John’s review of A Liar’s Autobiography by Graham Chapman

Chapman 1A Liar’s Autobiography Vol VI

By Graham Chapman

1980

The Monthy Python (Mostly)’ bandwagon is now well underway and I am sure it will generate plenty of alcohol-assisted nostalgia sessions for Monty Python fans – amongst whom I include myself. I am of an age to have ingested Goonery in my callow youth and followed this up with many an adult Friday evening consuming goon and Monty Python. Python has always been a matter of taste with some just not ‘getting it’ while others enjoys a recap of the Parrot sketch, the Inquisition sketch or the Lumberjack song as much as reading a ‘Fawlty Towers’ script. The current multi-million dollar extravanganza is titled ‘Mostly’ because one original member could only be present briefly as a cartoon – Graham Chapman.

Chapman was a substantial contributor (when not slacking and drinking (to severe excess on both counts)) to Python scripts and sketches with a surreal and often dark sense of the ridiculous that placed him firmly within the genetics of that postwar British humour tradition that continues to be seen in some British comedians today (for example, he suggested a returned parrot rather than a toaster as it was ‘madder’).

He also was very much the front man in much of the Python filmed material especially ‘Life of Brian’ and ‘The Holy Grail’ with a capacity for deadpan that was remarkable. I confess to being a secret fan of the much excoriated ‘Yellowbeard’ which featured Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Cleese, Idle, Spike Milligan, and Cheech & Chong. Its genetics can be seen today in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise.

A Liar’s Autobiography Vol VI’ is almost indescribable – full of quirky asides and non sequiturs and a format that involves disjointed contributions from others including his lover from 1966, David Sherlock. We learn of his utterly ordinary childhood, his medical education (echoes of Richard Gordon) his Python years (slacking and otherwise), his drinking (never slacking), his thoughts on life and relationships and his friendship with Keith Moon. “What are we?”, he asks, answering “We are tubes–hollow cylinders of flesh. What is our expectation from life? Regular fulfilment of primitive functions at both ends, coupled with the thought that we must leave at least something behind us, very much in the same way that a dog pisses against a tree.”

It might be of interest to readers that a 3D cartoon movie inspired by Terry Gilliam and entitled ‘A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman’ is now available with the trailer endorsement “This is the best film I’ve been in since I died.

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