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Terry Jones, Longtime Member of Monty Python Dies

LONDON - Terry Jones, a longtime member of the iconic comedy group Monty Python, died at his home in Highgate, England on Jan. 21. He was 77.

Jones was born in Wales in 1942 and moved to England when he was a young boy and he eventually attended Oxford, where he studied English and met fellow student and ultimate Python member Michael Palin, with whom he wrote and performed comedy sketches. In 1969, they teamed up with John Cleese and Graham Chapman, along with Eric Idle and animator Terry Gilliam, to create the show that became known as 'Monty Python's Flying Circus," (though it was nearly called Owl Stretching Time).

Jones used drag on the show and played a number of middle-aged battle-axes stomping across the screen in support hose and headscarves. And when he wasn't in dresses, he might appear nude, seated at an organ as a superlatively silly bit of visual punctuation between sketches. (The BBC credits Jones with pushing the Pythons away from traditional punch lines and towards those surreal moments — the naked organist, or Chapman in full military kit, shutting down a sketch for being "too silly.") And of course, he co-wrote the famous "Spam" sketch, which gave us today's term for a flood of junk email.

"The one thing we all agreed on, our chief aim, was to be totally unpredictable and never to repeat ourselves," he told The New York Times during a 2009 interview. "We wanted to be unquantifiable. That 'pythonesque' is now an adjective in the O.E.D. means we failed utterly."

After "Monty Python" went off the air in 1974, Jones went on to make several movies of his own, including 1989's "Erik the Viking," starring Tim Robbins and loosely based on one of the children's books he had written. He also made documentaries that showed his interest in ancient and medieval history, and published two books on Geoffrey Chaucer. In a 2011 interview with Wales Online, Jones said that was what he'd like to be remembered for: "Maybe a description of me as a writer of children's books or some of my academic stuff. Or maybe as the man who restored Richard II's reputation. He was a terrible victim of 14th century political spin, you know."

In 2016, Jones announced he had been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of dementia that eventually robbed him of his ability to speak.

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