Remembering Graham Chapman on the Eve of the Last Monty Python Show

by M-Berens
The original six members of Monty Python's Flying Circus

The original cast of Monty Python, Graham Chapman is shown in the back with his pipe.

On July 1, 2014, Monty Python is set to regroup to put on their final live performance. It’s the first time  the old school friends – John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam have got together since the death of Graham Chapman, the British comedic genius who was known for his tall, blonde profile and zany characters. The comedy troupe felt uncomfortable performing without Graham Chapman and so put off working together again until now.

However, it has been confirmed that Graham Chapman will be present at the reunion tour in recorded form.

Initially a one night performance, tickets sold out in a record 43.5 seconds so more dates were added. The last performance will be July 20, 2014.  The troupe insists that it will be their last performance together since they all have their own solo careers and they are getting old. Monty Python Live (mostly) is billed as the “One Down Five To Go” show.

Graham Chapman once said, ”Death can really absorb a person. Like most people, I would find it pleasant not to have to go, but you just accept that it’s more or less inevitable.”

And so it was.

After being hospitalized for a massive stroke which progressed into a hemorrhage, Graham Chapman died at the age of 48 on October 4, 1989.

Born January 8, 1941, Chapman studied medicine in college and graduated as a doctor of medicine., however, it was during this time that he participated in a series of comedy revues and realized he wanted to perform comedy.

On a day that was supposed to be filled with tears and mourning over their friend, colleague and writing partner, Graham Chapman, John Cleese delivered a unique and highly memorable eulogy that displayed not only Monty Python’s humor but also that of Chapman himself.

Below is the video of Cleese’s eulogy delivered as he took advantage of “…this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf.” A transcript of Cleese’s full eulogy follows.

The Graham Chapman Eulogy delivered by John Cleese

“Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch,’ is no more.

He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky, and I guess that we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such unusual intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun.

Well, I feel that I should say, “Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries. ”

And the reason I feel I should say this is, he would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him but mindless good taste. I could hear him whispering in my ear last night as I was writing this:

‘All right, Cleese, you’re very proud of being the very first person to ever say shit on British television. If this service is really just for starters, I want you to be the first person ever at a British memorial service to say fuck!’

You see, the trouble is, I can’t. If he were here with me now I would probably have the courage, because he always emboldened me. But the truth is, I lack his balls, his splendid defiance. And so I’ll have to content myself instead with saying ‘Betty Mardsen…’

But bolder and less inhibited spirits than me follow today. Jones and Idle, Gilliam and Palin. Heaven knows what the next hour will bring in Graham’s name. Trousers dropping, blasphemers on pogo sticks, spectacular displays of high-speed farting, synchronized incest. One of the four is planning to stuff a dead ocelot and a 1922 Remington typewriter up his own arse to the sound of the second movement of Elgar’s cello concerto. And that’s in the first half.

Because you see, Gray would have wanted it this way. Really. Anything for him but mindless good taste. And that’s what I’ll always remember about him—apart, of course, from his Olympian extravagance. He was the prince of bad taste. He loved to shock. In fact, Gray, more than anyone I knew, embodied and symbolized all that was most offensive and juvenile in Monty Python. And his delight in shocking people led him on to greater and greater feats. I like to think of him as the pioneering beacon that beat the path along which fainter spirits could follow.

Some memories, I remember writing the undertaker speech with him, and him suggesting the punch line, ‘All right, we’ll eat her, but if you feel bad about it afterwards, we’ll dig a grave and you can throw up into it.’ I remember discovering in 1969, when we wrote every day at the flat where Connie Booth and I lived, that he’d recently discovered the game of printing four-letter words on neat little squares of paper, and then quietly placing them at strategic points around our flat, forcing Connie and me into frantic last minute paper chases whenever we were expecting important guests.

I remember him at BBC parties crawling around on all fours, rubbing himself affectionately against the legs of gray-suited executives, and delicately nibbling the more appetizing female calves. Mrs. Eric Morecambe remembers that too.

I remember his being invited to speak at the Oxford union, and entering the chamber dressed as a carrot—a full length orange tapering costume with a large, bright green sprig as a hat—-and then, when his turn came to speak, refusing to do so. He just stood there, literally speechless, for twenty minutes, smiling beatifically. The only time in world history that a totally silent man has succeeded in inciting a riot.

I remember Graham receiving a Sun newspaper TV award from Reggie Maudling. Who else! And taking the trophy falling to the ground and crawling all the way back to his table, screaming loudly, as loudly as he could. And if you remember Gray, that was very loud indeed.

It is magnificent, isn’t it? You see, the thing about shock… is not that it upsets some people, I think; I think that it gives others a momentary joy of liberation, as we realized in that instant that the social rules that constrict our lives so terribly are not actually very important.

Well, Gray can’t do that for us anymore. He’s gone. He is an ex-Chapman. All we have of him now is our memories. But it will be some time before they fade.”

For more information visit Monty Python Live (mostly) tour.

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