A lovely photo of the handsome Graham Chapman, achingly young... This is likely a shot from his days at Cambridge. Again, thanks to Lady April of Pythonline. A lot of these rare Chapman photos come from Bob McCabe's The Pythons: Autobiography by The Pythons, which I received recently. I read through this huge tome and finished it feeling rather discomfited. Over the majority of the pages, old Graham really comes across as a drunken ass and a huge waste of time. He put out a lot of people, including his Python mates, and even the chapter on his death included Terry Gilliam saying, "He'd sold his big headline story to The Sun, I think, about how 'Python Whips the Big C' a month earlier, and so there's Graham once again conning people into parting with large sums of money." Of course, Terry might have been saying this with a grin and lots of love, who knows.
I did read passages containing affection and respect for him, especially when he dried out and contributed in so many ways to Life of Brian, but overall, Graham looks pretty bad in this book. And the only people around to talk for him are his partner David Sherlock, his brother John and his sister-in-law Pam. Graham himself is quoted extensively through his book A Liar's Autobiography and from a few other sources, but it's a pity Graham doesn't get to say anything new on his behalf, while everyone else certainly does.
He may have been a royal piss, but he was really enjoyable to watch, and the laughter he's given so many is genuine and well-appreciated. He did struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and I've seen it take down a couple of my own family members, so I know it's a rough go. But the people I've known who've had the disease were not simply talking bottles of gin. They made a contribution, they loved and were loved. And I know Graham was, too. I would like to have seen more of that in the book, especially since Graham was not around to give his side, you know? Great, so he received a hand job from a strange man backstage and could never remember a damn line. Wonderful. Glad to learn that...
But what did he do that made Python work so well? He was only one of six, but his contribution was sublime, and as much needed as the rest of his cast mates. He was the quintessential English gentleman. Tall, regal, pipe-smoking, intelligent. Yet never afraid to squawk, holler, or dress like a middle-aged matron. He made you believe him, no matter what he was doing, no matter how outrageous. He made you laugh, dammit.
Score one for Graham, I say.