Tag Archives: Graham Chapman

Happy Birthday Graham


Been a little while since I’ve posted. Sorry. In the past month, I’ve had one graduation, the holidays, getting the kid ready for a move and a new job, and getting ready for another Cleese trip, not to mention my 103-year old Aunt Betty passing away unexpectedly.

But this would have been Graham Chapman’s 76 birthday, and that’s always worth a thought. Graham was an active member of Python for 20 years, and a considerably less active Python for 28 years now. It took nothing less than death to slow him down, and even then, he’s still been popping up in places like the O2 show, and making an ash of himself in various reunions. In fact, one thing that Graham never was, was inactive, and I’m glad that trend continues.

I’ll start posting more regularly as I travel with Mr. C this month. If you’re in the Northeast or parts of the Midwestern US, keep watching–John Cleese is coming your way. And in keeping with our theme, he’ll doubtless have lots to say about Graham.


More Python Classes

Graham Colonel

I’m sorry I’ve been posting less often lately (most of my posts seem to begin this way), but, among other things, I’ve been devoting a lot of my formerly free time to my Python classes at the iO Chicago. And it’s been a blast. To paraphrase something that Graham Chapman once told me, “I don’t let them know how much fun I’m having or they won’t want to pay me.”
Both sessions are winding up; my writing class, The Python Process, will be wrapping up with a staged reading on February 21 at 7 pm at the Chris Farley Theatre at the iO. This group has been turning out some incredibly funny material, week after week, and the audience is going to have a great time. My improv class, PythonProv, will be performing beginning at 7 pm February 26 in the same space, and this one will be just as funny.
Improvising in the style of @montypython is not the easiest thing in the world, and we may be the first group that’s made a serious attempt at it. And it’s going so well that we’re not going to let it drop after this session ends. And that’s why we’re going to continue on to a second level of PythonProv with the same group.
So why am I telling you all this if you aren’t in the group? Because we’re launching another session of PythonProv Level One classes beginning on Sunday, February 28. I don’t want to tell you how we do it, but I’ll give you one hint: while doing a long form improvisation, we chip away at everything that doesn’t look like #montypython. And it’s working!
If you’re interested, contact the iO Chicago. If you like Monty Python and improvising, you’re going to have a blast.

Happy birthday Graham

On January 8, 1941, Graham Chapman made his first appearance in Leicester, England. According to his autobiography, however, he was born in Leamington on February 7, 1942. Of course, one should keep in mind that it was titled A Liar’s Autobiography, and that should be enough to give you a pretty good idea of the sort of strangeness that Graham embraced his whole life.

Graham and me City Center

This is a photo of the second time I met Graham, in April of 1976, backstage at the City Center. I would be embarrassed at my leisure suit and ridiculous hair, except I’m with Graham, and Graham was never embarrassed about anything. Boy, do I miss him.

#montypython #grahamchapman

Where it all began…

…On this, the 45th anniversary of the first telecast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, it seems appropriate to watch the first scene of the first show recorded (though it was broadcast second). While Terry Jones and Graham Chapman were performing this, John Cleese was in the wings with Michael Palin, saying “You know, it’s possible that this will be the very first comedy program that doesn’t get a single laugh.” Fortunately, he couldn’t have been more wrong…


Twenty-five years. A quarter of a century. That’s how long ago Graham Chapman was snatched away from us after his battle with cancer on October 4, 1989.
It doesn’t really seem possible, because Graham seems more alive than ever. He was much-remembered in the Monty Python Live (Mostly) reunion show at the O2 last summer. And, John Cleese does an excellent job of bringing his old writing partner back to live in the pages of his upcoming autobiography So Anyway

