Terry Jones, who earned a spot in comedic lore as a member of British troupe Monty Python and also had success as a director, screenwriter and author, died Tuesday at his London home. He was 77.
His ex-wife, Alison Telfer, confirmed the death. Jones said in 2016 that he had primary progressive aphasia, a neurological disease that impairs the ability to communicate.
Jones, four other Britons — Michael Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman — and an American, Terry Gilliam, formed Monty Python in 1969. Their television sketch show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus," became a phenomenon, first in Britain and then in the U.S. when it was rebroadcast there in the mid-1970s.
The show worked a surreal brand of humor that was markedly different from most television fare. It led to "And Now for Something Completely Different," a 1971 movie that was essentially a collection of skits from the TV show, and then several other feature films.
Jones and Gilliam jointly directed "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) and teamed up again on "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" (1983). Jones was the sole director of "Monty Python's Life of Brian" (1979), the most successful financially. He also directed his own projects.
And he was an author, both of scholarly fare like "Chaucer's Knight" (1980), an alternative view of a character from "The Canterbury Tales," and of books for children. The Boston Globe once called him "a warped Renaissance man."
He was a Renaissance man of sorts on "Monty Python's Flying Circus" as well. The many characters he played included an organist who tended not to wear clothes, a fellow known as the Amazing Mystico who could build buildings by hypnosis, and an assortment of middle-aged women.
"Cross-dressing seems to be a longstanding Python tradition," Filip Vukcevic wrote on media site IGN in 2018, "but when Jones does it, his butch bulk makes him the most terrifying shemale in all the land."
The popularity of the show soon made "pythonesque" an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. "We wanted to be unquantifiable," he deadpanned to the New York Times in 2009. "That 'pythonesque' is now an adjective in the OED means we failed utterly."
Terence Graham Parry Jones was born in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, on Feb. 1, 1942. His father, Alick, was a banker by profession but was in the Royal Air Force at the time and stationed in Scotland.
"I suppose they must have been guarding the grouse," he recounted, "although he used to say later that they were testing out this newfangled stuff called RADAR. He came and saw me when I was a week old, and was immediately posted to India. I would be 4 before he saw me again."
Jones was accepted at Oxford but almost changed his mind about going there when Cambridge, which had put him on a waiting list, also accepted him. But he stuck with Oxford despite being intrigued by Cambridge's poetry program. That was a good decision, he later reckoned; otherwise "I wouldn't have met either Mike Palin or Geoffrey Chaucer — and without those two meetings the rest of my life would have been quite different."