Iconic British comedy show Monty Python's Flying Circus recently celebrated its 47th birthday. For the past five decades, classic skits from the troupe have been entertaining audiences around the globe, with the five remaining Pythons (Graham Chapman having lost his battle with cancer back in 1989) taking over The O₂ in London for a run of shows back in 2014. Such is their enduring popularity that tickets to the first show sold out in just 45 seconds.
This year's celebrations, however, felt a little more subdued than usual.
Back in September, it was revealed that founding member Terry Jones (and this writer's personal favorite Python) had been diagnosed with a form of dementia called primary progressive aphasia. Affecting his speech and his ability to communicate, Jones is no longer able to give interviews. It is truly a sad fate for anyone, especially someone who built a career on entertaining people through clever writing and outlandish performances. When words are your legacy, it's terrible to imagine not being able to use them.
Quoted in a Telegraph article, fellow Python Michael Palin, who presented Jones with an honorary BAFTA Cymru for his services to film and television said:
[...] for words just not to even be there, not to utter anything, it's a terribly sad thing to befall anyone. I saw John (Cleese) yesterday and there's nothing much we can do but stand there and say, 'Oh God, what has happened to our friend?' But the Pythons will rally 'round.
We're fortunate, of course, that Jones is still with us. As sad as this diagnosis is, it's important to remember the reason we, as members of the public feel any affinity for Terry Jones at all — someone we actually don't know in person: To remember the wonderful things he created, whether it's a deliciously bizarre Monty Python character, a documentary, or one of his history books.
For me, Jones has been a constant source of inspiration. In fact, my first introduction to his work was not Monty Python, but a beautiful children's book called Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book — a lady might never reveal her age, but I will say that it was the beginning of a lengthy love affair with his work.
In celebration of Jones's BAFTA Cymru win, and of his body of work in general, here's a look at some of my favorite moments from his career. (Let's just get this out of the way — we're only counting Monty Python once!)
Very few of Terry Jones's original ideas made it into the final cut of this iconic movie, but I still have to include it, simply because it's such a wonderful film.
It also marks an early collaboration between Terry Jones and Brian Froud, who would work together again on several children's books, including my own beloved Lady Cottington's!
2. His History Books And Shows
From Crusades, to Medieval Lives, to Who Murdered Chaucer?, Terry Jones's work in the field of history has inspired me for many years. My love of history might have begun with Horrible Histories as an 8 year old, but when I was in my teens, it was fellow history major Jones's books and television series that helped reignite the passion that eventually saw me get my BA (and now I'm even more determined to go for my Masters!).
Jones's background in history also served him well when making several of his other works, including Monty Python & The Holy Grail — just because it's comedy doesn't mean it can't strive for historical accuracy!
3. Erik The Viking
Tim Robbins is a viking.
That should be reason enough for anyone to watch this movie at least three times.
4. The Complete & Utter History Of Britain
Jones's friendship with fellow Python Michael Palin goes back a long way, and this is one of their early pre-Python highlights.
There are only two episodes of this ridiculous show still available (though there are plenty of clips on YouTube) and there's so much in there that you can see reflected in Monty Python and beyond.
5. The Evil Machines
Described as Monty Python meets Roald Dahl, the Evil Machines is a 2011 collection of stories about, well, evil machines. It was the first book published by book-focued crowdfunding platform Unbound, and it's absolutely wonderful.
The first of these stories, The Truthful Phone, has even been made into a movie, starring Michael Sheen as the voice of the phone. Due to be released within the next year, the movie has stayed true to the story's origins, having been partially crowdfunded through a Kickstarter campaign.
6. Monty Python's Flying Circus
From directing the movies, to uttering some of the gang's most famous lines, to creating some of the most iconic characters in the show's history, Jones is at the heart of so much of the troupe's finest work.
Yet, despite this (or perhaps because of this), this section turned out to be the hardest to write. If I was to sit down and list everything great Terry Jones has done with Monty Python's Flying Circus, we'd be here for a very long time.
So you know what, I'm going to keep it short and sweet.
Terry Jones. He's not The Messiah, but he is a very talented boy.
Unbound are currently hosting a crowdfunding campaign for Terry Jones's The Tyrant & The Squire. The final book in a medieval adventure trilogy first begun back in 1997, Unbound are working closely with Jones and his family to see this book realized.
If you'd like to pledge, you can find the campaign here.
What's your favorite Monty Python moment? Let us know in the comments below!