Terry Jones, the man who made Monty Python the cultural comedic force of its era and directed its biggest feature films including Life of Brian, has passed away.
Jones’ family announced that Jones had succumbed to his long battle with dementia, which was first reported in 2015.
“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,” the family wrote.
His longtime friend and collaborator Michael Palin said “[Jones] 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.”
In 1969, Jones and Palin began the comedy sketch show that would make them famous. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which Jones created with Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and animator Terry Gilliam. The show’s aesthetic is so familiar now that describing it feels superfluous, but there has been nothing like it before or since. Daring, surreal, pointed, shocking, thoughtful and always, always funny, Monty Python was one of the most influential comedy creations the century. It spawned millions of fans, hundreds of catchphrases and a host of imitators, but the knockoffs couldn’t even come close to the real thing. They didn’t have Jones, after all.
Jones co-directed Monthy Python and the Holy Grail, the troupe’s first foray into feature filmmaking. He directed the follow-up Life of Brian by himself. Life of Brian was a box office hit and a global controversy, a satirical re-telling of the life of Jesus that spawned accusations of blasphemy. Jones disagreed.
“I took the view it wasn’t blasphemous,” he told the Radio Times in 2011. “It was heretical because it criticized the structure of the church and the way it interpreted the Gospels. At the time religion seemed to be on the back burner and it felt like kicking a dead donkey. It has come back with a vengeance and we’d think twice about making it now.”
“I’m amazed we’re still discussing it, and I don’t know why,” he said in the same interview. “There’s lots of other good stuff around. I suspect it’s overrated.”
“Although,” he added. “It’s pretty good.”