Graham Chapman

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Graham Arthur Chapman (8 January 1941 – 4 October 1989) was an English comedian, actor, writer, physician and one of the six members of the Monty Python comedy troupe. He was also the lead actor in their two narrative films, playing King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Brian in Monty Python's Life of Brian. He co-authored and starred in the film Yellowbeard.


Early life and education

Chapman was born at the Stoneygate Nursing Home, Stoneygate, Leicester. He was educated at Melton Mowbray Grammar School and studied medicine at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He was also an avid fan of radio comedy from an early age, becoming especially drawn to that of The Goon Show. In the introduction to Chapman's (2005/2006) posthumous anthology, Jim Yoakum notes that "the radio shows didn't necessarily make him laugh. Only a select few got chuckles from young Chapman including Frankie Howerd, the team of Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss, It's That Man Again, Educating Archie, Take It From Here and Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh. 'I especially liked Robert Morton, although no one else seemed to like him very much. He would do things like tell jokes the wrong way around and switch punch lines. He was obviously a very good comedian and was ahead of his time. The appearance of incompetence was wonderful. He was one of my heroes.' But the show that truly astounded Graham, and was a major influence on his comedy was The Goon Show" (p.xvii). Chapman states "from about the age of seven or eight I used to be an avid listener of a radio programme called The Goon Show. In fact, at that stage I wanted to be a Goon" (p. 23).[1]

At Cambridge, he began writing comedy sketches with fellow student and future Python costar John Cleese. Chapman qualified as a doctor at the Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, but never practised medicine professionally. While at Cambridge, Chapman joined Footlights. His fellow members included Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie, Tony Hendra, David Hatch, Jonathan Lynn, Humphrey Barclay, and Jo Kendall. Their revue, A Clump of Plinths, was so successful at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that they renamed it Cambridge Circus, and took the revue to the West End in London and later New Zealand and Broadway in September 1964. The revue appeared in October 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show.

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