John Cleese’s Eulogy for Monty Python’s Graham Chapman: ‘Good Riddance, the Free-Loading Bastard, I Hope He Fries’

The British come­di­an Gra­ham Chap­man delight­ed in offend­ing peo­ple. As a writer and actor with the leg­endary Mon­ty Python troupe, he pushed against the bound­aries of pro­pri­ety and good taste. When his writ­ing part­ner John Cleese pro­posed doing a sketch on a dis­grun­tled man return­ing a defec­tive toast­er to a shop, Chap­man thought: Bro­ken toast­er? Why not a dead par­rot? And in one par­tic­u­lar­ly out­ra­geous sketch writ­ten by Chap­man and Cleese in 1970,  Chap­man plays an under­tak­er and Cleese plays a cus­tomer who has just rung a bell at the front desk:

“What can I do for you, squire?” says Chap­man.

“Um, well, I won­der if you can help me,” says Cleese. “You see, my moth­er has just died.”

“Ah, well, we can ‘elp you. We deal with stiffs,” says Chap­man. “There are three things we can do with your moth­er. We can burn her, bury her, or dump her.”

“Dump her?”

“Dump her in the Thames.”


“Oh, did you like her?”


“Oh well, we won’t dump her, then,” says Chap­man. “Well, what do you think? We can bury her or burn her.”

“Which would you rec­om­mend?”

“Well, they’re both nasty.”

From there, Chap­man goes on to explain in the most graph­ic detail the unpleas­ant aspects of either choice before offer­ing anoth­er option: can­ni­bal­ism. At that point (in keep­ing with the script) out­raged mem­bers of the stu­dio audi­ence rush onto the stage and put a stop to the sketch.

Chap­man and Cleese had been close friends since their stu­dent days at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty, and when Chap­man died of can­cer at the age of 48 on Octo­ber 4, 1989, Cleese was at his bed­side. Out of respect for Chap­man’s fam­i­ly, the mem­bers of Mon­ty Python decid­ed to stay away from his pri­vate funer­al and avoid a media cir­cus. Instead, they gath­ered for a memo­r­i­al ser­vice on Octo­ber 6, 1989 in the Great Hall at St. Bartholomew’s Hos­pi­tal in Lon­don. When Cleese deliv­ered his eulo­gy for Chap­man, he recalled his friend’s irrev­er­ence: “Any­thing for him, but mind­less good taste.” So Cleese did his best to make his old friend proud. His off-col­or but heart­felt eulo­gy that evening has become a part of Mon­ty Python lore, and you can watch it above. To see a longer clip, with mov­ing words from Michael Palin and a sing-along of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” led by Eric Idle, watch below:

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in Feb­ru­ary 2013.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Cleese’s Advice to Young Artists: “Steal Any­thing You Think Is Real­ly Good”

John Cleese Revis­its His 20 Years as an Ivy League Pro­fes­sor in His New Book, Pro­fes­sor at Large: The Cor­nell Years

John Cleese on How “Stu­pid Peo­ple Have No Idea How Stu­pid They Are” (a.k.a. the Dun­ning-Kruger Effect)


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