Tag Archives: Eulogy

Join The Crowd At The Mary Tyler Moore Show Funeral Of Chuckles The Clown

Mary reacts to eulogy for her WJM colleague, Chuckles The Clown

A little song, A little dance, A little seltzer down your pants – And 800 Heck Of A Guy Hits

Because Matt Zoller Seitz’s story Is this show bad, or am I fickle? at Salon.com yesterday included a link to a three year old Heck Of A Guy post Eulogy For Chuckles Lauds Clown, Laughter, Trouser Effervescence,1 this site received an extra 800 unique views on 20 May 2011.

In celebration, I’ve once again replaced the nonfunctional videos  (videos of this Mary Tyler Moore Show are withdrawn and removed with disheartening frequency) with available clips. As of this morning, video players embedded in that post are playing (1) Lou’s announcement of the accident leading to the demise of Chuckles and (2)  the eulogy, with Mary’s reactions during the funeral.

So, today’s entertainment recommendation is that viewers see what all the fuss is about and take in – before the videos disappear – the eulogy Heck Of A Guy named the winning entry in three categories:

  • Best Eulogy For A Fictional Character
  • Most Delightful Eulogy
  • Best Eulogy Delivered Using The Phrase, “I hurt my foo-foo”

This gem can be found at Eulogy For Chuckles Lauds Clown, Laughter, Trouser Effervescence

  1. This post was one of several in the He Was A Heck Of A Guy eulogy series that were part of the planning for my own eulogy. Others included

    []

Wedding Toasts, Death Threats, Kink, Chuckles Eulogy, Pseudoscience Of Carcinogenic Omelets

Vintage Heck Of A Guy Posts In Ascendancy

Heck Of A Guy, B.C. (Before Cohenization) was an era not without its own charm. In any case, a batch of ancient posts  have been especially popular in the last two weeks. I’ve grouped these into categories for the  convenience of readers:

Wedding Help


This time of year regularly triggers a seasonal influx of visitors to benefit from DrHGuy’s wedding wisdom.

Till Death Do Us Part

Mary reacts to eulogy for her WJM colleague, Chuckles The Clown

Clever segue, eh? Regardless, three death-related Heck Of A Guy posts were targeted (in a good way) by followers of various social sites:

Dear Mr. Benito,

While I am not well versed in the assassination biz, I do take some pride in my use of the written word to communicate effectively. I think you’ll find, for example, that careful spelling and adherence to grammatical standards will result in an altogether more intimidating missive. After all, if the intended victim believes you cannot execute a properly composed email message, how is that marked man to believe you can properly execute him?

… perhaps I been too influenced by TV and movies, but $12,000 seems an embarrassingly small payoff for my life. I’m a little disappointed that my death is worth less than the price of a used Mazda.

Kink

As it turns out, an increase in Heck Of A Guy wedding-associated content invariably correlates with an increase in Heck Of A Guy explorations into alternative sexual behavior.

Eulogistics

Sha na na na sha na na na hey hey hey goodbye

Today’s post is a miscellany constructed from items – not all of them eulogies but each offering a significant thought about or insight into the memorialization of one recently deceased – found (or remembered) during the past week’s Heck of a Guy Heck of a Eulogy project. 1

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Charles Bukowski’s Just Right “Eulogy To A Hell Of A Dame”

Eulogy To A Hell Of A Dame
By Charles Bukowski

some dogs who sleep At night
must dream of bones
and I remember your bones
in flesh
and best
in that dark green dress
and those high-heeled bright
black shoes,
you always cursed when you drank,
your hair coming down you
wanted to explode out of
what was holding you:
rotten memories of a
rotten
past, and
you finally got
out
by dying,
leaving me with the
rotten
present;
you’ve been dead
28 years
yet I remember you
better than any of
the rest;
you were the only one
who understood
the futility of the
arrangement of
life;
all the others were only
displeased with
trivial segments,
carped
nonsensically about
nonsense;
Jane, you were
killed by
knowing too much.
here’s a drink
to your bones
that
this dog
still
dreams about.

end3

An Ovation At The Final Finale

From Prarie Home Companion – Post To The Host

Garrison,

I was at a funeral recently for a long-time Chicago theatre producer. Apparently, when you’re in the theatre and you die, people give you a standing ovation and cheer, like, “hey, great job in this life. Now, go on to your next show!” Well, there were the first few awkward seconds of the ovation—as many were not familiar with the tradition and were apprehensive about clapping. The person who started this ovation yelled, “Way to go, Tony!” and started his slow loud clap. But once people caught on, they really cheered. I really hope people do this for me. I would invite you to mine but I’m only 32 and I hope not to die for a while. You’re a few years older than I am … so, if you go before I do, I’d be more than happy to start the clapping off for you. But, hopefully, that won’t be for a while either.

Well, all my best to you and your endeavors.

Jenny
Chicago

If you should attend my funeral rites, Chicago Jenny, you’ll be very brave if you start clapping. And you shouldn’t expect other people to follow. I’ll probably expire right here in St. Paul and these people know me much too well and aren’t about to give me a standing O. They’ll figure I got enough cheap praise in life and now it’s time to face the music. That’s why I’ve specified no eulogy. I don’t want somebody to have the job of embroidering a big fanciful account of my life. But it’s awfully generous of you to offer to attend. You’re the first person to mention this.

Garrison

Peter Sellers Selects Mood Music

From Comment To Above Post:

In this regard, I think Peter Sellers had it right. He used “In The Mood” as the music at his cremation. Apparently, he hated it, but could not think of a more incongruous tune for the occasion. Attendees record that it replaced tears of sorrow with those of utter hilarity.

Some people just know how to make an exit.

end3

Maybe It’s Not Perfect – But It’s A Pretty Good Eulogy

From The perfect eulogy: Short, sweet and honest by Crag Wilson. USA Today 10/26/2004

Charlie Matthau eulogizes his father, actor Walter Matthau, in August 2000:

“My father taught me to have a sense of humor about everything, no matter how sad — not to take life too seriously because none of us is getting out of here alive, and little of what we do is going to matter in a few years. I remember him telling me about the funeral where everyone hated the deceased and nobody knew what to say, so the eulogist got up there and said, ‘Well … his brother was worse.’ It’s the opposite of the situation we have today.”

