Credit: Shutterstock/Graham Chapman

You know, there are many people in the country today who, through no fault of their own, are sane. Some of them were born sane. Some of them became sane later in their lives

As one of the founding members of Monty Python, Graham Chapman was one of the most inspirational and influential comic performers and writers of the twentieth century. In his private life he was openly gay, one of the first celebrities to be so, and was a supporter of gay rights groups throughout his life.

For a man so entrenched with British comedy in the 1970s, it was almost a very different story. Chapman trained as a doctor at Cambridge, where he met fellow Python John Cleese, and had officially registered to practice before deciding to abandon his medical career in pursuit of comedy. The group came to define British comedy in the 1970s and remain amongst the most influential comedians of all time.

Chapman was also a patron and enthusiastic supporter of ‘The Dangerous Sports Club’, whose members invented bungee jumping, as well as piano-ski racing and other outlandish sports. He was a pipe-smoker from the age of 15, and became dependent on alcohol while at Cambridge. He quit drinking before Life of Brian began filming when as he believed it would have affected his performance.

Even after his death Chapman continued to shock and amuse: in 2000, 11 years after his death, his partner David Sherlock enlisted some old friends from the Dangerous Sports Club and blasted his ashes into space using a giant homemade cannon, fulfilling one of Chapman’s last wishes.