Best remembered for the the surreal and boundary-breaking zany humour of Monty Python and As co-director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), with Terry Gilliam, and sole director of Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life (1983). British comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director and author Terry Jones, passed away on, 21 January 2020 at the age of 77 after being diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (a form of Alzheimer’s) in 2016.
Terry Jones was born 1 February 1942 in the seaside town of Colwyn Bay, on the north coast of Wales. The family home was named Bodchwil. His father was stationed with the RAF in India. When Jones was 4½, the family moved to Surrey in England. Terry Jones was educated at the Royal Grammar School Guildford, Surrey, and was head boy during the 1960-61 academic year. Later He read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, but “strayed into history”. He graduated with a 2:1. While there, he also performed comedy with future Monty Python castmate Michael Palin in The Oxford Revue.
Jones appeared in Twice a Fortnight with Michael Palin, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Jonathan Lynn, as well as the television series The Complete and Utter History of Britain. He also appeared in Do Not Adjust Your Set with Palin, Eric Idle and David Jason. He wrote for The Frost Report and several other David Frost programmes on British television. Along with Palin, he wrote lyrics for the 1968 Barry Booth album “Diversions”. Early on, Jones was interested in devising a fresh format for the Python TV shows, and it was largely he who developed the stream-of-consciousness style which abandoned punchlines and encouraged the fluid movement of one sketch into another, allowing the troupe’s conceptual humour the space to “breathe”. Jones took a keen interest in the direction of the show. As demonstrated in many of his sketches with Palin, Jones was interested in making comedy that was visually impressive, feeling that interesting settings augmented, rather than detracted from, the humour. His methods encouraged many future television comedians to break away from conventional studio-bound shooting styles, as demonstrated by shows such as Green Wing, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen. Of Jones’ contributions as a performer, his depictions of middle-aged women are among the most memorable and his humour, in collaboration with Palin, tends to be conceptual in nature. A typical Palin/Jones sketch draws its humour from the absurdity of the scenario. For example, in the “Summarise Proust Competition”, Jones plays a cheesy game show host who gives contestants 15 seconds to condense Marcel Proust’s lengthy work À la recherche du temps perdu. Jones was also noted for his gifts as a Chaplinesque physical comedian. His performance in the “Undressing in Public” sketch, for instance, is done in total silence.
Jones co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Terry Gilliam, and was sole director on two further Monty Python movies, Life of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. As a film director, Jones finally gained fuller control of the projects and devised a visual style that complemented the humour. His later films include Erik the Viking (1989) and The Wind in the Willows (1996). In 2008, Jones wrote and directed an opera titled Evil Machines. in 2011, he was commissioned to direct and write the libretto for another opera, entitled The Doctor’s Tale. On the commentary track of the 2004 “2 Disc Special Edition” DVD for the film Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Terry Jones stated that to his knowledge Ireland had banned only four movies, three of which he had directed: The Meaning of Life, Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Personal Services. He was also the creator and co-producer of the animated television program Blazing Dragons, which ran for two seasons. set in a fantasy medieval setting, the series’ protagonists are dragons who are beset by evil humans, reversing a common story convention. When the series was broadcast on US television, several episodes were censored due to minor cursing and the implied sexuality of an overtly effeminate character named “Sir Blaze”. The series was turned into a game for the Sega Saturn in 1994, featuring Jones’s voice. He co-wrote Ripping Yarns with Palin, and wrote the screenplay for Labyrinth (1986), although his draft went through several rewrites and several other writers before being filmed; much of the finished film wasn’t written by Jones at all. He has also written numerous works for children, including Fantastic Stories, The Beast with a Thousand Teeth, and a collection of Comic Verse called The Curse of the Vampire’s Socks.
He has written books and presented many award nominated television documentaries on medieval and ancient history and the history of numeral systems. such ad Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives (2004) (for which he received a 2004 Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming”) and Terry Jones’ Barbarians (2006) which presents the cultural achievements of peoples conquered by the Roman Empire in a more positive light than Roman historians typically have, while criticising the Romans as the true “barbarians” who exploited and destroyed higher civilizations (Romanes eunt Domus!)
He has written numerous editorials for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Observer condemning the Iraq war. Many of these editorials were published in a paperback collection titled Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror. Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary (1980) offers an alternative take on the historical view of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale as being a paragon of Christian virtue. His most recent book, Evil Machines, was launched by the online publishing house Unbound at the Adam Street Club in London on 4 November 2011. Evil Machines is the first book to be published by a crowd funding website dedicated solely to books. Jones provided significant support to Unbound and also a member of the UK Poetry Society, his poems have also appeared in Poetry Review.
Jones has performed with The Carnival Band and appears on their 2007 CD Ringing the changes. In January 2008, the Teatro São Luiz, in Lisbon, Portugal, premiered Evil Machines – a musical play, written by Jones (based on his book) and with original music by Luis Tinoco. Jones was invited by the Teatro São Luiz to write and direct the play, after a very successful run of Contos Fantásticos, a short play based on Jones’ Fantastic Stories, also with music by Luis Tinoco. In January 2012, it was announced that Jones is working with songwriter/producer Jim Steinman on a heavy metal version of “The Nutcracker.” Apart from a cameo in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky and a memorable minor role as a drunken vicar in BBC sitcom The Young Ones, Jones has rarely appeared in work outside of his own projects. Since January 2009, however, he has provided narration for The Legend of Dick and Dom, a CBBC fantasy series set in the Middle Ages. He also appears in two French films by Albert Dupontel : Le Créateur (1999) and Enfermés dehors (2006). In 2009 Jones took part in the BBC Wales programme Coming Home which featured his Welsh family history.