Birthday: January 8, 1941
Died At Age: 48
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Graham Arthur Chapman
Born in: Stoneygate, Leicester
Famous as: Comedian
Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males
Spouse/Ex-: David Sherlock
father: Walter Chapman
mother: Edith Chapman
children: John Tomiczek
Died on: October 4, 1989
place of death: Maidstone
education: Emmanuel College, Cambridge St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College
Who was Graham Chapman?
Graham Arthur Chapman was an English comedian, actor, and writer best recognized as one of the six members of the surreal comedy group Monty Python. Besides performing comedy, he also played lead roles in numerous movies and television programs. Born in Leicester, Chapman was raised in Melton Mowbray by a policeman father Walter Chapman and his wife Edith Towers. He loved science as a young man and studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Medical College. However, he turned down a career as a doctor and turned towards comedy. Chapman also went on to work as a writer later on and established a successful writing partnership with John Cleese. The pair became extremely popular with their work with ‘Monty Python’ in the 1970s. The comedian eventually moved to Los Angeles where he worked in numerous American TV shows before relocating to England in the early 1980s. In his personal life, Graham Chapman was openly homosexual and a huge supporter of gay rights. He was very open about his relationship with writer David Sherlock with whom he lived for 24 years. The couple also adopted and raised a teenaged boy named John Tomiczek. A long-time alcoholic and smoker, Chapman became afflicted with tonsil and spinal cancer which eventually killed him in 1989. He was just 48 at the time of his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Graham Arthur Chapman was born on January 8, 1941 in Leicester, England. His father Walter Chapman was a policeman while his mother Edith Towers was a housewife. He had an older brother, John Chapman, who was born in 1936.
He studied at the Melton Mowbray Grammar School. During this time, he showed a strong affinity for sports, science, and amateur dramatics.
In 1959, he started studying medicine at the Emmanuel College, Cambridge. During this period, he joined the club Cambridge Footlights, where he first began writing with John Cleese.
After graduation, Chapman became a part of a Footlights show called "Cambridge Circus" and toured New Zealand. After the tour, he enrolled at St Bartholomew's Medical College. At this juncture, he was very confused about whether to pursue a medical career or to venture into the field of entertainment. He finally decided to be a comedian.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Following their success with Footlights, Graham Chapman and Cleese began to write for the BBC. Chapman also wrote a radio series titled ‘I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again’ and proceeded to write for the series ‘The Illustrated Weekly Hudd,’ ‘This Is Tom Jones,’ and ‘This Is Petula Clark.’
Chapman, along with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Cleese, went on to appear in the TV comedy series titled ‘At Last the 1948 Show’. This show marked Chapman's first significant role as an actor and writer.
The upcoming comedy writer then again partnered with Cleese and wrote for the TV comedy series ‘Doctor in the House’. Chapman also co-wrote many episodes of its follow up titled ‘Doctor in Charge’.
In 1969, Chapman and Cleese collaborated with Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones to form the surreal comedy group Monty Python. The group performed on television, acted in stage shows, and also appeared in films.
In 1975, Chapman played the lead role in the Python film, ‘Holy Grail.’ That year, he also co-wrote a pilot for the TV series ‘Out of the Trees’. Soon after this, he started writing ‘Yellowbeard’, a pirate film which was eventually released in 1983. He also starred as Captain Yellowbeard in the movie.
In the late 1970s, the English artiste moved to Los Angeles. In 1978, he starred as Arthur Harris in the comedy movie ‘The Odd Job’ which he also produced and wrote. The following year, he appeared in ‘Monty Python's Life of Brian’.
He published his memoirs titled ‘A Liar's Autobiography’ in the year 1980. He then returned to England after ‘Yellowbeard’ was released.
After collaborating with the other Pythons in the movie ‘The Meaning of Life’, Graham Chapman began a series of U.S. college tours.
In 1987, he appeared as Detective Inspector Palmer in the TV film ‘Still Crazy like a Fox’. The following year, he appeared in the music video "Can I Play with Madness" for Iron Maiden. That year, he also starred in the TV movie ‘Jake's Journey’.
Continue Reading Below
By the late 1980s, his health had begun to deteriorate and he was not able to perform much. His last performance was an uncredited one in the 1989 independent film ‘Stage Fright’.
Graham Chapman earned much fame for his contribution to Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch, the "Dead Parrot sketch". The sketch depicted a conflict between a disgruntled customer and a shopkeeper who argue over whether or not a recently purchased parrot is dead. The team performed different versions of the sketch for various television shows and live stage shows.
Graham Chapman first met his long-term partner David Sherlock in 1966. Two years later, the couple moved to Belsize Park. In 1971, they adopted teenager John Tomiczek as their son. Tomiczek later died of a heart attack in 1992.
Chapman disclosed his homosexuality in public on a TV show in 1972. He was one of the first celebrities to come out of the closet.
He was a heavy drinker and smoker. By 1973, his drinking had begun to affect his performance. Chapman stopped drinking in 1977 and remained sober for the rest of his life.
In 1988, the actor was diagnosed with a tonsil tumour. By the following year, the cancer had spread to his spinal cord. Chapman underwent numerous surgeries and several rounds chemotherapy during the final months of his life. However, finally his cancer was declared inoperable.
On 4 October 1989, Chapman died in Maidstone Hospital following complications from a stroke. His prolonged illness was also cited as one of the reasons leading to his death.
Two months after his death, a private memorial service was held at St Bartholomew's and his legacy was commemorated by the other five Pythons.
In 1997, David Sherlock allowed biographer Jim Yoakum to write the ‘Graham Chapman Archives.’ Later that year, a novel titled ‘Graham Crackers: Fuzzy Memories, Silly Bits, and Outright Lies’ was also published.
In September 2012, the British Comedy Society unveiled a blue plaque at The Angel pub in North London to commemorate Chapman.