Graham Chapman, a founding member of the zany and irreverent Monty Python's Flying Circus, died Wednesday in Britain of cancer, a spokeswoman for the group announced in New York. He was 48.
The tall, slender Chapman who in 1981 wrote "A Liar's Autobiography" about his years with the British nonsense comedic group that was credited with helping reshape the face of television and films in the 1960s and '70s, died in a hospital, said Nancy Lewis, who represents Monty Python. She said relatives and friends, including other members of the comedy troupe, were with Chapman when he died at a hospital in Maidstone, Kent.
Chapman was educated at Cambridge University and began his career as a physician before the creation of Monty Python, according to a release from the Glenn Schwartz Company Inc., a public relations firm.
Monty Python's Flying Circus went on the air on the BBC in 1968, bringing together the talents of Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam.
The Monty Python aggregation had come together when its founders were in school at Oxford and Cambridge. It became known for outlandish antics in iconoclastic settings and ridiculed everything from religion to politics to motherhood.
Their ribald sketches often featured dead animals, and in many skits they dressed as women.
A critic once wrote that "they have given new flavor to bad taste."
Chapman played the lead role of King Arthur in the troupe's first film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Their last film, "Monty Python's Meaning of Life," was released in 1983.
Other films were "And Now for Something Completely Different," "The Life of Brian," in which Chapman portrayed the befuddled Brian of Nazareth, and "Yellowbeard," in which Chapman played the title role and some of the Python group were seen in supporting parts.
In 1987, Chapman toured the United States doing a single comedy act which was less well received than was his work with the group. The Flying Circus also was a favorite on the summer outdoor circuit and has performed at the Hollywood Bowl.
The Pythons celebrated their 20th anniversary three weeks ago by filming a television special to be released later this year.
Chapman is survived by a son, who lives in London, and a brother. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
An earlier story on Page 2 of Calendar was written before news of Chapman's death.