Terry Jones

Terry Jones
Jones in 2014
Born Terence Graham Parry Jones
(1942-02-01) 1 February 1942
Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire, Wales, United Kingdom
Alma mater St Edmund Hall, Oxford
  • Actor
  • writer
  • comedian
  • film director
  • presenter
  • poet
  • historian
  • author
Years active 1966–2016
Known for Monty Python
Alison Telfer
(m. 1970; div. 2012)

Anna Söderström (m. 2012)
Children 3

Terence Graham Parry Jones (born 1 February 1942) is a Welsh actor, writer, comedian, screenwriter and film director.

He was a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe.

Early life

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 four-and-a-half, 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

Before Python and early Python

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

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 the libretto for and directed the opera 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 at the time banned four movies, three of which he had directed: The Meaning of Life, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Personal Services.

Jones directed the 2015 comedy film Absolutely Anything, about a disillusioned schoolteacher who is given the chance to do anything he wishes by a group of aliens watching from space.[7] The film features Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and the voices of the five remaining members of Monty Python and Robin Williams. It 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 was also the co-creator (with Gavin Scott) of the animated TV series Blazing Dragons (1996–1998), which parodied the Arthurian legends and Middle Ages periods. Reversing a common story convention, the series' protagonists are anthropomorphic dragons beset by evil humans.


Jones wrote the screenplay for Labyrinth (1986), although his draft went through several rewrites and several other writers before being filmed; consequently, much of the finished film wasn't actually written by Jones.


Jones has written books and presented television documentaries on medieval and ancient history.

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 co-wrote Who Murdered Chaucer? (2003) in which he argues that Chaucer was close to King Richard the Second and that 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

He wrote 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.

In November 2011 his book Evil Machines was launched by the online publishing house Unbound at the Adam Street Club in London. It was the first book to be published by a crowdfunding website dedicated solely to books. Jones provided significant support to Unbound as they developed their publishing concept. In February 2018, Jones released his latest book The Tyrant and the Squire, also with Unbound.


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

Working with musicians

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 was working with songwriter/producer Jim Steinman on a heavy metal version of The Nutcracker.[10]

As performer

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 his own projects. From 2009 to 2011, however, he 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

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 2015, Jones was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of frontotemporal dementia that impairs the ability to speak and communicate. By September 2016, he was no longer able to give interviews.[14] He had first given cause for concern during the reunion Monty Python Live (Mostly) shows in July 2014 because of difficulties learning his lines.[15]

Selected bibliography


Illustrated by Michael Foreman
  • Fairy Tales (1981), ISBN 0-907516-03-3
  • The Saga of Erik the Viking (1983), ISBN 0-907516-23-8 – Children's Book Award 1984
  • Nicobobinus (1985), ISBN 1-85145-000-9
  • The Curse of the Vampire's Socks and Other Doggerel (1988), ISBN 1-85145-233-8 – poetry
  • Fantastic Stories (1992), ISBN 1-85145-957-X
  • The Beast with a Thousand Teeth (1993), ISBN 1-85793-070-3
  • A Fish of the World (1993), ISBN 1-85793-075-4
  • The Sea Tiger (1994), ISBN 1-85793-085-1
  • The Fly-by-Night (1994), ISBN 1-85793-090-8
  • The Knight and the Squire (1997), ISBN 1-86205-044-9
  • The Lady and the Squire (2000), ISBN 1-86205-417-7 – nominated for a Whitbread Award
  • Bedtime Stories (2002), ISBN 1-86205-276-X – with Nanette Newman
  • Animal Tales (2011), ISBN 978-1843651635
Illustrated by Brian Froud
  • Goblins of the Labyrinth (1986), ISBN 1-85145-058-0
    • The Goblin Companion: A Field Guide to Goblins (1996), ISBN 1-85793-795-3 – an abridged re-release, in a smaller format, with the colour plates missing
  • Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book (1994), ISBN 1-85793-336-2
  • Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells: Quentin Cottington's Journal of Faery Research (1996), ISBN 0-684-83206-2
  • Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Journal (1998), ISBN 1-86205-024-4
  • Lady Cottington's Fairy Album (2002), ISBN 1-86205-559-9
Illustrated by Martin Honeysett and Lolly Honeysett


  • Chaucer's Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary. 1980. ISBN 0-297-77566-9. ; rev. ed. (1994), ISBN 0-413-69140-3
  • Jones, Terry; Yeager, Robert F.; Doran, Terry; Fletcher, Alan; D'or, Juliett (2003). Who Murdered Chaucer?: A Medieval Mystery. ISBN 0-413-75910-5. 
  • Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror. 2005. ISBN 1-56025-653-2. 
With Alan Ereira
  • Crusades. 1994. ISBN 0-563-37007-6. 
  • Terry Jones' Medieval Lives. 2004. ISBN 0-563-48793-3. 
  • Terry Jones' Barbarians. 2006. ISBN 0-563-49318-6. 



