I know what you're thinking. I'm such a big fan of John Cleese, he must be my favorite Monty Python member. I love A Fish Called Wanda as well as Fierce Creatures and even Clockwise is in my collection, never mind the Fawlty Towers box set I bought the day it was released, I must love John Cleese above all others.
I'd be lying if I said John Cleese wasn't one of the funniest minds on the planet. He is. Trained to be a lawyer, I believe, which helped him with delivering lines properly when he joined Footlights and met Graham Chapman, his brief writing partner for the duration of the Monty Python TV show. But no. While John Cleese is one of my favorites, the one who always made me laugh the most was the late Graham Chapman.
From his autobiography, which I was lucky enough to find on bittorrent recently in audio form (oh yes, I know I can get it on Audible and pay for it, but if they insist on giving me a lower bitrate just because it's spoken word, they can fuck right off):
Graham - The Homosexual by tabkendouglas
I don't care if it's Eric Idle's joke there, the way Graham recounts it is hysterical. And every time I hear it I still laugh out loud. Even recounting one of his first meetings with then-drummer for The Who, the now-late Keith Moon, is pretty funny:
Graham and keith by tabkendouglas
The thing is, the autobiography isn't that funny... it deals with Graham's battle with alcoholism, and it's actually kind of one of the things that convinced me there is a big difference between an alcoholic and a drunk. Chapman's descriptions of what he went through during withdrawal, at times funny (like in the beginning, when common furniture seems to be attempting to punch him as he tries to do simple things like making it down the staircase), wind up being more sad than funny very early on. And of course there's the whole story of his coming to terms with his sexuality, which is surprisingly unfunny and stark. He pretty much said to himself, "Fuck all them if they can't deal with it, I'm not going to live a lie anymore." You have to applaud that, if you can't laugh at it.
In the end, though, he inspired as much comedy as he created. In fact, one of the funniest pieces from John Cleese was a eulogy he gave for Chapman himself... I can't tell you how many times I've watched this, and how many times I've known Chapman himself would have nodded with approval at it, puffing on his pipe to make people think he was brighter than he was. (He was extremely bright too... a licensed doctor, you know.)
From time to time I wonder what would have become of him if he'd lived as old as the other Pythons.