I didn’t give the eulogy at my dad’s funeral. I couldn’t rise to the occasion, no matter how much I wanted to. I saw no purpose in standing up there and blubbering away, making everyone uncomfortable, so I let the minister do the honors while I sat in silence, thinking of everything I should have been saying. I regret that decision now, but I still believe it was the right one at the time.

After the funeral, I was going through my father’s wallet and found a scrap of paper folded between his driver’s license and credit cards. It was a small note written by me years ago, a note I stuck into a Father’s Day card. I had no idea he had carried it around in his back pocket for 30 years.

“Dad — When I succeeded you stood back and took no credit, and when I failed you were by my side. What more could a son ask? Love, Craig.”

I like to think of that as my eulogy. Short. Honest. And better yet, he got to enjoy it.

end3

Reading Ones Own Eulogy – Kinda

Alan Tudyk, the actor who played Hoban “Wash” Washburne on Firefly, the TV series considered by its sizable contingent of fans to be the greatest Sci-Fi program of all time, reads the winning entry in the DragonCon 2006 Eulogy Contest. The eulogy is for his character, Wash, who dies near the end of the 2005 film, Serenity (a sequel to Firefly), when a harpoon launched by a Reaver ship impales him, killing him instantly.2

Even if you don’t know anything about the story line, even if you detest Sci-Fi, even if eulogies aren’t your thing, this video is worth watching. [Alert: the camera work is a bit shaky, especially as the performance becomes funnier]

`

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Churchill’s Precisely Right, Comforting Words In Honor Of King George VI

From King George VI Eulogy: ‘For Valour’-King George VI, In Remembrance of His Late Majesty, given by Winston Churchill3

During these last months the King walked with death as if death were a companion, an acquaintance whom he recognized and did not fear. In the end death came as a friend, and after a happy day of sunshine and sport, and after “good night” to those who loved him best, he fell asleep as every man or woman who strives to fear God and nothing else in the world may hope to do.

end3

Robertson Davies Writes The Consummate Epitaph For Robertson Davies

From Madeleines From … Reading The Cunning Man

I am a fan of Robertson Davies, the Canadian novelist, playwright, and journalist, who died in 1995. My favorite tribute to Davies at the time of his death was an elegant newspaper advertisement placed by Penguin Books, Davies’ publisher in paperback. The advertisement was quite simple, consisting of a photograph of Davies, the dates of his birth and death, and the final paragraph of The Cunning Man, his last completed novel:

…this is the Great Theatre of Life. Admission is free but the taxation is mortal. You come when you can, and leave when you must. The show is continuous. Good-night.

end3

Great But Sometimes Difficult Recommendations A Memorable Funeral

From On The Event of My Death, or: why the winner of Malagasy Idol will sing at my funeral

About a year and a half ago, I started to notice an irritating stabbing pain in my chest. It wasn’t so bad that it felt like a sultan thrusting a scimitar into my torso or anything, but it was still painful enough to stop me in my tracks. I could feel it when I breathed in really deeply, when I sneezed, when I bent over to tie my shoes, when I exercised, or if I spread my arms out to hug my wife. Now, I lived with a smoker for a good twenty years (since infanthood, even), and second-hand airborne carcinogens were part of my daily diet. Despite never having smoked a day in my life, I had been exposed to enough toxic chemicals to kill one horse per week. Needless to say, I put two-and-two together, and decided that I had contracted lung cancer.

I immediately went to the doctor, who ordered a series of goofy x-rays and chest exams. Days and days went by, during which I was held hostage by the constant possibility of lethal disease and impending death. On the day my wife told me she was pregnant, my only response was a sad, flippant “Well… name the baby after ME, then.” Now, I know that a diagnosis of a malignant tumour doesn’t guarantee an automatic demise at a young age, but it really did put me in touch with my mortality, and got me thinking about a lot of morbid things – like my eventual funeral.

Fast forward to a month ago, when I drove out to Montreal to attend a funeral. Not the happiest of occasions, I know – but the funeral was interestingly conducted in two languages I don’t speak – French, and Malagasy. Don’t get me wrong, I was able to pick up a few phrases here and there – “La vie est fragile,” I was able to decipher, and “Le mot ‘adieu’… ‘a’ et ‘dieu’” I pieced together as well (er, pardon my spelling errors). Basically, I sat quietly at the back of the church as one of the only white people in attendance (me, the Minister, and a few other clearly-not-born-in-Madagascar-folks) and observed for the entire 90-minute service. I can take away several things from the entire adventure, and add it to my ever-growing list of funeral-related experiences from which I will cull a general outline for MY eventual funeral (you’ll find the outline elements in bold as we go).

The first funeral I remember going to was back when I must have been between the ages of six to nine. My parents’ friends had adopted two children, and then found themselves pregnant with ‘their own’ kid who wasn’t expected to live very long due to gestational issues (or something). The baby was born with some pretty awful deformities (keep in mind that this is all remembered via the mind of my very young self), and died two or three months into his tragically short life. The turnout for the funeral was massive. We’re talkin’, like… hundreds of people. The reception was in some sort of stone-encrusted building that looked like the hall at the end of Star Wars where Luke and Han receive their medals. I’m sure it was different, but that’s how I remember it.

1. Hold ceremony in a room reminiscent of a set from Star Wars.

The two adopted children, themselves even younger than I was, were each given a balloon to hold during the ceremony, and when the casket was buried, they each symbolically let the balloons go. I definitely remember people being confused and weirded out by the presence of the balloons, which were also used as decorations. For the sake of the kids in attendance, the funeral was to be a beautiful celebration of life, and not a miserable rumination on death. I think that’s pretty cool.

