Terry Jones, Monty Python Star and Director, Dies at 77
Very few people can claim credit for directing one of the funniest movies ever made. Terry Jones made three, as the co-director (with Terry Gilliam) of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and director of Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Sadly, Jones, who has been suffering from dementia for several years, passed away yesterday at his home in London. He was 77 years old.
Here is a statement released by his family:
Terry passed away on the evening of 21 January 2020 at the age of 77 with his wife Anna Soderstrom by his side after a long, extremely brave but always good humoured battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD. Over the past few days his wife, children, extended family and many close friends have been constantly with Terry as he gently slipped away at his home in North London. We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades.
Born in Wales and raised in Surrey, England, Jones met his future Monty Python collaborator Michael Palin while in school at Oxford. The two both began working in comedy and television, and eventually met all the other various members of Python; Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese, and the late Graham Chapman. Initially two separate groups — Chapman and Cleese, and Palin, Jones, Idle, and Gilliam — were each developing their own shows separately. For reasons that vary depending on the source you read, they eventually teamed up as a single group. Monty Python was born.
The revolutionary Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired from 1969 into the mid-1970s, and became a surprise hit all over the world. Movies followed. Fans argue over their favorite, but for my money 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, co-directed by Jones, is not only their best work, it’s one of the best movie comedies ever. Jones also co-wrote the film and played a variety of roles, including Sir Bedevere.
Jones was never the flashiest Python, and tended to work mostly in supporting roles in sketches and films. (He’s usually regarded as the best performer of female characters in the troupe.) One of his most famous performances remains Mr. Creosote, the enormous man who eats (and regurgitates) a revolting amount of food and then explodes after enjoying one last wafer-thin mint. It is a very memorable scene, albeit one that’s not to be enjoyed while eating a meal.
Outside of his work with the Pythons — including live tours and reunions, which continued right up until Jones’ retirement a few years ago — Jones was a prolific writer as well as a historian and documentarian. Obviously, though, his greatest legacy remains his work with Monty Python, which will outlive all of us by centuries. He will be deeply missed by comedy fans everywhere — who should note that as of this writing, Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Meaning of Life, Flying Circus, and Live at the Hollywood Bowl are all currently streaming on Netflix, along with numerous other projects and specials like Almost the Truth: The Lawyer’s Cut, a mini-series about the group’s history, and a documentary called Before the Flying Circus, about the origin of the group. It’s a good day to binge a bunch of that stuff.