The Late, Great Graham Chapman would have celebrated his birthday on 8th January had he not tragically died in 1989. He started out in the 1960′s writing professionally for the BBC alongside John Cleese, initially for David Frost, but also for Marty Feldman. Chapman also contributed sketches to the BBC radio series I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again and television programmes such as The Illustrated Weekly Hudd (starring Roy Hudd), Cilla Black, This is Petula Clark, and This Is Tom Jones. Chapman, Cleese, and Tim Brooke-Taylor later joined Feldman in the television comedy series At Last the 1948 Show. There, Chapman displayed a gift for deadpan comedy (particularly evident in the sketch “The Minister Who Falls to Pieces”) and for imitating various British dialects. Chapman and Cleese also wrote for the long-running television comedy series Doctor in the House. Chapman also co-wrote several episodes with Bernard McKenna and David Sherlock.
Chapman joined British sketch comedy series Monty Python alongside Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, which was first aired on BBC One on the 5th October 1969. The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines. It also featured Terry Gilliam’s wonderful and imaginatively bizarre animations, often sequenced or merged with live action. Broadcast by the BBC. with 45 episodes airing over four series from 1969 to 1974, The show often targets the idiosyncrasies of British life, especially that of professionals, and is at times politically charged, and over the years many of the sketches have attained classic status including The Lumberjack Song, Ministry of Silly Walks, Upper class twit of the Year,Spam song, The Dead Parrot Sketch and Bicycle Repair Man. The members of Monty Python were all highly educated. Terry Jones and Michael Palin are Oxford University graduates; Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman attended Cambridge University; and American-born member Terry Gilliam is an Occidental College graduate. Chapman also played the lead roles in two of the Python’s Films – Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Life of Brian
After reuniting with the other Pythons in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Chapman began a lengthy series of American college tours where he would tell the audience anecdotes about Monty Python, the Dangerous Sports Club, Keith Moon, and other subjects. In 1988, he appeared in the Iron Maiden video Can I Play with Madness. Chapman also secured funding for his much cherished pirate project Yellowbeard in 1982. Once again, Chapman collaborated with writer Bernard McKenna and for the first time with Peter Cook. The film, which starred Chapman as the eponymous pirate, also featured appearances from Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Cleese, Idle, Spike Milligan, and Cheech & Chong. It marks the last appearance of Feldman, who suffered a fatal heart attack during shooting. It was released in 1983 to mixed reviews. His final project was to have been a TV series called Jake’s Journey. Although the pilot episode was made, there were difficulties selling the project. Chapman was also to have played a guest role as a television presenter in the Red Dwarf episode “Timeslides”, but died before filming was to have started.