2. Decorate funeral with colourful party balloons.

I have to leap ahead several years to remember my next funeral, which occurred when I was in the tenth grade. I remember skipping a day of High School (which included the dreaded math class) to drive three hours north to cottage country, where the owner of the resort my family vacationed at every summer had passed away. His funeral was jam-packed to the gills with people – and it was in a pretty small church. My family had been going to this guy’s resort for generations, and so there was a familial connection. Plus, my Dad is also a writer, so they had him do the eulogy. Let me tell you – he brought the place down. Not with sadness, mind you, but with humour. My Dad wrote and recited the world’s funniest eulogy ever, and to this day people still stop him on the street to compliment him on it. Talk about a way to relieve the tension in a ‘tough room.’ I can’t remember much of it, but I distinctly recall Dad mentioning the departed’s notoriously loud sneeze in the piece.

3. Make sure the eulogy is funny and mentions sneezing.

Once again, we leap ahead several years. Another elderly family friend, this time an immigrant from Mauritius. Here was a guy who got married when he was thirteen years old, and had seven (eight?) kids, brought them all to the frozen wastes of Canada, and lived in a teeny tiny house with most of them just off of the Danforth. I think there were fewer people in attendance at the ceremony than lived in his home on a daily basis, but it made for a pleasant and intimate gathering – but part of me thinks that a guy who lived such an amazing life should have had more people at his funeral. Oh well, whatever. One thing that really sticks out in my head is when his wife, who missed her best friend so badly, threw herself onto his coffin in a fit of pathos. That made everyone really sad – understandable, but the antithesis of the funeral I’d like for myself.

4. Widow-proof glass / a sneeze-guard must be installed around my casket.

A few years later, the widow passed on as well. By the time she went, however, some of their eight children had families of their own, and some of THOSE families had families. Needless to say, there were tons of kids running amok at the funeral. Also, way more invitations went out to way more people – as a result, you had a lot of folks being re-united, a lot of family members meeting for the first time… it was more a social gathering than a funeral. I for one forgot why I was even there, I was so happy to see so many familiar faces.

5. Invite lots of long-lost friends, and have rooms reserved for pleasant socializing.

When my Mom’s brother died, his will revealed that he didn’t want a funeral at all – just a small, intimate social gathering for family and friends. I remember it being a bit odd – my brother and I got there late (I got lost in Richmond Hill), and by the time we arrived most of the attendees had already gone. My Uncle’s Wife, whom I haven’t seen or heard from since, seemed completely stunned and shocked. But can you blame her? Her husband died when he was what, in his sixties?

6. If possible, schedule the funeral for a few weeks after the terrible shock of my death has worn off. I won’t be getting any less dead.

And another thing – if you meet long-lost relatives or friends at a funeral or a wake or a cremation or whatever, keep in mind that you’re celebrating someone’s life, and you’re making connections and stronger bonds with grieving parties or old chums. That’s not a license to suddenly vanish from one-another’s lives as soon as the body is six feet under. I’m sure the deceased parties would want it that way.

7. Make sure there’s an email registry/sign-up thing, and plan future funeral-related engagements.

On my nineteenth birthday I learned of the death of a school friend, who had died in a horrible car wreck. She and I weren’t best friends or anything, but we got along really well and were both in the high school musical together (which, some of you will know, is like being in the army or a prisoner of war camp). I chose not to go to this funeral for two very basic reasons. First off, she was very popular both in school and in the local Christian community. I imagined thousands upon thousands of people lining up to make it into her funeral, and from what I’ve heard, I was right – they had to set up closed-circuit televisions broadcasting the ceremony for those who had to wait in the lobby, the bathrooms, or the parking lot. Second, I had my first day of Frosh Week scheduled for the day of the funeral. I don’t regret my decision… I believe in collective cathartic grieving, but only to a certain extent.

8. Cap the attendance at 1000 – perhaps the wristband policy should be in effect.

…and besides, I didn’t know her very well, and a lot of people who knew her or her family even less than I did made sure they had front-row seats. Now, I’m not saying that there should be wedding-style seating plans at a funeral, but in the case of a high-profile, big and crazy funeral (which mine probably won’t be, so the point is a bit moot), I’d rather the ‘big ones’ – my wife, daughter, parents, dog, dentist, etc – should get preferential treatment.

9. Reserved seating for blood relatives and pets.

A family friend’s funeral, held just a few years ago, was another large one up in Richmond Hill. As a young woman she escaped Iran when the Shah was deposed, and brought her family to Canada. She didn’t speak a word of English, but managed to make friends with virtually anyone she ever met. When I was a baby, my Mom would bring me over to her house and teach me to read and talk from picture books… and this sweet woman would recite the lessons with me (“Book”, “Baby”, “Ball”, “Banana”, etc). She was a very beloved woman who survived an awful lot in her life, and had a big family to show for it, too. There were hundreds in attendance, and especially the delegation from the Persian community. I don’t know if any of you reading this have had the pleasure of hearing Persian chanting, but if you haven’t, for goodness’s sake, do yourself a favour and crash a Persian funeral.

10. Invite the Persian community, and arrange for some chanting.

Finally, we’re back to the funeral I mentioned at the top of this article. This woman was thirty years old, a mother to a six-year old, and the wife of one of my very good friends. Their families were primarily living in Madagascar, and as such very few relatives could attend the funeral across the ocean in Montreal. What appeared to be the entire Malagasy population of Quebec attended however, to show their support, and I think a few of my friend’s co-workers put in appearances. When he lived in Toronto, we worked together for several years, along with a handful of other fellas. To say we were a close, tight group was an understatement (Still, I was the only one who didn’t have anything better to do than to go to his wife’s funeral). I know my attendance surprised him, and I really hope it comforted him – lord knows what he was going through. A funeral can be a surreal, strange thing at the best of times, happening smack in the middle of the most awful, tragic moments of your life. To show support – in person – is the LEAST a real friend can do. I’m not just saying that because I was mad that I was the only one who drove out there – I was mad because his other ‘friends’ (who I’m not ready to forgive on his behalf, even though I’m sure they’ll have good explanations) couldn’t be bothered.

11. My wife’s best friends MUST attend and comfort her, and will be escorted to the ceremony at gunpoint if necessary. Don’t leave her hangin’.

