A drawing of Monty Python by Alyce  Dedicated Idiocy, A personal history of the Penn State Monty Python Society by Alyce Wilson

School Year 1989-1990

Letter to John Cleese

On January 7, 1990, I wrote a letter to John Cleese, to let him know about all the things our club had done to commemorate his friend and writing partner:

Dear John Cleese,

I've been wanting to write to you for some time, but I couldn't find an address. Now that I've discovered that you and Robin Skynner wrote Life and How to Survive It for Methuen, I've decided to take a chance on this one (it's either that or another Saturday afternoon spent in the bowels of Pattee Library, where I usually get sidetracked and start photocopying pictures of the Bonzo Dog Band or coming up with ideas for radio shows or looking up articles in the periodicals room...oh, sorry...).

Right now I'm skipping out on production time for the Rubber Chicken Comedy Closet, a weekly show on the campus radio station. But we're only putting together a "Best Of..." show, anyway (our way of convincing the station manager not to drop our show or feed us to the Federal Communications Commission, a.k.a. The FCC Thought Police, before we get back in production after semester break).


I'm writing to you because I want to express my grief and concern at Graham Chapman's death. Last semester was a tough one for me, because the news hit hard and crushed a lot of hopes. The Penn State Monty Python Society, of which I'm the secretary, had been planning since last year to bring Graham Chapman here to speak. Our president had contacted Graham's manager, Don Epstein; and though we had a pittance of a treasury, we intended to grovel at the feet of the university until we raised the cash. I was a little more excited than most, because he'd come here in 1983 and given an interview to WPSU. I had every confidence that I could get one with him (I'm executive producer of an eclectic program called Before the Dawn). I'd even gone so far as to plan what I would say.

Graham Chapman will stay in my thoughts, though I suppose the pain will deaden. From what I know of him, he was a caring man with a lot of talent, verve, and spontaneity. I wish I could have met him. And I want you to know that my thoughts are with you, and I wish you all the strength of the millions of people who love you.


In tribute of Graham Chapman, the Python Society sponsored a lot of events last fall. The night he died we held a three-hour wake that started with us crying and ended with us singing morbid Tom Lehrer songs, climbing in the windows, turning over couches, setting the chandeliers swinging, and hopping around on one foot singing "Let it Be."

Our theme in the Homecoming Parade was "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and we dressed up as some of his better-known characters and sang the theme song, amidst other silliness.

We had a Great Ides- of-October Mystery Event (which we'd been planning for some time) and opened it with a candlelight vigil on the steps of Old Main, since it was bright daylight. I said a few words, first in my normal voice and then in a high squeaky one, and most everyone else took their turn. Meanwhile, we collected for the American Cancer Society, in memory of Graham Chapman. We continued the fundraiser throughout Homecoming and collected about $80.

I also did a three-hour Before the Dawn show on Monty Python's Flying Circus, with a section on Graham Chapman.


Hope you don't mind this extremely long letter (I'm even more long-winded in person). I know you must get a lot of mail, and you probably don't even get a chance to look at most of it; but if you happen to read this, please write back to me. It would matter a lot to me, to know that this reached you and that you read it.


Alyce Wilson

Show dogs? Nope. Contents? Yes  or where to indulge in more Alyce Dear you, how are you?Write some virtual letters to strangers Changing of the Guard Expose Yourself  e-mail: alycewilson@lycos.com