Terry Jones: Monty Python star dies aged 77
Now there was a Scrogue. I used to show the last episode of his “Crusades” series to my World History students. It ended with Terry putting the legacy of the Crusades’ religious violence into context for the modern world. I had a list of questions for my students to answer about the material and one of them started out “No! Don’t stand up!” Terry Jones started his talk about the importance of Medieval washer women by sitting in the sea off the coast. Eventually he stands up and proceeds to pace professorially in a Speedo as he continued his lecture.
Just one tiny mint, sir.
To me it seems that, artistically and intellectually, Terry Jones “had the lot.”
Life is a little less absurd now, regrettably…
One thing I loved about Terry Jones was that he made an appearance on an episode of the Young Ones, playing a drunk vicar at a funeral. The scene wasn’t as funny as it could have been, but it felt like a great gesture to have a comedic legend stop by and help out these younger comedians who were still trying to figure out how to make a TV show.
If any of the other Pythons had done it, I don’t think it would have worked. Cleese would have been too critical of the cast and might have convinced them to find another line of work. Palin would have had a softer touch, but probably the same outcome. Idle would have soured it with too much self-promotion and spotlight stealing. Gilliam? God, who knows what Gilliam would have done but it probably would have cost the whole season’s budget. Graham Chapman probably would have been okay, but maybe a little too stiff and absurdist to make it work. But with Terry Jones, the scene felt like a dad putting his hand on his kid’s shoulder and saying “you’re getting the hang of it – keep at it.”
At the end of the “Crusades” episode I showed my classes there was an artsy Mardi Gras-esque recreation of the Crusaders sacking Constantinople and seating a prostitute on the throne of the Orthodox Patriarch. She was in body paint from the waist up (giving her a kind of hairy looking chest). My students would initially freak out and I would tell them it was important to focus on what was being said. And they did! The material was so well done that the content survived the over-the-top visuals.
I’ve been threatening to use people’s testicles as castanets. I don’t know if it’s an appropriate tribute.
Coincidentally had just watched his 2015 film Absolutely Anything this weekend. It featured the voices of all of Monty Python and Robin Williams (as a dog).
I used to tell my students that one of the reasons why education is important is that it helps you get the joke. Terry Jones knew that and counted on it in his humor. He went a step further and contributed to people’s understanding, not only so that people would get the joke, but also so that people would have a greater appreciation for their history, culture, and humanity.
And in this respect he was so archetypally English. I noticed a long time ago that English humor often rewards intelligence while American comedy punishes it, and the smarter you were the funnier Jones got.
I always thought Life of Brian – directed solely by Jones – was Monty Python’s best film, actually, for this reason. Holy Grail – co-directed with Gilliam – is beloved by everybody. And why not? But it was the way Jones handled the socio-political and religious commentary in Brian that had me falling off the chair. Not that Holy Grail wasn’t informed as hell, but I’ve always remembered it more for its unrepentant silliness and Life of Brian for its penetrating satire.
I’m not sure I’m articulating this in a worthy fashion and no doubt I oversimplify, but I appreciate being respected by the folks behind the camera. And as an actor, a writer and director Terry Jones valued a smart audience.
I submit to you that Terry Jones did not, in fact, die of dementia. Statements that he did are merely a public cover-up to hide the fact that, in truth, Mr. Creosote ate him.
Which is, of course, exactly the way Mr. Jones would’ve wanted to go.
Thank you. Carry on.