My favourite part of this funeral was when the #1 Malagasy recording artist working in the French Canadian industry rocked the Yamaha electronic keyboard and performed a really off-key love song – something about ‘la nuit’ and ‘les yeux’ and ‘je t’aime’. It wasn’t sung in any scale recognizable to my ears. But still, it was sweet and I at least found it humorous – he was really belting that song, singing at the top of his lungs, decked out in gold chains and a white turtleneck. He high-fived the gaggle of wiggly pre-teen girls as he returned to his pew, and I couldn’t help but notice that the Minister seemed to be finding it as oddly surreal as I did. Nothing says ‘funeral’ like synthesized violins. Honestly – that guy quite accidentally brought the tension level down through his awful rendition of that song. Unintentionally brilliant.

12. Hire the #1 Malagasy recording artist working in the French Canadian Music Industry to sing whatever he wants.

Now, when I’m dead, I probably won’t give a rat’s patoot what goes on in the land of the living (at least in regards to my funeral). I don’t need to be buried in a ten thousand dollar casket – a cardboard box will suffice, or for irony’s sake, a comic book bag-and-board combo. Just to be dead AND funny, I’d like to be buried on the exact spot where my soul vacates my body (which will be even funnier should I die on an airplane). From the above list, you can see that I’ve managed a quick list of pointers, but seriously, if they aren’t followed, what am I gonna do about it? Haunt those responsible? Basically, my funeral should be a celebration of my life, or of life in general. Eat, drink soda, and be merry. See old friends. Give my wife a hug. Have a few laughs. Be there for one another. It’s what I’d want if I was there.

As for my cancer scare – turns out that while weight lifting, I had torn the cartilage connecting my sternum to my ribs… a rare injury that can usually be prevented by NOT wildly ‘windmilling’ your arms in order to stretch beforehand. That, and high cholesterol. No surgery required – I just needed to take ‘er easy, and avoid strapping anvils to my chest. But hey, a brush with mortality is always good for the ego, right?

- Evan Long


  1. The series of Heck of a Guy blog entries dealing with eulogies includes the following:

    []

  2. See Wikipedia, which has a competent, succinct history of the character in Firefly, the Serenity comic, and the Serenity movie. []
  3. The Churchill Centre []

Eulogy For Chuckles Lauds Clown, Laughter, Trouser Effervescence

Mary reacts to eulogy for her WJM colleague, Chuckles The Clown

A little song,
A little dance,
A little seltzer down your pants

Chuckles The Clown
WJM TV Minneapolis, MN

____________________

Chuckles Bites The Dust Is The Heck of a Guy Heck of a Eulogy Award Winner In The Following Categories:

  • Best Eulogy For A Fictional Character
  • Most Delightful Eulogy
  • Best Eulogy Delivered Using The Phrase, “I hurt my foo-foo”

The Life and Death of Chuckles

The Wikipedia entry for Chuckles the Clown is admirable for its thoroughness in tracking that character’s appearances on the Mary Tyler Moore Show prior to the October 25, 1975 episode in which, as its title notes, “Chuckles Bites The Dust,”1 and its refusal to indulge in histrionics over the death of a TV entertainer.

Chuckles’ first on-camera appearance was in the episode “The Snow Must Go On,” originally broadcast Nov. 7, 1970. … Chuckles arrives at TV station WJM the morning after a city election to find the news staff – having lost contact with City Hall during a blizzard – still on the air. Chuckles has the election results in his newspaper, and announces the winner on the air in clown-character. Chuckles later had a brief non-speaking role in the third season episode “Who’s in Charge Here?” … Chuckles has a meeting with Lou Grant, who has been temporarily promoted to WJM’s program manager. Chuckles is seen arriving for the meeting in full clown make-up. … Chuckles’ real name was George Bowerchuck (although Lou Grant refers to him as “Chuck” in the episode “Who’s In Charge Here?”). He had a wife named Louise, and a daughter, Betty, who was briefly romantically involved with Ted.

In “Chuckles Bites the Dust” Chuckles is chosen as the grand marshal for a circus parade. During the parade, tragedy strikes. Lou Grant breaks the news to the folks at WJM.

Excerpt from script:

Lou enters, genuinely stricken.

LOU
(Mutters)
Oh my! Oh, dear…!

MARY
Mr. Grant…?

LOU
(Really shaken)
Something terrible has happened.

MURRAY
(Sober)
What is it, Lou?

LOU
Someone we all know is dead.

MARY
What! Mr. Grant–who?

LOU
(Getting control)
No… I won’t tell you about it now… I don’t want to upset you…

MARY
(Frantic)
Mr. Grant!!…

LOU
Where’s Ted? I gotta tell Ted…

MURRAY
He’s on the air, Lou. What happened? Who died? Tell us!

LOU
(Still dazed)
Chuckles. Chuckles the Clown is dead. It was a freak accident. He went to the parade dressed as Peter Peanut… and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.

They are both stunned.

MARY
Oh Mr. Grant…

LOU
(Moving to door)
I gotta get this on the air. You start working on the formal obituary, Murray. Chuckles’ real name was George… his wife’s name is Louise…

Lou starts out, then turns in the doorway, with an afterthought.

LOU
…The elephant’s name is Jocko…

The circumstances of Chuckles’s death occasions much joking and laughter, except for Mary, who remonstrates the others for behaving disrespectfully.

Excerpt from script:

MURRAY
I’m sorry, Lou, but I can’t stop. I’ve been doing it ever since you gave us the news yesterday afternoon.

LOU
Me, too. It was some shock.

MURRAY
(Very serious)
It sure was.

LOU
A real tragedy.

MURRAY
(Ditto)
Terrible thing.

LOU
Lucky *more* people weren’t hurt. Lucky that elephant didn’t go after anybody else.

MURRAY
(Solemnly)
That’s right. After all, you know how hard it is to stop after just one peanut…

Murray goes to pieces. Can’t help it. Breaks up completely.

LOU
(Going fast)
That’s not funny, Murray…
(He breaks up too)

LOU
Chuckles worked at this station for twenty years. The least we can do is put together some kind of tribute to him.

MURRAY
I think I got a title for it. “Requiem For A Peanut.”

