This article was supposed to be something completely different. Funny. Crazy. Exciting. And optimistic. An exclusive interview with one festive and important figures in the history of modern comedy. A fitting tribute to man who created some of the biggest cult films of all time.
Everything was ready. The man agreed. Dates were offered by his personal assistant. Questions were written. Funny ideas of still photography were thought about. The film crew was set. The stage was ready. The excitement was at its peak. Soon it happens. Terry Jones, who invented the legendary TV show “Monty Pythons’ Flying Circus”, who directed the films “Life of Brianr”, “Monty Python and the holy grail” and “The meaning of Life”, who have written some of the most brilliant ever skits (“ministry of silly walks” “the Lumberjack song”), who played historical figures of Monty Python (Brian’s mother, Mr Creosote – the fat man that vomits without an end), was supposed to sit in front of our team, for the first comprehensive interview with the Israeli media.
It never happened.
The date of the interview was postponed. Then, the date has changed. And delayed again. Then frozen. Terry’s team said his is not feeling well and could not be interviewed at this time. We tried to be flexible about the date, the location – it did not help. Ultimately, his personal assistant has revealed to us the secret: Jones suffers from a disease that affects his ability to speak and therefore could not be interviewed further. That was a shocking news to us. After a while, his family announced to the media that he is suffering from a rare form of dementia. Jones’ appearance at Bafta, receiving life Achievement Award – made clear its sorry state. Terry, the man whose strength is in his words, could not even say “thank you”, and had to be helped by his son, who accompanied him to the stage and thanked by his name. Not one eye was lest dry on UK. Here, too.
Celebrating your comic insanity, Terry
This dreadful disease chipped off our dream, to meet our hero, to shake his hand and to tell him how much we appreciate him. Nevertheless, we will not give up and will continue celebrating Terry’s brilliance. Let’s start:
Terry Jones, in my opinion, was the most perverse figure in Monty Python. Though his friends were wacky as well, Terry was the first. It’s difficult to compete in the dirty vicar, the Secretary of State doing striptease (including shaking buckle nipples), and how can we forget the appearance of his buttocks on a giant billboards to promote the film “And now for something completely different.”
Personally, this bottom’s slot in the size of the all Cinema building in Tel Aviv, forced me my first acquaintance with Monty Python, just before I watched their first film. Probably the most disturbing signs for any film made.
Jones, who at first site seems like a decent British gentlemen, contributed the Pythons the shock effect. The element of surprise, which is so important in comedy, drawn by Jones to extreme levels. Imagine that in 1971, as part of the TV series “Flying Circus” which was broadcast on the BBC, Jones wrote in one of the skits ( “Proust Summarizing “), the following, unbelievable dialogue:
Interviewer: “So what are your hobbies?”
Contestant: “Strangling ing animals, golf and masturbation.”
Anchor in the background: “He got a little bit down with his hobbies. Golf is no longer popular today.”
BBC could not except this one, and called the group for a clarification. “You absolutely can not say the word ‘masturbation’ on television, said the manager. “why?” Jones asked, “You do not masturbate?”
When he wrote the skit with Mr. Creosote (“The meaning of Life”), even his friends were shocked. John Cleese was terrified and dismissed it. Later he was convinced to do it. Until now, 33 years later, this sketch is considered one of the toughest to watch in all times.
John Cleese’s logic, Terry Jones’s visual
Monty Python dominated the two most important tools of comedy: verbal humor, which was sharp and witty, usually written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman ( “dead parrot”, “debating club”, “cheese shop”), and visual humor, a complete madness, which were done mostly by Terry Jones and Michael Palin.
Jones had become a great creator of comedy which can be well photographed, using the medium of television to upgrade the humor. No longer just a box that transmits but one becomes part of parody. For example, Jones took the camera crew to go away into the mountains and remote forests in England, to film a short piece that will deliberately interrupted the program, while the narrator will announce: “We apologize for this, we return now to the studio.”