But of course, none of that can replace the living, breathing, squawking man that so many of us know and love, and I count myself fortunate to have so many personal memories. I try to blog an occasional Graham story and should do so more often. For instance…
Graham and his son John Tomiczek were in Chicago over a long weekend, when Graham was on one of his lecture tours. I had met up with them, as I usually did, showing them some of the more interesting people and places, catching up, and having a good time in general. Not long after they arrived, they made an unfortunate discovery: the hotel did not provide laundry service over the weekend. None of the other options had a sufficiently short turn-around time, and they wouldn’t have a chance to get their laundry done before leaving town. They had been counting on this and were down to the last of their supplies. When I arrived at their room, Graham was concerned enough to mention it to me. Don’t worry, I assured him, I know what we can do. And so, we piled into my car, laundry in the trunk, and headed to my parents’ house in Ottawa, Illinois.
About two hours later, we arrived late in the afternoon, and my parents were apparently about to leave to go out for dinner. But when Graham walked in, their plans went out the window. We all sat down and visited for a few minutes, and I explained their predicament. Dinner plans went out the window and my mother, bless her heart, immediately began doing their laundry. Shortly after that, I took Graham and John out to show them the sights of Ottawa, which did not take terribly long. But when we arrived back at my parents’ house, the laundry was finished. “She even folded everything!” admired John, as indeed she had, down to the socks and underwear. Graham and John were tremendously grateful, and we packed things up and went back to Chicago. I later told the story to Michael Palin, who dubbed her “Marge Johnson, Laundress to the Stars!”
It’s hard to imagine what Graham would be up to now if he were still with us (though I’m sure he’d be more organized with his laundry). Still, I can’t help thinking how unfair it was that he wasn’t about to join the other five at the O2. But I can tell you this: for the limited number of days he had, Graham lived each one to the fullest.

Python Live, 34 years ago

It was 34 years ago this week that the Pythons played four nights live at the Hollywood Bowl. At that time, none of them would have dreamed that they’d be playing ten nights at the O2 in London 34 years late. For one thing, the O2 didn’t exist. But at the time, it seemed like the high point of Python, and in many ways, it was.


They were still active, making movies together. They were all together, including Graham, along with other fans and friends who were hanging out at the Bowl that I now miss very much, including George Harrison, Harry Nilsson, and John Tomiczek.

It was a very special four nights, part of which I was lucky enough to spend backstage, and even luckier to be on stage, with the Pythons. Not to take anything away from the O2 shows, which comprised one of the most amazing curtain calls for show business careers ever. But the Hollywood Bowl was just as special in its own way. It was where Python peaked in America, where Graham took his final Python curtain calls, and where I get way more nostalgic than I probably should. But it might be a good weekend to put Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl in the DVD player…

Python Gets Stoned…

Python Brian JC stoning

It was during this week in 1978 that filming began in Tunisia on Monty Python’s Life of Brian.┬áThe first day, September 16th, wasn’t even supposed to be the first day, but everything was going so well that they decided to begin that Saturday instead of waiting until the next Monday. And so, the cameras rolled on the Stoning Scene. Our still photographer, David Appleby, hadn’t even arrived yet. I had mentioned to Graham Chapman that I had bought a new camera for my stay in Tunisia, and so I ended up being asked to take a few rolls of film. A little intimidating for my first day ever on a film set, but I happily complied. I don’t know how many, if any, of my shots were ultimately used, but somebody’s were…

The Graham and Terry Show

32 years ago this week Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman appeared on Late Night with David Letterman for the premiere of the film of Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.


And now, just 32 years later, another live Python performance! #pythonspamclub #montypythonlive

Coconuts and Pythons…

I just realized that this is a rather significant week for me as a Monty Python fan.

It was 39 years ago, on June 8, 1975, that I drove to Carnegie Theatre, accompanied by my pal Steve Wolf, for the Chicago premiere of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It was also the first–but hardly the last time–that I would be up close and personal with a Python.

Graham Chapman and Terry Jones were appearing in person at the theatre, so there was no way I would miss it. We were there several hours early, and were rather close to the front of the line. The theatre was giving out free coconuts to the first few hundred people in line, and we didn’t want to miss out. I also wanted to make sure I would be as close to Graham Chapman and Terry Jones as possible.

When they opened the theatre, we grabbed our coconuts and rushed to the front row. Perfect seats for seeing the two Pythons up close (although not necessarily the best seats for watching the movie, as we soon found out).


The theatre manager came out and introduced Graham and Terry, who came out to riotous cheers and applause, talked to us a bit, and then took a few questions. I came forward and presented the two of them with a pair of carved coconuts to commemorate their Chicago visit (which, although I never asked, I’m sure were immediately deposited in the dumpster behind the theatre).


It didn’t matter. Steve snapped a picture of me with the two of them, and I was delighted (though in retrospect, I’d have foregone the knotted handkerchief I was wearing). Nevertheless, it would be, as they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.