Murray immediately regrets having said it, and covers his face. Lou gives him a reproachful look.

LOU
That isn’t very respectful, Murray.

MARY
Then why are you laughing?

SUE ANN
Mary, dear–don’t the circumstances strike you as being the least little bit… bizarre?

LOU
After all, the guy died wearing a peanut suit, killed by an elephant.

MURRAY
Yeah–born in a trunk, *died* in a trunk!

MARY
Okay. *Forget* what he was wearing! Suppose he *hadn’t* been dressed as a peanut–would it still be funny?

There is a pause while they all consider that. Then Murray, very somberly, says:

MURRAY
…It could have been worse… he could have gone as Billy Banana–and had a gorilla peel him to death.

Without a word, Mary tosses clipboard on desk and exits

The Funeral

At the funeral, however, everyone except Mary is overcome with grief while Mary cannot help but laugh during the service – until the minister observes that her laughter was congruent with Chuckles’s wishes, at which time she suddenly breaks into inconsolable sobbing.

The Eulogies

While references to the eulogy in Chuckles Bites The Dust invariably have to do with the minister’s oratory at the end of the episode, Ted Baxter serves up a dandy ad-lib offering at the end of his newscast after Lou Grant tells him about the traumatic death of Chuckles during a commercial break.

TED (ON THE AIR)
(Reverently)
Ladies and gentlemen–sad news… one of our most beloved entertainers and a close personal friend of mine is dead. Chuckles the Clown died today of — (flounders, can’t think how to put it) …um, died today a broken man! Chuckles… um, leaves a wife. At least I assume he was married… he didn’t seem like the other kind… I don’t know his age, but I’d say he was probably in his early sixties … of course, it’s hard to judge by a guy’s face–especially when he’s wearing big lips and a lightbulb for a nose… Anyhow, he had his whole life in front of him–except the sixty years he’s already lived… I remember… Chuckles had a motto he used to recite at the end of his shows. It was called “The Credo of a Clown.” I’d like to offer it now, in his memory… (religiously) “A little song–A little dance–A little seltzer down your pants.” That’s what it’s all about, folks… that’s what he stood for–that’s what gave his life meaning… (Ted is winging now) Chuckles liked to make people laugh. And you know what I’d like to think? I’d like to think that somewhere up there tonight– (eye heavenward) behind those pearly gates… in the Great Beyond, where some day all must go… somewhere up there tonight, in honor of Chuckles, a celestial choir of angels… (his big finish) …is sitting on whoopie cushions. (Quickly) Ted Baxter, good night and good news!

The official funeral eulogy is even better, at least within the context of the funeral scene:

BURKE [The minister officiating at the funeral]
Chuckles the Clown gave pleasure to millions. The characters he created will be remembered by children and adults alike: Peter Peanut, Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo, Billy Banana, and my particular favorite, Aunt Yoo-Hoo.

Mary stifles a laugh.

BURKE
And not just for the laughter they provided–there was always some deeper meaning to whatever Chuckles did. Remember Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo’s little catch phrase, remember how when his arch rival Senor Caboom would hit him with the giant cucumber and knock him down? Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off and say, “I hurt my foo-foo.”

Mary again stifles a laugh. The others in the row glare at her.

BURKE
Life’s a lot like that. From time to time we all fall down and hurt our foo-foo’s.

Mary again stifles a laugh. Other people turn to look at her.

BURKE
If only we could all deal with it as simple and bravely and honestly as Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo. And what did Chuckles ask in return? Not much–in his own words–”A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”

Mary has great difficulty in stifling herself here. Many people turn to look at her.

BURKE
(Looking right at Mary)
Excuse me, young lady… yes you… would you stand up please?

Mary, with no alternative, stands up.

BURKE
You feel like laughing, don’t you? Don’t try to stop yourself. Go ahead, laugh out loud. Don’t you see? Nothing could have made Chuckles happier. He lived to make people laugh. He found tears offensive, deeply offensive. He hated to see people cry. Go ahead, my dear–laugh.

Mary bursts into tears

The Videos

While the entire Chuckles Bites The Dust episode and excerpts from that show have been on You Tube and other sites, these videos have repeatedly been withdrawn or removed. As of 21 May 2011, the scenes that include Lou’s announcement of the accident leading to the demise of Chuckles and the eulogy, with Mary’s reactions during the funeral, are available below.

Lou Grant Has Bad News About Chuckles the Clown

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Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the Clown’s Funeral

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Previous Heck of a Guy blog entries dealing with eulogies

  1. Chuckles Bites The Dust was ranked #1 on TV Guide’s “The 100 Best Episodes Of All Time.” It was directed by Joan Darling and written by David Lloyd, who received an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.” []

The Opposite Of Eulogy Is – Eulogy

An Aside On The Meaning Of “Eulogy”

Two observations from my recent research on eulogies1 follow:

1. Every formal definition of eulogy revolves around its approbative quality – to eulogize an individual is to praise him or her.

Consider, for example, the accumulation of definitions and descriptions of “eulogy” found at Answers.com:

  • A laudatory speech or written tribute, especially one praising someone who has died. Or B. High praise or commendation.2
  • An expression of warm approval: acclaim, acclamation, applause, celebration, commendation, compliment, encomium, kudos, laudation, panegyric, plaudit, praise.3
  • Definition: praise, acclamation
    Antonyms: calumny, condemnation, criticism<
    4
  • Words of praise, often for a dead person, but also a staple in introducing speakers, in nominating candidates, and on other such occasions.5
  • A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing. The word is derived from two Greek words – ευ (pronounced “you”) meaning good or well and λογος (pronounced “logos”) meaning word, phrase, speech, etc. The term “eulogy” may refer to a funeral oration given in tribute to a person or people who have recently died. … Eulogies can also praise a living person or people who are still alive, which normally takes place on special occasions like birthdays etc.6

2. In English-speaking regions other than dictionary-land, the meaning of “eulogy” extends to include any commentary about an individual triggered by that individual’s death.

