Jones in 2014
Terence Graham Parry Jones
1 February 1942
|Alma mater||St Edmund Hall, Oxford|
|Known for||Monty Python|
(m. 1970; div. 2012)
Anna Söderström (m. 2012)
Terence Graham Parry Jones (born 1 February 1942) is a Welsh actor, writer, comedian, screenwriter, film director and historian. He was a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe.
After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in history, Jones and writing partner Michael Palin (whom he met at Oxford) wrote and performed for several high-profile British comedy programmes, including Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Frost Report, before creating Monty Python's Flying Circus with Cambridge graduates Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman, and American animator/filmmaker Terry Gilliam. Jones was largely responsible for the programme's innovative, surreal structure, in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with the team's first film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed the subsequent Python films, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.
Jones co-created and co-wrote with Palin the anthology series Ripping Yarns. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson's 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of his work remained in the final cut. He is a well-respected medieval historian, having written several books and presented television documentaries about the period, as well as a prolific children's book author.
In 2016, Jones received a Lifetime Achievement award at the BAFTA Cymru Awards for his outstanding contribution to television and film.
Jones was born in the seaside town of Colwyn Bay, on the north coast of Wales. The family home was named Bodchwil. His father was stationed with the RAF in India. When Jones was four-and-a-half, the family moved to Surrey in England.
Jones attended primary school at Esher COE school and later attended the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, where he was school captain in the 1960-61 academic year. He read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, but "strayed into history". He became interested in the medieval period through reading Chaucer as part of his English degree. He graduated with a 2:1. While there, he performed comedy with future Monty Python castmate Michael Palin in the Oxford Revue. Jones was a year ahead of Palin at Oxford, and on first meeting him Palin states, "The first thing that struck me was what a nice bloke he was. He had no airs and graces. We had a similar idea of what humour could do and where it should go, mainly because we both liked characters; we both appreciated that comedy wasn't just jokes."
Jones appeared in Twice a Fortnight with Michael Palin, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Jonathan Lynn, as well as the television series The Complete and Utter History of Britain (1969). He appeared in Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-69) with Palin, Eric Idle and David Jason. He wrote for The Frost Report and several other David Frost programmes on British television.
Early on, Jones was interested in devising a fresh format for the Python TV shows, and it was largely he who developed the stream-of-consciousness style which abandoned punchlines and encouraged the fluid movement of one sketch into another, allowing the troupe's conceptual humour the space to "breathe". Jones took a keen interest in the direction of the show. As demonstrated in many of his sketches with Palin, Jones was interested in making comedy that was visually impressive, feeling that interesting settings augmented, rather than distracted from, the humour. His methods encouraged many future television comedians to break away from conventional studio-bound shooting styles, as demonstrated by shows such as Green Wing, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen.
Of Jones' contributions as a performer, his depictions of middle-aged women (or "ratbag old women" as termed by the BBC) are among the most memorable. His humour, in collaboration with Palin, tends to be conceptual in nature. A typical Palin/Jones sketch draws its humour from the absurdity of the scenario. For example, in the "All-England Summarise Proust Competition", sketch, Jones plays a cheesy game show host who gives contestants 15 seconds to condense Marcel Proust's lengthy work À la recherche du temps perdu. Jones was also noted for his gifts as a Charlie Chaplin-esque physical comedian. His performance in the "Undressing in Public" sketch, for instance, is done in total silence.
Jones co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Terry Gilliam, and was sole director on two further Monty Python movies, Life of Brian and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. As a film director, Jones finally gained fuller control of the projects and devised a visual style that complemented the humour. His later films include Erik the Viking (1989) and The Wind in the Willows (1996). In 2008, Jones wrote the libretto for and directed the opera Evil Machines. In 2011, he was commissioned to direct and write the libretto for another opera, entitled The Doctor's Tale.
On the commentary track of the 2004 "2 Disc Special Edition" DVD for the film Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Jones stated that to his knowledge Ireland had at the time banned four movies, three of which he had directed: The Meaning of Life, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Personal Services.
Jones directed the 2015 comedy film Absolutely Anything, about a disillusioned schoolteacher who is given the chance to do anything he wishes by a group of aliens watching from space. The film features Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Robin Williams and the voices of the five remaining members of Monty Python. It was shot in London during a 6-week shoot.
Jones has written many books and screenplays, including comic works and more serious writing on medieval history.
Jones co-wrote Ripping Yarns with Palin. They also wrote a play, Underwood's Finest Hour, about an obstetrician distracted during a birth by the radio broadcast of a Test match, which played at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in 1981. Jones has also written numerous works for children, including Fantastic Stories, The Beast with a Thousand Teeth, and a collection of comic verse called The Curse of the Vampire's Socks.
