Terry Jones, director, author, scholar, and founding member of the iconic British comedy troupe Monty Python, has died. Per the Associated Press, the family confirmed that the comedian died Tuesday night “after a long, extremely brave but always good humored battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD.” Their statement continued: “We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humor has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades. His work with Monty Python, his books, films, television programs, poems and other work will live on forever, a fitting legacy to a true polymath.” He was 77 years old.
Born in Wales in 1942, Jones attended Oxford University. While pursuing a degree in English he met future writing partner Michael Palin. Together they wrote and performed for a number of notable British programs like Do Not Adjust Your Set before ultimately forming Monty Python with Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman, and American animator Terry Gilliam. With Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Jones helped raise the bar for British comedy and laid the foundation for a worldwide phenomenon. Not only did he perform, he also wrote and directed their most renowned work including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life.
After the troupe dissolved in the ‘80s, Jones authored historical books on the medieval and ancient history, presented a number of documentaries, and wrote the screenplay for the 1986 David Bowie starrer, Labyrinth. His comedic work was destined to positively impact future generations in 2005 with the Broadway premiere of Spamalot, written by fellow alum Idle. In 2016 Jones was diagnosed with with frontotemporal dementia, a rare form for dementia that led to primary progressive aphasia and hindered his ability to write and speak.
With a passion for both history and comedy, Jones produced humor that was all at once intelligent, crass, dignified, and silly. “The funny thing about history is that we imagine that people didn’t laugh in the old days, but of course they did, at stupid things.”