Q: If a eulogy is characterized as positive and laudatory, what does one call a written or spoken exposition that censures and viciously criticizes the recently deceased?
A: A eulogy

Yes, in the vernacular, “eulogy” is routinely used to designate not only a tribute to the dead7 but also its counterpoint – the lambasting, the denouncement, the vehement accretion of insults that derides the recently departed as the most dastardly of scoundrels, the basest of criminals, and the most heinous of villains.

While a “contemptuous eulogy” is certainly an oxymoron under the rules and regulations set forth by Merriam-Webster adherents, it is just as certainly a phenomenon that occurs frequently in the rhetorical jungle of print and broadcast journalism, blogs, and web sites.

Moreover, these pronouncements are brandished in print without irony; there are no real or implicit quotation marks or linguistic equivalents of a sly wink to signal that the writer is consciously using the term, “eulogy,” to denote the opposite of its literal meaning, knowingly sharing the joke with the reader.

Who Cares If Eulogy Obviates Malogy

Somewhere in this favored land, a dictionary-loving prescriptive grammarian may have composed a scholarly rant predicting the downfall of civilization as we know it lest we repent of this sloppy wielding of “eulogy” to mean an entity and its opposite, but if so, I didn’t find it. Where is the outrage?

Or, if this extension of the original meaning is a fait accompli, why are the reference books silent on the point?

I dunno, but I do want to make it clear that

Eulogies offered in my behalf are to follow
the precepts and spirit of the original
concept – praise, admiration,
acclamation, … that sort of thing.

Three Exemplars of the Malevolent Eulogy

Munchkins, Glinda, & Dorothy Commemorate The Death Of The Wicked Witch8

Only occasionally is this ditty referenced as a eulogy (possibly because it lacks an explicit listing of the sins of the departed) but my personal fondness of the song compels its inclusion here.

Hunter S. Thompson Commemorates The Death Of Richard Nixon

Hunter S. Thompson’s essay on Richard Nixon following news of the ex-president’s death, published in Rolling Stone, June 16, 1994, is routinely labeled a eulogy despite the absence of approval or praise among its expressions of disgust and loathing.

HE WAS A CROOK
by Hunter S. Thompson

MEMO FROM THE NATIONAL AFFAIRS DESK DATE: MAY 1, 1994 FROM: DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON SUBJECT: THE DEATH OF RICHARD NIXON: NOTES ON THE PASSING OF AN AMERICAN MONSTER…. HE WAS A LIAR AND A QUITTER, AND HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN BURIED AT SEA…. BUT HE WAS, AFTER ALL, THE PRESIDENT.

“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”

—Revelation 18:2

Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”

I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.

Nixon laughed when I told him this. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you.”

It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he’s gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive — and he was, all the way to the end — we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.

That was Nixon’s style — and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don’t fight fair, bubba. That’s why God made dachshunds.

Nixon was a navy man, and he should have been buried at sea. Many of his friends were seagoing people: Bebe Rebozo, Robert Vesco, William F. Buckley Jr., and some of them wanted a full naval burial.

These come in at least two styles, however, and Nixon’s immediate family strongly opposed both of them. In the traditionalist style, the dead president’s body would be wrapped and sewn loosely in canvas sailcloth and dumped off the stern of a frigate at least 100 miles off the coast and at least 1,000 miles south of San Diego, so the corpse could never wash up on American soil in any recognizable form.

The family opted for cremation until they were advised of the potentially onerous implications of a strictly private, unwitnessed burning of the body of the man who was, after all, the President of the United States. Awkward questions might be raised, dark allusions to Hitler and Rasputin. People would be filing lawsuits to get their hands on the dental charts. Long court battles would be inevitable — some with liberal cranks bitching about corpus delicti and habeas corpus and others with giant insurance companies trying not to pay off on his death benefits. Either way, an orgy of greed and duplicity was sure to follow any public hint that Nixon might have somehow faked his own death or been cryogenically transferred to fascist Chinese interests on the Central Asian Mainland.

It would also play into the hands of those millions of self-stigmatized patriots like me who believe these things already.

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern — but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.

Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him — except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.

It is fitting that Richard Nixon’s final gesture to the American people was a clearly illegal series of 21 105-mm howitzer blasts that shattered the peace of a residential neighborhood and permanently disturbed many children. Neighbors also complained about another unsanctioned burial in the yard at the old Nixon place, which was brazenly illegal. “It makes the whole neighborhood like a graveyard,” said one. “And it fucks up my children’s sense of values.”

Many were incensed about the howitzers — but they knew there was nothing they could do about it — not with the current president sitting about 50 yards away and laughing at the roar of the cannons. It was Nixon’s last war, and he won.

The funeral was a dreary affair, finely staged for TV and shrewdly dominated by ambitious politicians and revisionist historians. The Rev. Billy Graham, still agile and eloquent at the age of 136, was billed as the main speaker, but he was quickly upstaged by two 1996 GOP presidential candidates: Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas and Gov. Pete Wilson of California, who formally hosted the event and saw his poll numbers crippled when he got blown off the stage by Dole, who somehow seized the No. 3 slot on the roster and uttered such a shameless, self-serving eulogy that even he burst into tears at the end of it.

Dole’s stock went up like a rocket and cast him as the early GOP front-runner for ’96. Wilson, speaking next, sounded like an Engelbert Humperdinck impersonator and probably won’t even be re-elected as governor of California in November.

The historians were strongly represented by the No. 2 speaker, Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s secretary of state and himself a zealous revisionist with many axes to grind. He set the tone for the day with a maudlin and spectacularly self-serving portrait of Nixon as even more saintly than his mother and as a president of many godlike accomplishments — most of them put together in secret by Kissinger, who came to California as part of a huge publicity tour for his new book on diplomacy, genius, Stalin, H. P. Lovecraft and other great minds of our time, including himself and Richard Nixon.

Kissinger was only one of the many historians who suddenly came to see Nixon as more than the sum of his many squalid parts. He seemed to be saying that History will not have to absolve Nixon, because he has already done it himself in a massive act of will and crazed arrogance that already ranks him supreme, along with other Nietzschean supermen like Hitler, Jesus, Bismarck and the Emperor Hirohito. These revisionists have catapulted Nixon to the status of an American Caesar, claiming that when the definitive history of the 20th century is written, no other president will come close to Nixon in stature. “He will dwarf FDR and Truman,” according to one scholar from Duke University.

