facts to the layman while calmly diagnosing and dispensing medicines; there was the quiet pipe-smoking writer who could sit all day painting his nails with gestetner fluid, occasionally interjecting the oddest comments, squawks, shouts of 'Betty Marsden' and injunctions to sing 'Only Make-Believe' in a squeaky voice; there was the quiet pipe-smoking homosexual, who could calmly bring a party of Chinese boys down for breakfast in an extremely bourgeois German suburban hotel, causing the manageress conniptions and ending in a request that he move to a more suitable establishment; and there was the quiet pipe-smoking alcoholic, who could reduce any drinks party to a shambles by consuming half a distillery and then crawling round the floor kissing all the men and groping all the women.
  • Graham's writing, at its best, … had that enviable quality of giving no evidence of where it came from. He was like that, too, except that we all knew he came from Leicester, though Graham showed not the slightest sign of having come from Leicester. As far as I was concerned, he had come from the moon—an amiable Looney with the gift of conveying enormous reassurance. You always felt it would be all right while Graham was around—whatever "it" was. And then he would be off 'round the bar of the King's House Hotel, Glen-coe, determined to kiss everyone in the bar. Which he did. And got into a fight. And got banned from the bar.
  • Graham was getting through two bottles of gin a day, but those were the large ones that you get behind a bar. Pretty colossal. … He never used the word alcoholic, but he knew darned well that he had to clean his act up. As I understand it anyway, Graham already knew he would be playing Brian [in Life of Brian], and had to really stop drinking with that in mind.
    • David Sherlock in his interview for the documentary film The Secret Life of Brian (2007).
  • [A]s I stood after coming off stage in a state of shock, a tall chap waiting in the queue … offered a few words of consolation, and then minutes later I was having coffee with my main writing partner for the next twenty years.

    My first impression of Graham Chapman was of physical strength. He was slightly shorter than me, but much tougher, in the lean, angular way of a sportsman. He did not surprise me when he said he was a medical student who climbed mountains and played rugby football. He was wearing a rather hairy tweed jacket and heavy brogues, and he soon lit up a pipe. He seemed dead butch, and slightly taciturn.
    • John Cleese, So, Anyway … (2014).[10] Cleese and Chapman met on the day when they both auditioned for the Cambridge Footlights in 1961. Chapman was age 20; Cleese was about 21.


  1. Crawshaw, Tom (2013-10-13). Don’t Take It The Wrong Way: Homosexuality in Comedy. The Gay UK. Retrieved on 2023-06-11.
  2. a b c Chapman, Graham. Interview with Michael Parkinson. Parkinson. BBC1. 1980-10-15.
  3. Parkinson Episode #10.8 (TV Episode 1980). IMDb. Retrieved on 2023-06-11.
  4. a b c Palin, Michael (2007) [2006]. Diaries, 1969–1979: The Python Years. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN: 978-0-312-36935-4. 
  5. Chapman, Graham. Interview with David Letterman. Late Night with David Letterman. NBC, New York. 1982-04-20.
  6. Late Night with David Letterman Episode #1.46 (TV Episode 1982). IMDb. Retrieved on 2023-06-12.
  7. a b Chapman, Graham. Interview with David Letterman. Late Night with David Letterman. NBC, New York. 1982-06-24.
  8. a b Late Night with David Letterman Episode #1.80 (TV Episode 1982). IMDb. Retrieved on 2023-06-12.
  9. Jones, Terry (1997). "Sideways: Graham, Lemon Curry, and all that". in Jim Yoakum. Graham Crackers: Fuzzy Memories, Sillybits, and Outright Lies. Book-mart Press. ISBN 978-1-56414-334-1. 
  10. Cleese, John (2014). "Chapter 6". So, Anyway…. New York: Crown Archetype. eISBN 978-0-385-34825-6. 
Wikipedia has an article about:
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Monty Python
  Members     Graham Chapman · John Cleese · Terry Gilliam · Eric Idle · Terry Jones · Michael Palin  
  Supporting cast     Carol Cleveland · Neil Innes  
  Television series     Flying Circus  (1969–1974) · Fliegender Zirkus  (1972) · Personal Best  (2006)  
  Filmography     And Now for Something Completely Different  (1971) · Holy Grail  (1975) · Life of Brian  (1979) · Live at the Hollywood Bowl  (1982) · The Meaning of Life  (1983)  
  Music     Monty Python albums  
  Specials     Parrot Sketch Not Included  (1989) · Live at Aspen  (1998) · Python Night  (1999)  
  Documentaries     The Seventh Python  (2008) · Almost the Truth (Lawyers Cut)  (2009)  
  Stage productions     Spamalot  (opened 2005) · Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)  (premiered 2007) · An Evening Without Monty Python  (debuted 2009) · Live (mostly)  (premiered 2014)  
  Literature     Big Red Book  (1971) · Brand New Bok  (1973)  
  Video games     Flying Circus  (1990) · Complete Waste of Time  (1994) · Quest for the Holy Grail  (1996) · The Meaning of Life  (1997) · Cow Tossing  (2011)  
  Related articles     Do Not Adjust Your Set  (1967–1969) · At Last the 1948 Show  (1967) · How to Irritate People  (1968) · We Have Ways of Making You Laugh  (1968) · The Complete and Utter History  
  of Britain
 (1969) · Rutland Weekend Television  (1975–1976) · Ripping Yarns  (1979) · Holy Flying Circus  (2011) · A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's  
  Graham Chapman