In the early 1980’s, Graham Chapman embarked upon a second career as a public speaker. Throughout the decade he toured hundreds of North American colleges delivering “comedy lectures” which consisted of tales from his life, adventures with an ad hoc group of adrenaline junkies called the Dangerous Sports Club, equally dangerous friends like the Who’s Keith Moon and, of course, his fellow Pythons. In the spring of 1988 he launched his final college tour before his death in 1989, the best of which is presented here, videotaped under Graham’s supervision and taken from his personal archives. It’s a historical – and hysterical – document, capturing Graham at the peak of his comedic powers, at ease and at home before a crowd of Chapmaniacs.
PLEASE NOTE: LOOKS LIKE A BROWN TROUSER JOB consists of historic material, videotaped in 1988 under Graham’s supervision, and taken from his personal archives. While it may not meet today’s high-def, mega-pixel digital quality standards, we believe that Graham’s humor, and the historical value of the program, outweighs these minor concerns. Every effort has been made to present the best-looking, and best-sounding, program possible by utilizing some really expensive equipment with lots of cool flashing lights on it (including the machine that goes “Ping!”).
eyelights: Chapman’s delivery. the stories.
eyesores: the dismal video and audio quality.
In 1988, Graham Chapman went on a lecture tour of college campuses, consisting of him recounting some of the more interesting and outrageous stories from his life – including, naturally, some tidbits about his time with Monty Python.
I’m not 100% sure what inspired this. The other Pythons have done the same, but was he the first? Did he get the idea from having released ‘A Liar’s Autobiography, Volume VI’ a few years prior? Perhaps he was trying out material?
In any case, it’s interesting stuff for any die-hard fan of the Pythons.
Taken from Chapman’s own home videos, ‘Looks Like a Brown Trouser Job’ features dismal video and audio quality – it’s low-def with hissy and tinny sound. In fact, it is so poor that there is a fairly lengthy disclaimer about this on the box.
This supremely low-key affair finds Chapman sitting on a stool next to a podium, talking at the audience. There is no fancy editing to spruce things up – at best one gets two angles. At best. This was his own personal home video, after all.
Interestingly, the programme features two completely different lectures, and it cuts awkwardly between the two for no apparent reason; one moment he answers a question in one hall, and the other he answers in a different hall. It’s quite sloppy.
But Chapman is in good form (albeit a bit gaunt): he’s quite sober, with a good cadence, and very British. In fact, his delivery was not too far removed from John Cleese’s, punctuating the his words and sentences for extra effect. He was very good.
The college crowds seemed to appreciate his performance; there were lots of laughs throughout. I was a bit surprised by the number of disinterested faces in the audience, however. This is typical of the college tours, mind you, in my experience.
Chapman started the set by asking the audience to lavish him with 30 seconds of abuse. You know, to get it out of the way early. Then he got started talking about the Dangerous Sports Club, a notorious daredevil group he joined during the ’70s.
The material was familiar to me because I had just read ‘Graham Crackers‘, which covered the same stories – in very much the same order, almost verbatim. Similarly, he connected this story with those of Keith Moon – just as he did in the book.
But then he introduced the crowd to a game called “shitties”.
With the help of two voluntolds from the audience he demonstrated it to them. It consists of holding a coin between one’s buttocks and walking over to a cup and dropping the coin in it. It was embarrassing for the participants, but he cheered them on.
He completed his 52-minute set by discussing his alcoholism, censorship of Python at the BBC (or lack thereof), writing with Cleese, and an MC event he did at L.A. Hard Rock Café, before taking questions from the audience for another 24 minutes.
Most of the questions were pretty standard fare, such as the inspiration for the coconuts in ‘Holy Grail‘, his favourite characters/roles, how the Pythons met, the group’s 4-5 favourite sketches and the frontal nudity he did in ‘Life of Brian‘.
But he took it all in stride, even though he probably had answered those questions far too often through the years. He then wrapped the whole thing up by thanking the audience and hopping about the stage like a crazy person – to everyone’s delight, naturally.
The DVD is rounded up with a few special features, including some extra Q&A segments, some audio interviews bits that were pulled from various sources as well as a few TV oddities, including an ad for Solaglas and an Iron Maiden video.
It’s no great addition to the set, but it’s pleasing enough. Really, the most interesting bit is watching Chapman interact with the crowd in such a down-to-earth fashion. It turns out that Graham Chapman was quite the likeable chap.
And a funny one at that. RIP, Graham.
Date of viewing: March 1, 2015