Summary: Never before seen or heard Pythonesque sketches by master Britwit Graham Chapman are now captured in Graham Crackers, his last written work. The book describes in hilarious detail his very unconventional life, his exploits with the Dangerous Sports Club, Keith Moon, his thoughts on the Python team, and more.
Graham Crackers, by Graham Chapman and David Sherlock 7.5
‘Graham Crackers’ is a 1997 post-mortem collection of various writings by Monty Python alumnus Graham Chapman. It is co-written by his life partner David Sherlock and compiled by long-time friend Jim Yoakum.
It consists of various bits, some silly, some merely autobiographical, a few sketches and some generally absurd stuff all grouped together into three distinct parts: 1) Fuzzy Memories, 2) Silly Bits, and 3) Outright Lies.
As title suggests, part 1 is the biographical portion, featuring humour-tinged reminisces about his Python days and other “fuzzy memories”. Chapman’s candour with respect to his past alcoholism was particularly sober and refreshing.
Some of the greatest moments are the outlandish stunts that he pulled in public, like removing all his clothes at a party just to divert attention from someone who was embarrassing himself, or pretending to become paralyzed in a restaurant.
He had brass ones just like I wish I had. Sadly, he was drunk at the time.
He also takes some time describing each of the Pythons from his perspective, and talks about their work relationships. Although none of his reflections surprised me at this point, having seen, heard or read most of Python, it was fun.
While many of the stories will already be familiar to fans, this is by far the meatiest part of the book. Of course, this is probably due to the extra padding provided by a few ill-placed but delightful black and white pictures.
Part 2, or the “silly bits”, consists of a few of Chapman’s unpublished skits: one with Douglas Adams, for a stillborn TV show starring Ringo Starr (but not ringing Starro Ring), three with Jim Yoakum and a script excerpt for ‘A Liar’s Autobiography‘.
My favourites were the ones with Yoakum because they echoed a few familiar Monty Python skits. Admittedly, they feel all too familiar in some ways, but they are deliriously nonsensical and hilarious; I laughed quite a bit reading them.
The final part, or troisième partie (en bon français), features a few humourous essays: a five-parter on bird house building, a couple on the so-called Dangerous Sports Club and a couple on the world’s most dangerous man, Keith Moon.
I found the bird house one dreadfully dull. Being less handy than even the killer in ‘The Fugitive‘, I didn’t understand the lingo or what he was spoofing. Perhaps I should just try to follow his instructions to see how it goes. Or maybe not.
The Dangerous Sports Club segment was interesting but less riotous than I had anticipated – especially since there is a picture of him at one of their outings, ready to go downhill on a large wooden horse fitted with skis. The stories paled in comparison.
The Keith Moon stuff, however, was rather amusing – if only because it is stunning to hear how little self-censorship some people have. Moon was a character who likely who have needed some serious therapy to function properly in society.
Finally, Python fans will be delighted to know that ‘Graham Crackers’ sports a foreword by John Cleese, a backward by Eric Idle and a sideways by Terry Jones. Seriously. There’s also a proper introduction by Jim Yoakum.
All in all, ‘Graham Crackers’ may not be the most humourous or compelling assortment of pythonesque material that I’ve ever encountered, but it certainly reads astonishingly well, at a breezy, well-spaced 161 pages.
At the very least, one might say that it’s one of the best books to be written from beyond the grave. That alone could make it worth reading – even if its titular promise of baked goods is at no point delivered upon. Bastard.