There’s nothing remotely silly about this at all, actually. Terry Jones, one of the original members of the iconic Monty Python troupe, has passed away at 77, a few weeks shy of his 78th birthday.
Having been diagnosed with dementia in 2016, by the end, it left him unable to speak. His family in a statement said he ultimately passed “after a long, extremely brave but always good humored battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD.”
Born in Wales, Jones attended the prestigious Oxford University. It was while there that he met fellow-Python Michael Palin and they began writing and performing together. “The first thing that struck me was what a nice bloke he was,” Palin once said in an interview. “He had no airs and graces. We had a similar idea of what humour could do and where it should go, mainly because we both liked characters; we both appreciated that comedy wasn’t just jokes.”
While Palin and Jones were working on The Frost Report, a short-lived satirical television show that began in 1966, they were joined by Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, and John Cleese. The five of them, along with Terry Gilliam who was to come later as the sole American member, they made up Monty Python.
“The one thing we all agreed on, our chief aim, was to be totally unpredictable and never to repeat ourselves,” Jones told The New York Times in 2009 regarding the Pythons. “We wanted to be unquantifiable. That ‘pythonesque’ is now an adjective in the O.E.D. means we failed utterly.”
As part of Monty Python, Jones participated in the groundbreaking television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran from 1969 until 1974, as well as the many films, including And Now For Something Completely Different, The Life of Brian, The Meaning of Life, and of course, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Often hilariously playing the older woman characters in the group (or playing the organ naked), Jones has been cited as one of the most underrated members of the group and a good source of where its heart came from.
After breaking up in the mid-80’s, the group would occasionally get together for retrospectives over the years. In 2014, they reunited onstage at London’s o2 Arena for 10 shows. It was later released on home video as Monty Python Live (Mostly). This was the first time they had performed onstage together since the 80’s (minus Graham Chapman who passed in 1989). Sadly, this was also to be the last.
Aside from the Python’s, Jones also had written the screenplay for Labyrinth and wrote and directed the films Erik the Viking, The Wind in the Willows, and Absolutely Anything. The latter film was not only the final performance of Robin Williams to be released, but also the last time all of the Python’s would be on screen together (albeit as animated aliens, which somehow seems fitting). Additionally, he had spent most of his post-Python life as a children’s book author, having written over 20 books.
Upon news of his passing, John Cleese tweeted “Just heard about Terry J[.] It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away… Of his many achievements, for me the greatest gift he gave us all was his direction of ‘Life of Brian‘. Perfection[.] Two down, four to go”.
“I loved him the moment I saw him on stage at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963,” Idle tweeted. “So many laughs,moments of total hilarity onstage and off we have all shared with him. It’s too sad if you knew him,but if you didn’t you will always smile at the many wonderfully funny moments he gave us.”
Gilliam said “Terry was someone totally consumed with life.. a brilliant, constantly questioning, iconoclastic, righteously argumentative and angry but outrageously funny and generous and kind human being..and very often a complete pain in the ass. One could never hope for a better friend. Goodbye, Tel.”
“[He] was one of my closest, most valued friends,” Palin said in a statement. “He was kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full. He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation. He was the complete Renaissance comedian — writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have.”
Here are a few clips highlighting some of Jones’ work with the Pythons.