Remembering the Monty Python comedy genius.
It’s the inevitable result of growing older that your childhood idols will increasingly die off, but that doesn’t make it any more palatable, and the death today of Terry Jones is especially sad. As a teenager, Jones was one of the people – along with his fellow Pythons – who changed my life. I was obsessed with Monty Python, at a time when you couldn’t even see the original TV show. But the books, the records and the movies were enough at the time – constantly read or listened too, the films eagerly seen whenever they were re-released. Like a lot of Python fans, I was most drawn to John Cleese, who I was already familiar with from another obsession, Fawlty Towers. But it was Jones who seemed to provide the most interesting and outrageous characters, from Brian’s mother to assorted stuffed shirts and smug authority figures – not to mention the magnificent Mr Creosote in the later Meaning of Life. More than that, the fact that Jones was directing the Python movies made him integral to their comedy for me.
Beyond Python, we should never underestimate the magnificent Ripping Yarns, for which Jones was overshadowed by co-writer and star Michael Palin. He played a major part in the success of the show, however. Post-Python, he would make Personal Services, a much underrated sex comedy based on Cynthia Payne, and less interesting films like The Wind in the Willows and Erik the Viking, as well as presenting entertaining history documentaries for the BBC and writing children’s books. He appeared with the other Pythons in their 2014 stage reunion, just in time – by 2016, he had been diagnosed with the dementia that would eventually kill him.
I can still watch the Python movies, again and again – they never become remotely less funny for me. And Jones – whether he’s grubbing in the dirt complaining about unelected kings, telling crowds that Brian is “not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”, being outraged that anyone could object to Crunchy Frog chocolates, or taking one more wafer thin mint – was a leading part of that.