Welcome to An Other Thing, an ongoing series of columns written by MusicTAP’s staff on a variety of pop culture subjects. These may be, but don’t necessarily have to be, about music (hence the title – aren’t we clever?).
Okay, so maybe not nearly as clever as Monty Python alum Terry Jones, who sadly passed away last night due to a rare form of dementia. He had been living with it for many years, and occasionally we would hear from one of his Python teammates about how sad it was, that a man with such a gift for language would be robbed of effective communication skills toward the end of his life. We at MusicTAP agree.
“We are deeply saddened to have to announce the passing of beloved husband and father, Terry Jones,” his family said in a statement.
“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.
“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. We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades.”
Born in North Wales, Jones met his long-term collaborator and friend, Michael Palin, at Oxford College. The two wrote and performed sketches on a number of comedy shows until they came into the company of writing duo John Cleese and Graham Chapman, as well as writer Eric Idle and later animator and U.S. expat Terry Gilliam. They comprised the legendary Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran on the BBC for four seasons between 1969-74. Jones would go on to co-direct Monty Python and the Holy Grail (with Gilliam) and direct The Life of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life.
Post-Python, Jones continued directing and writing, with one of his best-known efforts being writing the script for the Jim Henson film Labyrinth, co-starring David Bowie. He also adapted the computer game Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic as a novel and read it for the audiobook version.
If that was not enough, Jones also became known as a noted scholar of medieval and ancient history, and wrote several non-fiction books.
We’re probably not going to remember him for these, I’ll bet. More likely, we’ll remember his string of “pepperpot ladies” who spouted such lines as, “Well, it wouldn’t be egg, bacon, spam and sausage without the spam, now wouldn’t it?” or “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”
It is safe to say that Terry Jones, in part, changed comedy in a fundamental way, eschewing schtick for a faster, more cerebral, certainly more anarchic tone. We are all the better for it.