Graham Arthur Chapman (8 January 1941 – 4 October 1989) was an English comedian, writer, actor, author, and one of the six members of the British surreal comedy group Monty Python. He played authority figures such as the Colonel and the lead role in two Python films, Holy Grail and Life of Brian.
Chapman was born in Leicester and was raised in Melton Mowbray. He enjoyed science, acting, and comedy, and after graduating from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and St Bartholomew's Medical College, he turned down a career as a doctor to be a comedian. Chapman eventually established a writing partnership with John Cleese, which reached its critical peak with Monty Python in the 1970s. Chapman subsequently left Britain for Los Angeles, where he attempted to be a success on American television, speaking on the college circuit and producing the pirate film Yellowbeard, before returning to Britain in the early 1980s.
In his personal life, Chapman was openly homosexual and a strong supporter of gay rights, and was in a relationship with David Sherlock. He was an alcoholic during his time at Cambridge and the Python years, quitting shortly before working on Life of Brian. Chapman died of tonsil and spinal cancer on 4 October 1989, on the eve of Monty Python's 20th anniversary, and his life and legacy were commemorated at a private memorial service at St Bartholomew's with the other five Pythons.
He is also known as Gray Chapman and Graham Arthur Chapman.
In 1988, Chapman made a routine visit to a dentist, who found a small, but malignant tumour on one of his tonsils, leading to both being removed via a tonsillectomy. The following year, the cancer had spread into Chapman's spinal cord, where another tumour was surgically removed. Chapman had several chemotherapy treatments and surgeries during the final months of his life, but ultimately the cancer was declared inoperable. According to his brother, Chapman was visibly upset by the death of his mother that July, by which time he was terminally ill. Shortly afterwards, Chapman filmed scenes for the 20th anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus, the final time he appeared on television.
Chapman died on 4 October 1989 in Maidstone Hospital. At the time of his death, he was being visited by Sherlock, brother John and his sister-in-law, and fellow Pythons Palin and Cleese, the latter of whom had to be led out of the room to deal with his grief. Peter Cook had intended to visit, but arrived too late and was visibly shaken by the news. Chapman's death occurred on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus, and Jones called it "the worst case of party-pooping in all history".