Terry Jones, a member of the Monty Python troupe passed away after years of suffering from a degenerative brain disease and dementia. It was not a shock because Jones and his family had been quite open with his diagnosis since 2016, but still it’s very sad.
Of late, it’s been very trendy for internet comentators to villify and attack the members of Monty Python, essentially because the group was not somehow retroactively diverse enough, and were pretty vocally unapologetic about that fact. The mob decrying them for criticizing the concept of mob mentality is quite Pythonesque. The fact is that they brought joy to millions of people over the last fifty years and changed the face of comedy.
The Pythons have been called “The Beatles of comedy” and it’s a fair label. They took the conventions of the form and reinvented them into something new, special and memorable.
Jones was the renaissance man of the troupe. With his writing partner, Michael Palin, he managed to contribute material to the group that was both gentle and vicious, and always hysterical. Aside from writing and acting in Python, he also directed or co-directed their feature films, wrote children’s books, political commentary, scholarly literary works and hosted television programs about history.
In Monty Python he was the Naked Man at the organ, the Pepperpot, one of the Spanish Inquistion, Arthur “Two Shed” Jackson, Mr. Creosote and dozens of other hilarious characters.
Outside of Python, he directed Jabberwocky, Erik The Viking and other movies, and co-wrote the script for the Jim Henson movie, Labyrinth. Plus he was the only member of Monty Python to appear in The Young Ones, the British cult hit that carried groundbreaking comedy into the next generation. With Palin, Jones also created Ripping Yarns, an anthology series of very British comedic adventure tales.
His passing was long expected, so it wasn’t as shocking as the sudden death of Python associate Neil Innes just a few weeks ago, or the early death of fellow Python Graham Chapman, who died of cancer over thirty years ago. It still hits pretty hard.
I try not to focus on obituaries here in PopCult. I’ve reached an age where the death of any famous person who isn’t younger than I am isn’t really that much of a shock. Jones was 77, and Python began over 50 years ago.
However, I couldn’t let the death of Terry Jones go without a mention. Monty Python is one of the major influences in my life, and it’s safe to say that I would probably have taken a different course had it not been for the work of Jones and the other Pythons.
The fact is that the comedy of Monty Python is timeless, and it will outlive all of the members of the troupe, and also those of us who have been devout fans for the past five decades.
So long, Terry. Say “hi” to Graham and Neil for us, okay?
And quit pestering Chaucer. You’ll have plenty of time to talk to him.