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Friday, Sep 25, 2020

Terry Jones: Monty Python stars pay tribute to comedy great

Monty Python stars have led the tributes to their co-star Terry Jones, who has died at the age of 77.

The Welsh actor and writer played a variety of characters in the iconic comedy group's Flying Circus TV series, and directed several of their films.

He died on Tuesday, four years after contracting a rare form of dementia known as FTD.

David Walliams and Simon Pegg were among other comedians who remembered him.

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

In a tweet, John Cleese said he was "a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm".

Eric Idle, another member of the highly influential comedy troupe, recalled the "many laughs [and] moments of total hilarity" they shared.

"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," he went on.

Terry Gilliam, with whom Jones directed the group's film The Holy Grail in 1975, described his fellow Python as a "brilliant, constantly questioning, iconoclastic, righteously argumentative and angry but outrageously funny and generous and kind human being".

"One could never hope for a better friend," he said.

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, Idle and the likes of David Jason, he appeared in the BBC children's satirical sketch show Do Not Adjust Your Set, which would set the template for their work to come with Python.

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. These included Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson, Cardinal Biggles of the Spanish Inquisition and Mr Creosote.

In addition to directing The Holy Grail with Gilliam, Jones took sole directorial charge of 1979's Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life in 1983.

Cleese said: "Of his many achievements, for me the greatest gift he gave us all was his direction of Life of Brian. Perfection."

Beyond Monty Python, he wrote the screenplay for the 1986 film Labyrinth, starring David Bowie.

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

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."

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.'"


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