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Graham Chapman

Graham Chapman

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Also Known As: Died: October 4, 1989
Born: January 8, 1941 Cause of Death: throat cancer
Birth Place: Leicester, England, GB Profession: actor, screenwriter, physician

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

pman also toured college campuses throughout the 1980s, where he regaled audiences with stories about Python and some of his more outrageous friends, including Keith Moon, the notorious drummer for the Who. There were attempts to launch several series, including "Out of the Trees" (BBC, 1976), a short-lived collaboration with Douglas Adams of The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy fame. The duo also worked together on a program for Ringo Starr which never materialized. In 1980, Chapman published a memoir, A Liar's Autobiography, with four co-authors, including Sherlock and Adams. Though comically exaggerated in several passages, Chapman was also forthcoming about his struggles with alcohol.Meanwhile, the Pythons' popularity continued unabated, and Chapman rejoined the troupe for two of its best-known and most controversial projects. "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" (1982) was a concert film shot in Los Angeles that featured the group reprising many of its most popular sketches. Chapman, who had joined a sort of proto-extreme sports group called The Dangerous Sports Club in the 1980s, looked remarkably fit for the first time on screen. The following year, Chapman co-starred and co-wrote "The Meaning of...

pman also toured college campuses throughout the 1980s, where he regaled audiences with stories about Python and some of his more outrageous friends, including Keith Moon, the notorious drummer for the Who. There were attempts to launch several series, including "Out of the Trees" (BBC, 1976), a short-lived collaboration with Douglas Adams of The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy fame. The duo also worked together on a program for Ringo Starr which never materialized. In 1980, Chapman published a memoir, A Liar's Autobiography, with four co-authors, including Sherlock and Adams. Though comically exaggerated in several passages, Chapman was also forthcoming about his struggles with alcohol.

Meanwhile, the Pythons' popularity continued unabated, and Chapman rejoined the troupe for two of its best-known and most controversial projects. "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" (1982) was a concert film shot in Los Angeles that featured the group reprising many of its most popular sketches. Chapman, who had joined a sort of proto-extreme sports group called The Dangerous Sports Club in the 1980s, looked remarkably fit for the first time on screen. The following year, Chapman co-starred and co-wrote "The Meaning of Life" (1983), which showcased some of their most shocking and subversive work Chapman contributed the film's closing sketch, "Part VII: Death," in which he played a man convicted of gratuitous sexual jokes who is allowed to choose his own demise: chased off a cliff by a team of topless women in crash helmets. One of the most popular of all Python film projects, "The Meaning of Life" would also serve as the last time all six members would appear together on screen.

The year 1983 also saw the release of one of Chapman's longest running projects - the comedy "Yellowbeard," which parodied Hollywood pirate adventures of the 1940s and 1950s. Originally intended as a film for Keith Moon, Chapman eventually took the lead role, but a troubled production - which included the death of friend and co-star Marty Feldman - resulted in a jumbled final effort that bore little resemblance to the script by Chapman, Sherlock and British comedy legend, Peter Cook. He continued to work on television projects until the end of the decade, including an unsold pilot called "Jake's Journey" which also featured one of director Hal Ashby's last turns behind the camera.

In 1988, comedy fans around the globe were shocked to learn that Chapman had contracted a rare form of spinal cancer. By 1989, the cancer was deemed inoperable, but he pressed on, and filmed a cameo for a 20th anniversary Python special in September of that year. Chapman's condition worsened the following month, and he died on Oct. 4, 1989, with Sherlock and his friends from Python in attendance. His death occurred just one day short of the two-decade anniversary of Python's first broadcast on the BBC. In typical fashion, Jones later commented to the press that Chapman's timing had been "the worst case of party-pooping in all history."