It was all gibberish, of course. Nixon was no more a Saint than he was a Great President. He was more like Sammy Glick than Winston Churchill. He was a cheap crook and a merciless war criminal who bombed more people to death in Laos and Cambodia than the U.S. Army lost in all of World War II, and he denied it to the day of his death. When students at Kent State University, in Ohio, protested the bombing, he connived to have them attacked and slain by troops from the National Guard.

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

Nixon’s meteoric rise from the unemployment line to the vice presidency in six quick years would never have happened if TV had come along 10 years earlier. He got away with his sleazy “my dog Checkers” speech in 1952 because most voters heard it on the radio or read about it in the headlines of their local, Republican newspapers. When Nixon finally had to face the TV cameras for real in the 1960 presidential campaign debates, he got whipped like a red-headed mule. Even die-hard Republican voters were shocked by his cruel and incompetent persona. Interestingly, most people who heard those debates on the radio thought Nixon had won. But the mushrooming TV audience saw him as a truthless used-car salesman, and they voted accordingly. It was the first time in 14 years that Nixon lost an election.

When he arrived in the White House as VP at the age of 40, he was a smart young man on the rise — a hubris-crazed monster from the bowels of the American dream with a heart full of hate and an overweening lust to be President. He had won every office he’d run for and stomped like a Nazi on all of his enemies and even some of his friends.

Nixon had no friends except George Will and J. Edgar Hoover (and they both deserted him). It was Hoover’s shameless death in 1972 that led directly to Nixon’s downfall. He felt helpless and alone with Hoover gone. He no longer had access to either the Director or the Director’s ghastly bank of Personal Files on almost everybody in Washington.

Hoover was Nixon’s right flank, and when he croaked, Nixon knew how Lee felt when Stonewall Jackson got killed at Chancellorsville. It permanently exposed Lee’s flank and led to the disaster at Gettysburg.

For Nixon, the loss of Hoover led inevitably to the disaster of Watergate. It meant hiring a New Director — who turned out to be an unfortunate toady named L. Patrick Gray, who squealed like a pig in hot oil the first time Nixon leaned on him. Gray panicked and fingered White House Counsel John Dean, who refused to take the rap and rolled over, instead, on Nixon, who was trapped like a rat by Dean’s relentless, vengeful testimony and went all to pieces right in front of our eyes on TV.

That is Watergate, in a nut, for people with seriously diminished attention spans. The real story is a lot longer and reads like a textbook on human treachery. They were all scum, but only Nixon walked free and lived to clear his name. Or at least that’s what Bill Clinton says — and he is, after all, the President of the United States.

Nixon liked to remind people of that. He believed it, and that was why he went down. He was not only a crook but a fool. Two years after he quit, he told a TV journalist that “if the president does it, it can’t be illegal.”

Shit. Not even Spiro Agnew was that dumb. He was a flat-out, knee-crawling thug with the morals of a weasel on speed. But he was Nixon’s vice president for five years, and he only resigned when he was caught red-handed taking cash bribes across his desk in the White House.

Unlike Nixon, Agnew didn’t argue. He quit his job and fled in the night to Baltimore, where he appeared the next morning in U.S. District Court, which allowed him to stay out of prison for bribery and extortion in exchange for a guilty (no contest) plea on income-tax evasion. After that he became a major celebrity and played golf and tried to get a Coors distributorship. He never spoke to Nixon again and was an unwelcome guest at the funeral. They called him Rude, but he went anyway. It was one of those Biological Imperatives, like salmon swimming up waterfalls to spawn before they die. He knew he was scum, but it didn’t bother him.

Agnew was the Joey Buttafuoco of the Nixon administration, and Hoover was its Caligula. They were brutal, brain-damaged degenerates worse than any hit man out of The Godfather, yet they were the men Richard Nixon trusted most. Together they defined his Presidency.

It would be easy to forget and forgive Henry Kissinger of his crimes, just as he forgave Nixon. Yes, we could do that — but it would be wrong. Kissinger is a slippery little devil, a world-class hustler with a thick German accent and a very keen eye for weak spots at the top of the power structure. Nixon was one of those, and Super K exploited him mercilessly, all the way to the end.

Kissinger made the Gang of Four complete: Agnew, Hoover, Kissinger and Nixon. A group photo of these perverts would say all we need to know about the Age of Nixon.

Nixon’s spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives — whether you’re me or Bill Clinton or you or Kurt Cobain or Bishop Tutu or Keith Richards or Amy Fisher or Boris Yeltsin’s daughter or your fiancee’s 16-year-old beer-drunk brother with his braided goatee and his whole life like a thundercloud out in front of him. This is not a generational thing. You don’t even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

Christopher Hitchens Commemorates The Death Of Jerry Falwell

The final example is also a classic, Christopher Hitchens expostulating on the death of Jerry Falwell, a performance that is typically classified as a eulogy.9


  1. See He Was One Heck Of A Guy – The Eulogy and Graham Chapman And The Parrot Are Dead – A Eulogy To Die For []
  2. From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition []
  3. From Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition []
  4. From Antonyms []
  5. From The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition []
  6. From Wikipedia – Eulogy []
  7. Despite the conscientious efforts of dictionaries and other reference sources, those of us who populate the great unwashed almost invariably associate “eulogy” and its variants with death. Most folks offered, as in Wikipedia’s example, a eulogy on the occasion of an upcoming birthday would reflexly decline the honor with alacrity in the belief that a prerequisite for receiving such an accolade entails ones demise. But that discrepancy is an issue for another post. []
  8. These songs from Wizard Of Oz were composed by Harold Arlen, with the lyrics written by E.Y. Harburg. []
  9. Eulogy as attack is, it seems, a Hitchens’ specialty, as this excerpt from the The QandO Blog indicates:

    Eulogizing Bob Hope, Hitchens wrote… [Bob Hope] was a fool, and nearly a clown, but he was never even remotely a comedian.

