Since contracting a rare form of dementia known as FTD four years ago, legendary Monty Python comedian, director and writer Terry Jones had largely been out of the spotlight. But his genius will live on in his works, even as the family of Jones announced that the actor has passed away at the age of 77.
The outpouring of emotion from others in the comedy, film and music worlds has been predictably swift. A statement from the man’s family sums it up: “We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man. His uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades.” The death comes only a few weeks after the passing of musician Neil Innes, a fellow Python collaborator.
Sir Michael Palin, who Jones knew from his earliest comedy writing days at Oxford University, called the performer “one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation,” and went on to say the following: “Terry was one of my closest, most valued friends. He was kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full.”
John Cleese, meanwhile, echoed the same sentiments: “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.”
Jones, one of the “two Terrys” of Monty Python alongside American animator-director Terry Gilliam, was born in Wales and studied at Oxford University, which is where he met Palin as a member of the campus comedy group Oxford Revue. After graduation, he wrote for other British comedy TV series such as Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Frost Report before launching Monty Python’s Flying Circus with Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and Gilliam in 1969. The show would go on to become a landmark TV classic, influencing the entire direction of British comedy toward the absurd and “silly.” On the series, Jones both wrote and performed, embodying some of the most famous characters, including Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson and Cardinal Biggles of the Spanish Inquisition, who was rarely expected.
Jones then moved increasingly into direction, first co-directing seminal classic The Holy Grail in 1975 with Gilliam, and then taking full directorial duties for The Meaning of Life and the film that is often considered the Pythons’ crowning achievement, 1979’s Life of Brian.
Many more testimonials and tributes are sure to roll in today, but we’ll close with this remembrance from Stephen Fry. RIP, Terry Jones.