With this mind set he continued to the firm direction, as the director of 3 of 4 Python movies. After Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Billy Wilder and Jacques Tati, Terry Jones is probably the last director that perfected cinematic comedy to this day.
From the crazy titles of “Holy Grail”, through the end of “Brian Superstar” singing “Always look on the bright side of life”, as they are tied to Jesus crosses, to the bizarre sequence “The middle of the film”, in which Michael Palin, dressed in drag, informs viewers once they had reached half of the film. Jones confused disrupted the medium to serve the comic chaos that the group wanted to create. Fairy chaos that has become a legend.
In 1983 the Python retired from working together and each went for his individual careers. In 1989, they managed to be filmed for few minutes for a special program in honor of the 20th anniversary, hosted by Steve Martin. Shortly afterwards, just one day before the festivities – Graham Chapman died. Jones called it “the worst case of party-pooping in all history”
Even outside the group Terry Jones has created a very funny comedy. “Erik the Viking” (1989), for example, included some monumental comedy bits, like the scene with John Cleese, who sends his people, speaking a very kind British language, to be hanged on the gallows. “Wind in the Willows” was a true masterpiece (based on the book by Kenneth Graham) which had quite numerous moments of genius, such as the monologue of a lawyer in the trial, who claims all the accusations can be against Mr. Toad, until the judge remind him that he is, in fact, the lawyer of the hapless toad.
During those years, Terry admitted that the Python years were probably the happiest of his career. When he was talking about the prolonged sitting and reading the material together, his eyes were shining. When he was asked repeatedly whether the group would unite again, negative response was wrapped by him in sadness.
“We can’t reunite ever, ” John Cleese declared when I interviewed him in 2011. “Imagine what will happen if we do it. Terry Jones probably will want to direct us, then what will Terry Gilliam do? assistant director?”. 3 years before that, Terry Gilliam told me the same: “You have to understand we can never return and work together. And it’s not that bad. The Marx Brothers are dead too, you know.”
But in 2014 the unbelievable – happened. The group announced a comeback after more than 30 years. “It happened because of Terry Jones had to pay his mortgage, ” said to me Michael Palin, on the same year. “You’re kidding, ” I replied. “No, no. He really got a lot of money, ” Palin entertained. “It has been an expensive area in London and need to somehow pay for it.”
I was privileged to be in 2 shows in a series of performances on the O2 in London. No less than 16, 000 people watched the great skits every night. The laughter was loud, the applause was thunderous, and Pythons, who have passed the age of 70, were energetic and bouncy. Only Terry looked a little bit weaker then others. Here and there he even was forced to read the text from cards. “He doesn’t look one hundred percent”, I said to my colleagues, who agreed with me.
Shortly afterwards, the release of a new film by Jones, “Absolutely anything”, uniting the voices of all Pythons (as the voices of aliens, examine whether the planet deserves a destruction). In practice, the project has become the last comedy film by Jones and the last activity of 5 Pythons alive.
A few days ago, just before the anniversary of the founding of the group (5 October 1969), Jones’ family announced that the celebration of Pythons will be destroyed for the second time. The disease makes its sings. And the bad news is twofold, since the decline of Jones is actually the dying of the legendary Monty Python group, which managed to reunite without Chapman, but would find it very difficult to do so without Jones.
This is a great heartache. But you can also look on the Bright side of Terry: 50 years of work full of madness that changed the face of comedy, hundreds of sketches and countless punch lines written and performed by him are quoted every day and all over the globe (“He is not the messiah, he is a very naughty boy!”).
Some say the Jones still understand everything he reads and hears. Recognize his relatives, laughing and excited about good things. This may be our opportunity to thank him for all that genius, all this crazy laughter, That made us a little happier.
This article will be sent to his personal assistant and we will sign it with these words:
Our dear and beloved Terry Jones,
We congratulate you for receiving the BAFTA award. We always thought that you are one of the most the most important people in the history of comedy of all time. This is a good chance to say from all of us – thank you for all the happiness you brought. We love you.
For the Hebrew version click HERE