    Eulogizing Ronald Reagan, Hitchens wrote… [Ronald Reagan] was as dumb as a stump. … He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn’t like him all that much. He met his second wife…because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see. …I could not believe that … such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon.

    Christopher Hitchens came along too late to improperly eulogize the Last Lion, but he still managed to trample on the grave of Winston Churchill, calling Churchill “Incompetent, Boorish, Drunk, and Mostly Wrong”

    []

Graham Chapman And The Parrot Are Dead – A Eulogy To Die For

Heck of a Guy Eulogy Research Lives On

As I noted in yesterday’s post, He Was One Heck Of A Guy – The Eulogy, my personal participation in the preparation of my eulogy appears necessary if the desired high-quality, fulsomely overblown, raucous yet cockle-warming send-off is to be assured.

Currently, that effort focuses on a search for emulation-worthy eulogies that could provide inspiration for my own effort – or, failing that, substantial chunks of prose that could be lifted directly into my personal panegyric.

Today’s post showcases an outstanding specimen of the genre, the brilliant tour de force given by John Cleese at the memorial service for his Monty Python colleague, Graham Chapman.

Left to Right: Graham Chapman, John Cleese With Dead Parrot

Graham Chapman’s Memorial Service

Graham Chapman, comedian, actor, writer, physician, and one of the six members of the Monty Python crew died October 4, 1989.1

His memorial service was held on the evening of December 6 1989 in the Great Hall at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. John Cleese delivered the eulogy. Afterward, Cleese joined Gilliam, Jones, and Palin along with Chapman’s other friends as Idle led them in a rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Graham Chapman’s Memorial Service was filmed and produced by Mark Chapman for the BBC Omnibus presentation of Life of Python, 1989, and dedicated in his memory.

YouTube Preview Image

Graham Chapman’s Memorial Speech
Delivered by John Cleese

Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch,’2 is no more.

He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky, and I guess that we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun.

Well, I feel that I should say, “Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries.”

And the reason I think I should say this is, he would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him but mindless good taste. I could hear him whispering in my ear last night as I was writing this:

“Alright, Cleese, you’re very proud of being the first person to ever say ‘shit’ on television. If this service is really for me, just for starters, I want you to be the first person ever at a British memorial service to say ‘fuck!’”

You see, the trouble is, I can’t. If he were here with me now I would probably have the courage, because he always emboldened me. But the truth is, I lack his balls, his splendid defiance. And so I’ll have to content myself instead with saying ‘Betty Mardsen…’3

But bolder and less inhibited spirits than me follow today. Jones and Idle, Gilliam and Palin. Heaven knows what the next hour will bring in Graham’s name. Trousers dropping, blasphemers on pogo sticks, spectacular displays of high-speed farting, synchronised incest. One of the four is planning to stuff a dead ocelot and a 1922 Remington typewriter up his own arse to the sound of the second movement of Elgar’s cello concerto. And that’s in the first half.

Because you see, Gray would have wanted it this way. Really. Anything for him but mindless good taste. And that’s what I’ll always remember about him—apart, of course, from his Olympian extravagance. He was the prince of bad taste. He loved to shock. In fact, Gray, more than anyone I knew, embodied and symbolised all that was most offensive and juvenile in Monty Python. And his delight in shocking people led him on to greater and greater feats. I like to think of him as the pioneering beacon that beat the path along which fainter spirits could follow.

Some memories. I remember writing the undertaker speech with him, and him suggesting the punch line, ‘All right, we’ll eat her, but if you feel bad about it afterwards, we’ll dig a grave and you can throw up into it.’ I remember discovering in 1969, when we wrote every day at the flat where Connie Booth and I lived, that he’d recently discovered the game of printing four-letter words on neat little squares of paper, and then quietly placing them at strategic points around our flat, forcing Connie and me into frantic last minute paper chases whenever we were expecting important guests.

I remember him at BBC parties crawling around on all fours, rubbing himself affectionately against the legs of gray-suited executives, and delicately nibbling the more appetizing female calves. Mrs. Eric Morecambe remembers that too.

I remember his being invited to speak at the Oxford union, and entering the chamber dressed as a carrot—a full length orange tapering costume with a large, bright green sprig as a hat—-and then, when his turn came to speak, refusing to do so. He just stood there, literally speechless, for twenty minutes, smiling beatifically. The only time in world history that a totally silent man has succeeded in inciting a riot.

I remember Graham receiving a Sun newspaper TV award from Reggie Maudling. Who else! And taking the trophy falling to the ground and crawling all the way back to his table, screaming loudly, as loudly as he could. And if you remember Gray, that was very loud indeed.

It is magnificent, isn’t it? You see, the thing about shock… is not that it upsets some people, I think; I think that it gives others a momentary joy of liberation, as we realised in that instant that the social rules that constrict our lives so terribly are not actually very important.

Well, Gray can’t do that for us anymore. He’s gone. He is an ex-Chapman. All we have of him now is our memories. But it will be some time before they fade.

Coming Attractions: Still more eulogies, including at least one for a fictional character.


  1. Chapman’s death occurred one day before the 20th anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus; Terry Jones called it “the worst case of party-pooping in all history.” After Chapman’s death, speculation of a Python revival inevitably faded, with Idle saying, “we would only do a reunion if Chapman came back from the dead. So we’re negotiating with his agent.” (From Wikipedia) []
  2. Cleese and Chapman co-wrote many classic Python sketches, including the “Dead Parrot Sketch.” In the original version, written mostly by Cleese, the frustrated customer was trying to return a faulty toaster to a shop. Chapman came up with the idea that returning a dead parrot to a pet shop might make a more interesting subject than a toaster. (From Wikipedia) []
  3. During his ‘drinking days’, Chapman jokingly referred to himself as the British actress Betty Marsden, possibly because of Marsden’s oft-quoted desire to die with a glass of gin in her hand. (From Wikipedia) Chapman would sporadically shout odd words, exclamations, and noises with no apparent connection to any ongoing conversations or events; one favorite, frequently invoked phrase was “Betty Marsden.” (From Graham Chapman) []