Entertainment

Monty Python performer and director Terry Jones dead at 77

Terry Jones, a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, has died at 77. He had been suffering from dementia.

Jones was diagnosed with dementia in 2016, 2 years after troupe reunited

Terry Jones, a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, has died. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Terry Jones, a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, has died at 77. He had been suffering from dementia.

Jones's agent said he died Tuesday evening. In a statement, his family said he died "after a long, extremely brave but always good-humoured battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD."

In 2016 he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, which gradually robbed him of the ability to write and speak.

Jones's wife, Anna Soderstrom, and children Bill, Sally and Siri, said "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."

With fellow Britons Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman and American Terry Gilliam, Jones formed Monty Python's Flying Circus, whose anarchic and surreal humour helped revolutionize comedy.

Jones performs on the closing night of Monty Python Live (Mostly) at The O2 Arena on July 20, 2014, in London. (Dave J. Hogan/Getty Images)

Jones wrote and performed for the troupe's TV series, which ran over five years on BBC and was later picked up in the U.S. by PBS, and their films.

Jones directed Monty Python's Life of Brian, with a co-director credit with Gilliam on Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Meaning of Life.

He went on to direct the non-Python films Personal Services starring Julie Walters and Erik the Viking starring Cleese and Tim Robbins.

He also wrote books on medieval and ancient history, presented documentaries, directed films, wrote poetry and wrote the script for the Jim Henson-directed fantasy film Labyrinth.

In 2014, the group reunited for a series of shows at London's O2 Arena, one of which was later filmed, entitled Monty Python Live (Mostly).

"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," they said.

The members of Monty Python are shown in an undated publicity still. From left to right: John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Eric Idle. (PBS/Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd/AP)

Chapman died in 1989 of cancer, while Neil Innes, the musician often known as the "seventh Python" for his contributions to their songs and sketches, died in December.

Palin paid tribute to his longtime colleague in a statement given to Britain's Press Association, while on social media Cleese, Idle, Gilliam and British comedians Stephen Fry and David Walliams were among those remembering Jones fondly.

"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," said Palin.

"So many laughs,moments of total hilarity onstage and off we have all shared with him," added Idle.

"Terry was someone totally consumed with life … a brilliant, constantly questioning, iconoclastic, righteously argumentative and angry but outrageously funny and generous and kind human being … and very often a complete pain in the ass," said Gilliam. "One could never hope for a better friend."

"It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away … Two down, four to go," said Cleese.

Born in Wales in 1942, Jones attended Oxford University, where he began writing and performing with fellow student Palin.

After leaving university, he wrote for seminal 1960s comedy series including The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set before Monty Python's Flying Circus was formed.

Jones's roles with the troupe included playing the mother of Brian, a hapless young man who is mistaken for Jesus. He delivered one of the Pythons' most famous lines: "He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!"

In Meaning of Life he portrayed Mr. Creosote, the corpulent fine dining patron who at first refuses a "wafer-thin mint" after his meal but then consumes it, exploding on his fellow restaurant goers.

With files from CBC News

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.