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“He’s not the Messiah he’s a very naughty boy” is perhaps the most well-known line spoken by the late Terry Jones, who has died due to complication of dementia at age 77. The actor, comedian and screen writer became a household name in 1969 as part of the comedy group Monty Python, alongside John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman, their legacy still being found in modern comedy shows like Saturday Night Live, the Simpsons and with Sacha Baron Cohen.
As a Python, Jones’s influence was best seen in their often bizarre songs many of which he wrote, including the Lumberjack song, a slightly dated piece about a cross dressing woodcutter and the Spam song, which is surprisingly from where the ‘spam’ title for your email folder is derived.
It was through the Python’s that Terry Jones received his directorial debut, first off as a co-director in the 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a hilarious retelling of the Arthurian quest for the holy grail. Yet it wasn’t until 1979 that Jones would get free control of the Python’s cinematic efforts, in the Life of Brian. A satirical take on the life of Christ, the film was met with fierce opposition from religious groups, but was a significant improvement over the Holy Grail, with Jones’s solo effort providing a more focused and concise comedic plot of an accidental messiah, that saw him rewarded with the creative reigns of the Python’s follow-up films.
In front of the camera, Terry Jones often played larger than life characters, from Cardinal Biggles to the musical Prince Herbert. But Perhaps his most well-known was as Brian’s mother in The Life of Brian. It was here that he stole several scenes with his high pitch delivery and grotesque appearance, the most famous being Jones’s perfect delivery “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” to an amassing crowd outside his house.
His comfort with the ridiculous and the grotesque was also found in another of the Python’s more memorable moments, in their final feature film. Appearing as the egregiously enormous and beyond vulgar Mr Creosote, his continuous eating, and vomiting was the Python’s at their finest – and was also perhaps the largest amount of fake vomit to have appeared on a screen.
Beyond Monty Python Jones established himself as a medieval author and amateur historian, producing documentaries for the BBC in the early 2000s, on topics including the Barbarians, Egypt and Rome, dissecting the everyday lives of ancient civilisations – which often provided ample opportunity to dress up as man and woman alike.
In 2016, then 74-year-old Terry was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a degenerative form of dementia that directly affects the ability to communicate. As a result of the disease he passed away on the 21 January, survived by his wife Anna, their daughter Siri and his two children Bill and Sally from his marriage.