Terry Jones, best known as one of the founders of Monty Python, and a beloved and renowned comedian in every sense of these words, died on January 21 this year, at the age of 77.
“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,” his family said in a statement.
Jones was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2015, but he and his family made his condition public a year later. In fact, Jones even appeared at a Bafta Cymru awards ceremony, raising awareness of the disease.
Jones’s professional achievements span half a century and various forms of entertainment, creative writing, self-expression, and journalism. After graduating from Oxford, where he studied English literature, he started writing and performing in many TV shows alongside Michael Palin and various other comedy giants-to-be , including future Monty Python co-stars John Cleese and Eric Idle.
It was in 1969 that Jones and Palin united forces with Cleese, Chapman, Idle, and animator Terry Gilliam, channeling them into a BBC comedy sketch show which came to be known as Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The show, which ran until 1974, became a true game-changer, breaking through fixed comedy formats and reshaping them for other aspiring comedians to play with. Jones’s female impersonations are ubiquitously considered one of the show’s cornerstones, along with his writing, of course.
After that, Jones started being increasingly drawn to directing. He famously directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail alongside Terry Gilliam, before taking complete directorial charge with Life of Brian, and he clearly did well.
After these major achievements, Monty Python decided to give feature films a break, Jones directed a couple on his own – Personal Services and Erik The Viking.
But directing was only one of Jones’s many loves. He went on to writing children’s books, columns in The Guardian and The Observer, which he eventually collected in a book, called Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror, referring to the Iraq war he was a fervent opponent of. Jones was also an avid historian, writing many books and creating documentaries exploring ancient and medieval history.
But even amidst a life, shaped by such towering professional heights, what stands out even more is the strictly personal mark Jones left on those he crossed paths with, which is eloquently encapsulated in his colleagues’ and loved ones’ words after his death:
“Farewell, Terry Jones. The great foot has come down to stamp on you. My god what pleasure you gave, what untrammelled joy and delight. What a wonderful talent, heart and mind,” comedian and writer Stephen Fry tweeted.
“It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away,” Cleese said.
“Terry was one of my closest, most valued friends. He was kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full,” Palin shared.
“36 years ago I met Terry Jones. I was meant to interview him. I asked for tea, so he opened a bottle of Chablis & got me drunk,” writer Neil Gaiman fondly remembered.