Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77


LON­DON — Terry Jones, a found­ing mem­ber of the an­ar­chic Monty Python troupe who was hailed by col­leagues as “the com­plete Re­nais­sance co­me­dian” and “a man of end­less en­thu­si­asms,” has died at age 77 af­ter suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia.

Jones’s fam­ily said he died Tues­day evening at his home in Lon­don “af­ter a long, ex­tremely brave but al­ways good hu­mored bat­tle with a rare form of de­men­tia.”

“We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, cre­ative and truly lov­ing man whose un­com­pro­mis­ing in­di­vid­u­al­ity, re­lent­less in­tel­lect and ex­tra­or­di­nary hu­mor has given plea­sure to count­less mil­lions across six decades,” Jones’s wife, Anna Soder­strom, and chil­dren Bill, Sally and Siri, said in a state­ment.

Born in Wales in 1942, Jones at­tended Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity, where he be­gan writ­ing and per­form­ing with fel­low stu­dent Michael Palin.

Af­ter leav­ing uni­ver­sity, he wrote for sem­i­nal 1960s com­edy series, in­clud­ing “The Frost Re­port” and “Do Not Ad­just Your Set.” At the end of the decade he and Palin, along with Eric Idle, John Cleese, Gra­ham Chap­man and Terry Gil­liam, formed Monty Python’s Fly­ing Circus. The troupe’s ir­rev­er­ent hu­mor — a blend of satire, sur­re­al­ism and silli­ness — helped rev­o­lu­tion­ize Bri­tish com­edy.

“Terry was one of my clos­est, most val­ued friends. He was kind, gen­er­ous, sup­port­ive and pas­sion­ate about liv­ing life to the full,” Palin said in a state­ment.

“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,” Palin said.

Jones wrote and per­formed for the troupe’s TV series, which aired for five years on the BBC, and films in­clud­ing “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in 1975 and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” in 1979.

Play­ing the mother of Brian, a hap­less young man who is mis­taken for Je­sus, he de­liv­ered one of the Pythons’ most fa­mous lines: “He’s not the Mes­siah. He’s a very naughty boy!”

A more un­der­stated pres­ence than the six-foot-five-inch Cleese or the en­er­getic Idle, Jones was a deft comic per­former, who played many of the Pythons’ fe­male char­ac­ters. He was also, among many other in­car­na­tions, a grin­ning nude or­gan­ist, Span­ish In­quisi­tor Car­di­nal Big­gles and the ex­plo­sively glut­tonous restau­rant pa­tron Mr. Cre­osote.

Cleese tweeted: “It feels strange that a man of so many tal­ents and such end­less en­thu­si­asm, should have faded so gen­tly away…”

He added: “Two down, four to go,” a ref­er­ence to the six mem­bers of the troupe. Chap­man died of cancer in 1989.

As well as per­form­ing, Jones co-di­rected “Holy Grail” with Gil­liam, and di­rected “Life of Brian” and the 1983 Python film “The Mean­ing of Life.”

“Life of Brian” was con­sid­ered dar­ing — and was even banned in some ar­eas — for its bib­li­cal satire. The film’s cru­ci­fix­ion scene, which fea­tured Idle per­form­ing the cheeky song “Al­ways Look on the Bright Side of Life,” ce­mented Jones’ rep­u­ta­tion as a dar­ing di­rec­tor with an ab­sur­dist sense of hu­mor.

Dur­ing the 1970s, Jones also cre­ated the show “Rip­ping Yarns” with Palin and wrote sketches for com­edy duo The Two Ron­nies.

Af­ter the Pythons largely dis­banded in the 1980s, Jones wrote books on me­dieval and an­cient his­tory, pre­sented doc­u­men­taries, wrote po­etry and di­rected films, in­clud­ing “Per­sonal Ser­vices,” about a sub­ur­ban brothel madam, an adap­ta­tion of chil­dren’s clas­sic “The Wind in the Wil­lows” and the com­edy ad­ven­ture “Erik the Vik­ing.” He also scripted the Jim Hen­son-di­rected fan­tasy film “Labyrinth,” which starred David Bowie.

In 2014, more than three decades af­ter their last live per­for­mance, the five sur­viv­ing Pythons re­united for a string of stage shows that re­vived their old skits for ador­ing au­di­ences.

Palin would re­call that dur­ing the stage run, Jones strug­gled for the first time with rememberin­g lines. Two years later, Jones’s fam­ily an­nounced he had been di­ag­nosed with fron­totem­po­ral de­men­tia, which grad­u­ally robbed him of the abil­ity to write and speak.

Palin said in 2016 that los­ing the abil­ity to speak was “the cru­elest thing that could be­fall some­one to whom words, ideas, ar­gu­ments, jokes and sto­ries were once the stuff of life.”

The news of his di­ag­no­sis came just af­ter the Welsh film and TV in­dus­try group Bafta Cymru an­nounced that Jones had been given a spe­cial award for his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to film and tele­vi­sion.

Palin pre­sented the award to a tear­ful Jones, who was helped onto the stage by his son to a stand­ing ova­tion. All he could say was “Qui­eten down.”

“Let’s re­mem­ber just what joy he brought to all of us,” sur­viv­ing troupe mem­ber Idle tweeted Wed­nes­day.

“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.”

Jones is sur­vived by his wife, his ex-wife Alison Telfer, and three chil­dren.


Ac­tors (from left) Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gil­liam and Eric Idle at­tend the 2009 IFC and BAFTA pre­miere of “Monty Python: Al­most The Truth (The Lawyers Cut)” in New York. Terry Jones, a mem­ber of the Monty Python com­edy troupe, has died at 77.

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