Cleese delivered the eulogy for Chapman's memorial service at St. Bartholomew's in December of 1989, after which the surviving members joined in a rendition of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," Idle's irrepressibly cheerful closing song from "Life of Brian." Rumors abounded that Chapman's ashes had been fired into space by Sherlock in 1999, but in truth, the cremains - or a reasonable facsimile - were presented at subsequent Python reunions, most notably the 1998 Aspen Comedy Festival, where Gilliam knocked them over and later cleaned up the spill with a dust-buster. In reality, Chapman's ashes were spread in North Wales by Sherlock in 2005. In addition to his enduring legacy as part of Monty Python, many of Chapman's sketch work were compiled in several book releases, and his college tours were presented on CD and DVD in the new millennium. In 1993, an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter was named in his honor.at Palin, with whom he had worked on "The Frost Report" be brought into the BBC show. In turn, Palin suggested that Jones, Gilliam and Idle - with whom Cleese had performed in Footlights - be part of the new show as well. With all parties finally set - despite the ITV series already in production - the show, titled "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (BBC 1, 1969-1974) was launched in 1969.

While the show's stream-of-consciousness structure required each member to play any number of roles in a given episode, the Pythons played recurring characters and types throughout the series' run. Tall, stern-looking and blessed with a resonant voice, Chapman was frequently called upon to play authority figures, such as "The Colonel," a dreary military type who brought skits to a close for being too silly. However, Chapman's officers, policemen and barristers were also given to flashes of insanity that broke out at a moment's notice. Chapman also excelled at sketches which required him to loose a volley of verbal abuse at his castmates; most notably in "The Argument Clinic," where Palin pays for the privilege of being screamed at by Chapman before realizing that he has signed up for the wrong service. Chapman's work as a writer for the series was also given to flights of lunacy - several of his sketches were deemed too graphic for use on the series; most notably, one about undertakers who suggest to their customers that the best manner of disposal for their loved ones was to eat them. Still, it was Chapman's ability to find the most surreal aspect of a sketch that made him a valued member of the troupe.

The viewing public knew little about Chapman's private life until the early 1970s, when it became known that he lived with a domestic partner, writer David Sherlock. Chapman soon became a vocal advocate of gay rights, helping to co-found the publication Gay News in 1972. Chapman later took in a young homeless teenager, John Tomiczek, and adopted him as his legal son. Tomiczek later became Chapman's business manager. Chapman's sexual orientation had little impact on the Python's creative output; when a viewer wrote to the troupe to express her outrage over Chapman's public declaration of his homosexuality in a television interview, Idle wrote back, stating that the others had "taken him outside and killed him."

However, Chapman's drinking did have a detrimental effect on the Pythons. By 1971, he was unable to remember lines and suffered from tremors that halted production. His problems reached their zenith on the set of the Pythons' second movie, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1974), where he found himself in the grip of delirium tremens. His instability came at a particularly inopportune time, as the group - which had officially ended its British television run in 1973 - was gaining popularity among American television audiences, thanks to broadcasts on public television stations. Movies appeared to be the next logical step for the Pythons; after the disappointing release of their first effort, the sketch compilation "And Now for Something Completely Different" (1971), they scored a modest hit with "Holy Grail," and college audiences were gravitating towards their comedy albums. Chapman was front and center in "Grail" as King Arthur, and was poised to repeat his turn as a leading man for their next project, a Biblical satire called "The Life of Brian" (1979). A particularly disastrous interview for the British press prompted him to put the brakes to his drinking, so he was sober for "Brian's" location shoot in Tunisia in 1977.

In addition to his work with the Pythons, Chapman was busy with other projects through the 1970s and 1980s. After starring in and co-writing the Peter Medak comedy "The Odd Job" (1978), which cast him as a man who is unable to call off a hitman paid to kill his former lover, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he was a frequent guest on television shows, including a stint as host of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) in 1981. Cha

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 Still Crazy Like a Fox (1987) Inspector Palmer
4.
 Yellowbeard (1983) Yellowbeard
8.
 Monty Python's Life Of Brian (1979) 1st Wise Man; Biggus Dickus; Brian Called Brian
9.
 Odd Job, The (1978) Arthur Harris
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1963:
Joined "Footlights Revue"; toured New Zealand and appeared in New York
1966:
Began TV writing career; worked on BBC-TV's "The Frost Report" with John Cleese
1969:
Monty Python's Flying Circus TV debut
1971:
Feature film debut (as writer and actor) with Monty Python's "And Now for Something Completely Different"
1979:
Played title character of Monty Python's "The Life of Brian"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge: -
St Bartholomew's Hospital: - 1962

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
David Sherlock. Together for 24 years.

Family close complete family listing

son:
John Tomiczek. Adopted in 1970s.

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Liar's Autobiography" Methuen

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