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John Cleese's Eulogy for Graham Chapman

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Updated: November 28, 2006

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Graham Chapman died October 4, 1989. He was one of the six Monty Python members of the infamous British comedy troupe that worked together from 1969-1983. The members of Monty Python were (listed alphabetically) Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.

John Cleese delivered a memorable memorial speech for Graham Chapman at a memorial service held two months later in the Great Hall at St Bartholomew's Hospital. Cleese delivered a humorous eulogy for his friend Chapman and took advantage of "this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf," which he then went on to do.

Part of the speech is included below:

    Graham Chapman, co-author of the 'Parrot Sketch,' is no more.

    He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky.

    And I guess that we're all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, of such capability for kindness, for such unusual intelligence, a man who could overcome his alcoholism with such truly admirable single-mindedness, should now so suddenly be spirited away at the age of only forty-eight before he'd achieved many of the things in which he was capable, and before he'd had enough fun.

    Well, I feel that I should say, 'Nonsense! Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard. I hope he fries.' And the reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn't. If I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. It's not a funeral, I grant you, but a memorial service is still pretty good.

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At this point, the eulogy starts going into typical Monty Python humor. If you like Monty Python humor, or are interested in seeing how humor is used as part of a Eulogy, I recommend viewing the video clip. Obviously one would really need to know their audience and the person being remembered to know if humor would work for a memorial speech.

If you are interested in seeing how John Cleese goes on to shock everyone on Chapman's behalf, I recommend viewing the video clip, or looking at the slightly sanitized information in the final section. Remember that this eulogy was given in 1989 when people were still censored much more than they are now for using expletives on the air. Be advised that the rest of the eulogy includes some off color language.
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Memorial Speech Concluding Remarks

    It is magnificent, isn't it? You see, the thing about shock . . . is not that it upsets some people, I think; I think that it gives others a momentary joy of liberation, as we realized in that instant that the social rules that constrict our lives so terribly are not actually very important.

    Well, Gray can't do that for us anymore. He's gone. He is an ex-Chapman. All we have of him now is our memories. But it will be some time before they fade.

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View the Memorable Memorial Speech
Graham Chapman's Memorial Service Video runs 4:19 minutes. It was filmed in December 1989, produced by Mark Chapman for the BBC Omnibus presentation of Life of Python, 1989 and dedicated in his memory.

Always look on the bright side of life...
After the eulogy the five remaining members of Monty Python-- Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Jones and Palin--joined in with other friends as Eric Idle led them all in a rousing, upbeat, rendition of their song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from the Monty Python's film "Life of Brian."

Several other clips are on YouTube of the Cleese's speech by the clip of Graham Chapman's Memorial Service Video is the only one that includes the rendition of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

More on this Infamous Memorial Speech - "Betty Mardsen"
As part of the speech, in a perhaps fitting tribute to his friend and former Monty Python member, John Cleese became the first person to say the "f word" at a British memorial service, which he did, albeit indirectly as though part of a conversation he was having with Chapman. Cleese went on to say, "I lack his splendid defiance. And so I'll have to content myself instead with saying 'Betty Mardsen.'"

Cleese had been the first person to say "s**t" on British Television. By using the "f word" at Chapman's service, he became the first person to use the word at a British memorial service, which was filmed for the BBC. Many considered this to be the perfect tribute to his friend and former Monty Python member, Graham Chapman.

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