It didn’t really hit me until I found myself flat on my back with a tongue depressor down my throat, that the guy standing– no, looming–over me with said depressor was Graham Chapman: the Graham Chapman, founder-member of Monty Python, comedy genius and a certifiable loon. Sure, he was also a qualified MD, which was why I had asked him to look at my sore throat, but it wasn’t until he bent over me and said, “Go aaah,” that it dawned on me that the bloody Brain of Nazareth was poking a wooden spoon down my throat! A bizarre situation to most, but all in a normal day’s writing for us; if anything having to do with Graham could be called normal, that is.
How had I come to find myself in this position? I’d first met Graham some months earlier while he was touring U.S. colleges giving what he termed “comedy lectures.” They were, in fact, billed as “an evening with” and what evenings they were! During his talks he would expound upon his life, both pre- and post-Python, tell tall tales about hazardous friends such as the late Keith Moon of The Who and his exploits with The Dangerous Sports Club, an ad hoc group of “adrenaline junkies” who liked to plummet down mountain tops on things like pianos attached to skis. At the time I first met Graham, I was writing a book about the making of the Python series (Monty Python VS The World). I found him to be extraordinarily candid about both his personal and professional life, but even more remarkable than that was the fact that he had no ego. He thought nothing of bringing me a “cuppa tea” or giving me a lift to the train station or sharing with me some painful episode from his past. A true gentleman, he bore with quiet patience and good humor the millions of questions about the Python days that I relentlessly flung at him. Eventually, we became friends.