Terry Jones

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For other people named Terry Jones, see Terry Jones (disambiguation).
Terry Jones
Terry Jones.jpg
Jones in May 2007
Born Terence Graham Parry Jones
(1942-02-01) 1 February 1942 (age 74)
Colwyn Bay, Wales, United Kingdom
Alma mater St Edmund Hall, Oxford
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • film director
  • presenter
  • poet
  • writer
  • historian
Known for Monty Python
Spouse(s) Alison Telfer (1970–2012,divorced)
Anna Söderström (2012–present)

Terence Graham Parry "Terry" Jones (born 1 February 1942) is a British comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director, historian and author. He is best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe.

Early life[edit]

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 4½, the family moved to Surrey in England.[1]

Jones attended primary school at Esher COE school and later attended the Royal Grammar School[2] 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".[3] He graduated with a 2:1.[4] While there, he performed comedy with future Monty Python castmate Michael Palin in The Oxford Revue.

Career history[edit]

Before Python and early Python[edit]

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. Along with Palin, he wrote lyrics for the 1968 Barry Booth album "Diversions".

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 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 “Summarise Proust Competition”, 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 Chaplinesque physical comedian. His performance in the "Undressing in Public" sketch, for instance, is done in total silence.

Directorial work[edit]

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 and directed an opera titled Evil Machines.[5] In 2011, he was commissioned to direct and write the libretto for another opera, entitled The Doctor's Tale.[6]

On the commentary track of the 2004 "2 Disc Special Edition" DVD for the film Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Terry Jones stated that to his knowledge Ireland had banned only four movies, three of which he had directed: The Meaning of Life, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Personal Services.

Jones directed the comedy film Absolutely Anything, starring members of Monty Python, about a disillusioned schoolteacher who is given the chance to do anything he wishes from a group of aliens watching from space.[7] The film features Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and the remaining members of Monty Python and was shot in London during a 6-week shoot.[8]


Jones has written many books and screenplays, including comic works and more serious writing on medieval history.


Jones co-wrote Ripping Yarns with Palin. He 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 wrote the screenplay for Labyrinth (1986), although his draft went through several rewrites and several other writers before being filmed; much of the finished film wasn't written by Jones at all.


Jones has written books and presented television documentaries on medieval and ancient history and the history of numeral systems.

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 wrote "Who Killed Chaucer?" (2003) in which he argues that Chaucer was close to King Richard the Second and after Richard was deposed Chaucer was persecuted to death by Thomas Arundel.[9]

Jones's 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.

Anti-Iraq war writing[edit]

He has written 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.

His most recent book, Evil Machines, was launched by the online publishing house Unbound at the Adam Street Club in London on 4 November 2011. Evil Machines is the first book to be published by a crowd funding website dedicated solely to books. Jones provided significant support to Unbound as they developed their publishing concept.


He is also a member of the UK Poetry Society, and his poems have appeared in Poetry Review.

Working with musicians[edit]

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.

In January 2012, it was announced that Jones is working with songwriter/producer Jim Steinman on a heavy metal version of "The Nutcracker."[10]

As performer[edit]

Apart from a cameo in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky and a memorable minor role as a drunken vicar in BBC sitcom The Young Ones, Jones has rarely appeared in work outside of his own projects. Since January 2009, however, he has 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.

On 2 October 2016 Jones received a standing ovation at the BAFTA Cymru Awards when he received a Lifetime Achievement award for his outstanding contribution to television and film.[11][12]

Personal life[edit]

Jones married Alison Telfer in 1970, and they have two children together, Sally (born in 1974), and Bill (born in 1976). Jones left her for Anna Söderström, and their daughter Siri was born in early September 2009.[13]

In September 2016 it was announced that Jones had been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of dementia that impairs the ability to speak and communicate, and that he was no longer able to give interviews.[14]

Selected bibliography[edit]


Illustrated by Michael Foreman
Illustrated by Brian Froud
Illustrated by Martin Honeysett and Lolly Honeysett


With Alan Ereira


Documentary series[edit]

Political views[edit]

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".[18] In August 2014, Jones was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[19]


Monty Python and
the Holy Grail
Monty Python's
Life of Brian
Monty Python's The
Meaning of Life
Erik the
The Wind in
the Willows
Graham Chapman
John Cleese
Carol Cleveland
Terry Gilliam
Eric Idle
Neil Innes
Charles McKeown
Michael Palin
Antony Sher
John Young

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bevan, Nathan (5 March 2011). "The life and times of Monty Python's Terry Jones by Nathan Bevan, Western Mail at". Walesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "Distinguished Old Guildfordians – Terry Jones". Royal Grammar School, Guildford Website. Retrieved 9 February 2011. [dead link]
  3. ^ Roger Wilmut, From Fringe to Flying Circus, London, 1980, p.38; "An interview with Terry Jones". IGN. Retrieved 29 June 2008. . He became interested in the medieval period through reading Chaucer as part of his English degree.[dead link]
  4. ^ ""A Python's progress", Volume 22 Number 2, Hilary 2010 at". Oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 June 2011. [dead link]
  5. ^ Martin, Francesca (16 January 2008). "Ex-Python's opera rings the changes". The Guardian. London. 
  6. ^ Williams, Holly (27 February 2011). "Heads Up: Operashots". The Independent. London. 
  7. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Monty Python Members, Eddie Izzard, Robin Williams and More Among Cast of Absolutely Anything Film" Playbill.com, 27 February 2014[dead link]
  8. ^ "In Conversation: Terry Jones (Director – Absolutely Anything, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Wind in the Willows)". Film Doctor. 
  9. ^ Myerson, Jonathan (15 November 2003). "Review: Who Murdered Chaucer?". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 
  10. ^ "Website featuring Canadian doctor, Monty Python pal blends humour, health advice". ca.news.yahoo.com. 19 January 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2012. [dead link]
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ Singh, Anita (28 September 2009). "Monty Python star Terry Jones introduces baby Siri". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  14. ^ "Monty Python's Terry Jones diagnosed with dementia". BBC News Online. 23 September 2016. 
  15. ^ "Ancient Inventions (Terry Jones): Amazon.co.uk: DVD & Blu-ray". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-26. 
  16. ^ "Perspectives Episode 4". Itv.com. 2015-05-10. Retrieved 2016-09-26. 
  17. ^ http://www.boombustclick.com/thebigidea.php[dead link]
  18. ^ Jones, Terry. "Why grammar is the first casualty of war" The Daily Telegraph 1 December 2001
  19. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  20. ^ "IAU Minor Planet Center". minorplanetcenter.net. Retrieved 2016-08-01. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Wilmut, Roger (1980). From Fringe to Flying Circus: Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy, 1960–1980. London: Eyre Methuen. ISBN 0-413-46950-6. 

External links[edit]