Jones was also the co-creator (with Gavin Scott) of the animated TV series Blazing Dragons (1996-1998), which parodied the Arthurian legends and Middle Ages periods. Reversing a common story convention, the series' protagonists are anthropomorphic dragons beset by evil humans.
Jones wrote the screenplay for Labyrinth (1986), although his draft went through several rewrites and several other writers before being filmed; consequently, much of the finished film wasn't actually written by Jones.
--Python biographer George Perry on Jones.
Jones has written books and presented television documentaries on medieval and ancient history. His first book was Chaucer's Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary (1980), which offers an alternative take on Geoffrey Chaucer's The Knight's Tale. Chaucer's knight is often interpreted as a paragon of Christian virtue, but Jones asserts that if one studies historical accounts of the battles the knight claims he was involved in, he can be interpreted as a typical mercenary and a potentially cold-blooded killer. He also co-wrote Who Murdered Chaucer? (2003) in which he argues that Chaucer was close to King Richard II, and that after Richard was deposed, Chaucer was persecuted to death by Thomas Arundel.
Jones' TV series also frequently challenge popular views of history. For example, Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (2004; for which he received a 2004 Emmy nomination for "Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming") argues that the Middle Ages was a more sophisticated period than is popularly thought, and Terry Jones' Barbarians (2006) presents the cultural achievements of peoples conquered by the Roman Empire in a more positive light than Roman historians typically have, while criticising the Romans as the true "barbarians" who exploited and destroyed higher civilisations.
He wrote numerous editorials for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Observer condemning the Iraq War. Many of these editorials were published in a paperback collection titled Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror.
In November 2011 his book Evil Machines was launched by the online publishing house Unbound at the Adam Street Club in London. It was the first book to be published by a crowdfunding website dedicated solely to books. Jones provided significant support to Unbound as they developed their publishing concept. In February 2018, Jones released his latest book The Tyrant and the Squire, also with Unbound.
Jones has performed with the Carnival Band and appears on their 2007 CD Ringing the Changes (Park Records PRKCD98).
In January 2008, the Teatro São Luiz, in Lisbon, Portugal, premiered Evil Machines - a musical play, written by Jones (based on his book) and with original music by Portuguese composer Luis Tinoco. Jones was invited by the Teatro São Luiz to write and direct the play, after a very successful run of Contos Fantásticos, a short play based on Jones' Fantastic Stories, also with music by Luis Tinoco.
Apart from a cameo in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky and a memorable minor role as a drunken vicar in the BBC sitcom The Young Ones, Jones has rarely appeared in work outside his own projects. From 2009 to 2011, however, he provided narration for The Legend of Dick and Dom, a CBBC fantasy series set in the Middle Ages. He also appears in two French films by Albert Dupontel: Le Créateur (1999) and Enfermés dehors (2006).
In 2009 Jones took part in the BBC Wales programme Coming Home about his Welsh family history. In July 2014, Jones reunited with the other four living Pythons to perform at 10 dates (Monty Python Live (Mostly)) at the O2 Arena in London. This was Jones last performance with the group prior to his aphasia diagnosis.
Jones married Alison Telfer in 1970, and they have two children together, Sally (born in 1974), and Bill (born in 1976). Jones and Telfer had an open marriage. In 2009, Jones left her for Anna Söderström, who is 41 years his junior and with whom he had been in a relationship for five years. In September 2009, a daughter, Siri, was born to Söderström and Jones.
In 2015, Jones was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of frontotemporal dementia that impairs the ability to speak and communicate. He had first given cause for concern during the Monty Python reunion show Monty Python Live (Mostly) in July 2014 because of difficulties learning his lines. By September 2016, he was no longer able to give interviews. During an interview at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival on 8 April 2017, fellow Python member Michael Palin revealed that Jones is no longer able to speak.