Title Year Credited as Notes
Actor Writer Director Other Role
The Frost Report 1966–1967 Yes
A Series of Bird's 1967 Yes Additional material
Twice a Fortnight 1967 Yes Yes Various characters
Do Not Adjust Your Set 1967–1969 Yes Yes Various characters
Horne A'Plenty 1968 Yes
Broaden Your Mind 1968 Yes Yes Various characters Additional material
The Complete and Utter History of Britain 1969 Yes Yes Yes Various characters Also co-creator
Marty 1969 Yes Yes Yes Various characters
Christmas Night with the Stars 1969, 1972 Yes Yes Various characters
Monty Python's Flying Circus 1969–1974 Yes Yes Yes Various characters Also co-creator
Frost on Sunday 1970 Yes
Marty Amok 1970 Yes Television special
The Two Ronnies 1971–1976 Yes 13 episodes
Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus 1972 Yes Yes Various characters
Black and Blue 1973 Yes Episode: "Secrets"
Ripping Yarns 1976–1979 Yes Yes Yes Mr. Ellis / Bear / Mr. Moodie / Director Also co-creator
The Mermaid Frolics 1977 Yes Yes Yes Various characters Television special
Saturday Night Live 1978 Yes Orson Welles' director (voice) Episode: "Michael Palin/Eugene Record"
Peter Cook & Co. 1980 Yes Various characters Television special
The Rupert Bear Story: A Tribute to Alfred Bestall 1982 Yes Yes Yes Himself Television documentary
The Young Ones 1984 Yes Drunk Vicar Episode: "Nasty"
Bombardemagnus 1985 Yes 2 episodes
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles 1992 Yes Yes Marcello Episode: "Barcelona, May 1917"
Jackanory 1993 Yes Reader 2 episodes
Crusades 1995 Yes Yes Presenter 4 episodes
Blazing Dragons 1996–1998 Yes Co-creator and executive producer
Ancient Inventions 1998 Yes Yes Presenter 3 episodes
Boy in Darkness 2000 Yes Storyteller Television short film
Gladiators: The Brutal Truth 2000 Yes Presenter
Comedy Lab 2001, 2010 Yes Knife (voice) / Handyman 2 episodes
The Hidden History of Egypt 2002 Yes Yes Presenter
The Hidden History of Rome 2002 Yes Yes Presenter
Dinotopia 2002 Yes Messenger Bird (voice)
The Surprising History of Sex and Love 2002 Yes Yes Presenter
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives 2004 Yes Yes Presenter 8 episodes
The Story of 1 2005 Yes Presenter Documentary
Terry Jones' Barbarians 2006 Yes Yes Presenter 4 episodes
Kombat Opera Presents 2007 Yes Episode: "The South Bragg Show"
Terry Jones' Great Map Mystery 2008 Yes Presenter 4 episodes
The Legend of Dick and Dom 2009–2011 Yes Narrator
Perspectives 2015 Yes Presenter Episode: "In Charlie Chaplin's Footsteps"


Title Year Credited as Notes
Actor Writer Director Other Role
And Now for Something Completely Different 1971 Yes Yes Various characters
Monty Python and the Holy Grail 1975 Yes Yes Yes Sir Bedevere the Wise / Various
Jabberwocky 1977 Yes Poacher
Monty Python's Life of Brian 1979 Yes Yes Yes Various characters
The Box 1981 Yes Yes Harrington (voice) Short film
Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl 1982 Yes Yes Various characters Concert film
The Crimson Permanent Assurance 1983 Yes Very Big Corporation of America Clerk Uncredited
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life 1983 Yes Yes Yes Various characters
Labyrinth 1986 Yes
Personal Services 1987 Yes
Erik the Viking 1989 Yes Yes Yes King Arnulf
L.A. Story 1991 Yes Sara's Mother (voice) Uncredited
The Wind in the Willows 1996 Yes Yes Yes Mr. Toad
Asterix & Obelix Take On Caesar 1999 Yes Obelix (voice) English version
The Creator 1999 Yes God
Help! I'm a Fish 2000 Yes Professor Mac Krill (voice) English version
Locked Out 2006 Yes Homeless person
Anna and the Moods 2007 Yes Narrator (voice) Short film
King Guillaume 2009 Yes Oxford Professor
Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy) 2010 Yes Workingman / Mexican / Mountie
A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman 2012 Yes Graham's mother / Various voices
Monty Python Live (Mostly) 2014 Yes Yes Various characters
Absolutely Anything 2015 Yes Yes Yes Scientist Alien (voice) / Van Driver
Boom Bust Boom 2015 Yes Yes Yes Presenter Documentary

Documentary series

Political views

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".[19]

In August 2014, Jones was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.[20]


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


  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. Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  3. Roger Wilmut, From Fringe to Flying Circus, London, 1980, p.38; "An interview with Terry Jones". IGN. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2008.. He became interested in the medieval period through reading Chaucer as part of his English degree.
  4. ""A Python's progress", Volume 22 Number 2, Hilary 2010 at". Oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  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 Archived 2 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  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.
  11. Bafta, Source: (3 October 2016). "Monty Python star Terry Jones and son tearful at Bafta ceremony – video" via www.theguardian.com.
  12. "Bafta award an 'honour' for Terry Jones". 3 October 2016 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  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. McKie, Robin (16 April 2017). "Terry Jones: 'I've got dementia. My frontal lobe has absconded'". The Observer. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  16. "Ancient Inventions (Terry Jones): Amazon.co.uk: DVD & Blu-ray". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  17. "Perspectives Episode 4". Itv.com. 2015-05-10. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  18. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 February 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  19. Jones, Terry. "Why grammar is the first casualty of war" The Daily Telegraph 1 December 2001
  20. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  21. "IAU Minor Planet Center". minorplanetcenter.net. Retrieved 2016-08-01.

Further reading

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