Terry Jones: Monty Python star dies aged 77

Terry Jones: Monty Python star dies aged 77

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Media captionThe BBC’s David Sillito looks back at the Welsh comic actor, writer and director’s life

Monty Python star Terry Jones has died at the age of 77, after having suffered from dementia, his agent has said.

A statement from his family said: “We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man.”

Fellow Python Sir Michael Palin described Jones as “one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation”.

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

He added: “Of his many achievements, for me the greatest gift he gave us all was his direction of Life of Brian. Perfection.”

Eric Idle, another member of the highly influential comedy troupe, recalled the “many laughs, moments of total hilarity onstage and off we have all shared with him”.

He went on: “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.”

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Monty Python

Image caption

Jones (left) with fellow Monty Python stars Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese and Michael Palin

The Welsh comic actor, writer and director died on Monday, four years after contracting a rare form of dementia known as FTD.

Palin added: “Terry was one of my closest, most valued friends. 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.”

Other comedy figures paid tribute on social media.

Screenwriter Charlie Brooker posted: “RIP the actual genius Terry Jones. Far too many brilliant moments to choose from.”

David Walliams thanked his comedy hero “for a lifetime of laughter”.

Simon Pegg – who acted in Jones’ final film as director, 2015’s Absolutely Anything – said: “Terry was a sweet, gentle, funny man who was a joy to work with and impossible not to love.”

And comedian Eddie Izzard told BBC News: “It’s a tragedy – the good go too early. Monty Python changed the face of world comedy. It will live forever. It’s a terrible loss.”

‘A titan of British comedy’

Shane Allen, BBC controller of comedy commissioning, wrote that it was a “sad day to lose an absolute titan of British comedy” and “one of the founding fathers of the most influential and pioneering comedy ensembles of all time”.

Jones was born in Colwyn Bay and went on to study at Oxford University, where he met his future Python pal Palin in the Oxford Revue – a student comedy group.

Alongside Palin, David Jason and Eric Idle, he appeared in the BBC children’s satirical sketch show Do Not Adjust Your Set, from which the template for Monty Python emerged.

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Getty Images

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Jones directed, starred in and co-wrote Monty Python’s 1979 film Life of Brian

He wrote and starred in Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV show and the comedy collective’s films, as a range of much-loved characters, including Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson, Cardinal Biggles of the Spanish Inquisition and Mr Creosote.

He also directed their film The Holy Grail in 1975, with fellow Python Terry Gilliam, and took sole charge of 1979’s Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life in 1983.

Monty Python – a potted history

Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the groundbreaking comedy series that made Jones and his fellow cast members international stars, first aired on BBC One in October 1969.

Surreal, anarchic and bawdily irreverent, the show’s blend of live-action sketches and animated interludes mocked both broadcasting conventions and societal norms.

Jones and Palin had met at Oxford, while Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle studied at Cambridge. After university, they took part in various comedy shows before forming Monty Python with US-born animator Terry Gilliam.

After four series, the troupe moved to the big screen to make Arthurian spoof Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a controversial parody of Biblical epics.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, their final film as a collective, returned to the original series’ sketch-based format.

The surviving members reunited periodically after Chapman’s death in 1989, most notably for a run of live shows at the O2 in London in 2014.

Terry Jones’ best lines

  • “Now, you listen here! He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!” – as Brian’s mother in Monty Python’s Life of Brian
  • “I’m alive, I’m alive!” – as the naked hermit who gives away the location of a hiding Brian in Life of Brian
  • “I shall use my largest scales” – as Sir Belvedere, who oversees a witch trial in Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • “What, the curtains?” – as Prince Herbert, who is told “One day, lad, all this will be yours” in Holy Grail
  • “Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam” – as the greasy spoon waitress in a Monty Python sketch

Image copyright
Monty Python

Image caption

Jones (left) as the store manager and Eric Idle as Chris Quinn in Monty Python’s sketch The Department Store-Buying an Ant

The statement from Jones’ family noted his “uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour [that] has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades”.

“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.

“His work with Monty Python, his books, films, television programmes, poems and other work will live on forever, a fitting legacy to a true polymath.”

Image copyright
Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images

Image caption

Terry Jones as Mr Creosote, alongside John Cleese, in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life in 1983

The family thanked Jones’ “wonderful medical professionals and carers for making the past few years not only bearable but often joyful”.

They said: “We hope that this disease will one day be eradicated entirely. We ask that our privacy be respected at this sensitive time and give thanks that we lived in the presence of an extraordinarily talented, playful and happy man living a truly authentic life, in his words ‘Lovingly frosted with glucose.'”

What is frontotemporal dementia (FTD)?

  • FTD is an uncommon type of dementia that mainly affects the front and sides of the brain
  • The initial symptoms are, in most cases, changes in behaviour, mental ability and language, which will get worse over time
  • Language problems can include loss of vocabulary, repetition and forgetting the meaning of common words
  • FTD is caused by abnormal protein clumps forming inside the brain cells, which are thought to damage the cells and stop them working. Why this happens is not fully understood
  • Although there are currently no cures or treatments to slow FTD down, there are treatments that can help control some symptoms

Source: NHS

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