|The Frost Report||1966-1967||Yes|
|A Series of Bird's||1967||Yes||Additional material|
|Twice a Fortnight||1967||Yes||Yes||Various characters|
|Do Not Adjust Your Set||1967-1969||Yes||Yes||Various characters|
|Broaden Your Mind||1968||Yes||Yes||Various characters||Additional material|
|The Complete and Utter History of Britain||1969||Yes||Yes||Yes||Various characters||Also co-creator|
|Christmas Night with the Stars||1969, 1972||Yes||Yes||Various characters|
|Monty Python's Flying Circus||1969-1974||Yes||Yes||Yes||Various characters||Also co-creator|
|Frost on Sunday||1970||Yes|
|Marty Amok||1970||Yes||Television special|
|The Two Ronnies||1971-1976||Yes||13 episodes|
|Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus||1972||Yes||Yes||Various characters|
|Black and Blue||1973||Yes||Episode: "Secrets"|
|Ripping Yarns||1976-1979||Yes||Yes||Yes||Mr. Ellis / Bear / Mr. Moodie / Director||Also co-creator|
|The Mermaid Frolics||1977||Yes||Yes||Yes||Various characters||Television special|
|Saturday Night Live||1978||Yes||Orson Welles' director (voice)||Episode: "Michael Palin/Eugene Record"|
|Peter Cook & Co.||1980||Yes||Various characters||Television special|
|The Rupert Bear Story: A Tribute to Alfred Bestall||1982||Yes||Yes||Yes||Himself||Television documentary|
|The Young Ones||1984||Yes||Drunk Vicar||Episode: "Nasty"|
|The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles||1992||Yes||Yes||Marcello||Episode: "Barcelona, May 1917"|
|Blazing Dragons||1996-1998||Yes||Co-creator and executive producer|
|Ancient Inventions||1998||Yes||Yes||Presenter||3 episodes|
|Boy in Darkness||2000||Yes||Storyteller||Television short film|
|Gladiators: The Brutal Truth||2000||Yes||Presenter|
|Comedy Lab||2001, 2010||Yes||Knife (voice) / Handyman||2 episodes|
|The Hidden History of Egypt||2002||Yes||Yes||Presenter|
|The Hidden History of Rome||2002||Yes||Yes||Presenter|
|Dinotopia||2002||Yes||Messenger Bird (voice)|
|The Surprising History of Sex and Love||2002||Yes||Yes||Presenter|
|Terry Jones' Medieval Lives||2004||Yes||Yes||Presenter||8 episodes|
|The Story of 1||2005||Yes||Presenter||Documentary|
|Terry Jones' Barbarians||2006||Yes||Yes||Presenter||4 episodes|
|Kombat Opera Presents||2007||Yes||Episode: "The South Bragg Show"|
|Terry Jones' Great Map Mystery||2008||Yes||Presenter||4 episodes|
|The Legend of Dick and Dom||2009-2011||Yes||Narrator|
|Perspectives||2015||Yes||Presenter||Episode: "In Charlie Chaplin's Footsteps"|
|And Now for Something Completely Different||1971||Yes||Yes||Various characters|
|Monty Python and the Holy Grail||1975||Yes||Yes||Yes||Sir Bedevere the Wise / Various|
|Monty Python's Life of Brian||1979||Yes||Yes||Yes||Various characters|
|The Box||1981||Yes||Yes||Harrington (voice)||Short film|
|Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl||1982||Yes||Yes||Various characters||Concert film|
|The Crimson Permanent Assurance||1983||Yes||Very Big Corporation of America Clerk||Uncredited|
|Monty Python's The Meaning of Life||1983||Yes||Yes||Yes||Various characters|
|Erik the Viking||1989||Yes||Yes||Yes||King Arnulf|
|L.A. Story||1991||Yes||Sara's Mother (voice)||Uncredited|
|The Wind in the Willows||1996||Yes||Yes||Yes||Mr. Toad|
|Asterix & Obelix Take On Caesar||1999||Yes||Obelix (voice)||English version|
|Help! I'm a Fish||2000||Yes||Professor Mac Krill (voice)||English version|
|Locked Out||2006||Yes||Homeless person|
|Anna and the Moods||2007||Yes||Narrator (voice)||Short film|
|King Guillaume||2009||Yes||Oxford Professor|
|Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)||2010||Yes||Workingman / Mexican / Mountie|
|A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman||2012||Yes||Graham's mother / Various voices|
|Monty Python Live (Mostly)||2014||Yes||Yes||Various characters|
|Absolutely Anything||2015||Yes||Yes||Yes||Scientist Alien (voice) / Van Driver|
|Boom Bust Boom||2015||Yes||Yes||Yes||Presenter||Documentary|
Jones has published a number of articles on political and social commentary, principally in newspapers The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, and The Observer. Many of these articles criticised the War on Terror, belittling it as "declaring war on an abstract noun" and comparing it to attempting to "annihilate mockery".
In August 2014, Jones was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.
|Monty Python and
the Holy Grail
Life of Brian
|Monty Python's The
Meaning of Life
|The Wind in