The dead Python sketch - farewell to Terry Jones

Steven Ross discusses the work of Terry Jones, the Monty Python star who died in January.

Steven Ross
31st January 2020
Terry Jones, Monty Python's Life of Brian. Image, Youtube

'E's passed on! Terry Jones is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! This is an ex-Python!

Sadly, it’s two down and four to go as, on 21st January , Terry Jones became the second member of the comedy group Monty Python to die. Jones was perhaps most famous for narrating The Legend of Dick and Dom… actually, scratch that, his involvement with all the Monty Python projects, will no doubt be the legacy he leaves behind.

And what a fantastic epitaph. Monty Python’s Flying Circus first aired in 1969 and revolutionised British comedy, ignoring established convention and never being afraid to be very, very silly. Jones was often seen in drag or as a nude organist in many of the show’s best sketches. After the series ended, Jones kept with the comedy group and co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Meaning of Life whilst directing Monty Python’s Life of Brian solo.

Meaning of Life is probably the weakest Python film in the same way that Charlie Kray was weaker than Reggie and Ronnie.

Holy Grail brought everything that was brilliant in Flying Circus and turned it into a feature film that is still routinely quoted by film buffs today, over 40 years since its release. Life of Brian is my personal favourite, perhaps because it had for a time been Banned in Norway, Ireland, Devon, and Aberystwyth and this lent watching the controversial caper an air of naughtiness. There are quotes galore here too, but most famous of all is Jones’s line, ‘He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy’. Meaning of Life is probably the weakest Python film in the same way that Charlie Kray was weaker than Ronnie and Reggie.

Jones will always be defined by Python

Outside of Python, Jones wrote several books and shows on revisionist history as well as the TV movie series, The Surprising History. He continued to make appearances with his fellow Python’s through all the spin off shows and documentaries until as recently as 2014. Jones, like Chapman, Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, and Palin will always be defined by Python, no matter how great their other bodies of work. And that’s no bad thing. Monty Python defined Britain for a time. It is up there with Black Adder, Bond and Brexit as a critical part of this nation’s identity. Without Jones, it is hard to believe that it would have been so ground-breaking.       

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