Terry Jones, the Welsh comedian, writer, and director known for his founding membership in the British comedy troupe Monty Python, died Tuesday at his home in London. He was 77.
The New York Times reports his passing was confirmed by his ex-wife, Alison Telfer.
In 2016, Jones announced he had been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, an uncommon neurological disease that affects communication and can present in the form of behavior that seems rude or insensitive. The disease had first affected Jones when he struggled to remember lines for shows at London's O2 in 2014, leading to a 2015 diagnosis.
Born February 1, 1942, in Wales, Jones studied at Oxford ahead of a career in the '60s as a top TV comedy writer.
Along with Michael Palin (Jones' primary writing partner), Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman (who died in 1989), Jones was the star of the subversive BBC series "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (1969-1974). Terry Gilliam, at first the group's offbeat animator, later became a full member.
The sketch-comedy show was sensationally popular in England, and enjoyed a cult following from the mid-'70s on in the U.S. thanks to airings on PBS.
By then, the troupe had starred in the film "And Now for Something Completely Different" (1971), a big-screen collection of vignettes, and in the King Arthur parody "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975), co-directed by Jones with Terry Gilliam. The Pythons went on to star in "Monty Python's Life of Brian" (1979) and "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" (1983), both solely directed by Jones.
Jones often donned drag for his Python duties, as in "Life of Brian," in which he uttered the immortal line, "He's not the Messiah — he's a very naughty boy!"
The Monty Python outlook on life — absurdist, deadpan, and capable of provoking both laughter and a critical analysis of religious, political, sexual, and gender mores — became so distinct it led to the inclusion of "pythonesque" in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Jones also directed films outside the Python universe, including "Personal Services" (1987), "Erik the Viking" (1989), and "Absolutely Anything" (2015), and he wrote across all media, perhaps most prominently as the credited screenwriter of the David Bowie film "Labyrinth" (1986).
Outside film, Jones was an anti-war activist and historian, wrote children's books, poetry, and was a scholarly expert on Chaucer, publishing the book "Chaucer's Knight" (1980), a take-off on "The Canterbury Tales."
Jones is survived by his wife of seven years, Anna Söderström, by their child together, and by two children from his marriage to Telfer.
Jones' comedy compatriots have reacted to his passing on social media, including Steve Martin, who tweeted, "OMG (Oh my God), so funny. Salute to Terry Jones," and Michael Palin, who tweeted, "You will be very missed old friend. I feel very fortunate to have shared so much of my life with Terry."
Just heard about Terry J— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) January 22, 2020
It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away...
Of his many achievements, for me the greatest gift he gave us all was his direction of 'Life of Brian'. Perfection
Two down, four to go
I loved him the moment I saw him on stage at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963. So many laughs,moments of total hilarity onstage and off we have all shared with him. It’s too sad if you knew him,but if you didn’t you will always smile at the many wonderfully funny moments he gave us— Eric Idle (@EricIdle) January 22, 2020
Terry Jones was the absolute best— John Oliver (@iamjohnoliver) January 22, 2020
May the dear, great Terry Jones find eternal peace in the loving embrace of Jesus Christ. Or more likely of Brian.— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) January 22, 2020