Terry Jones

Terence Graham Parry Jones (born 1 February 1942) is a Welsh actor, writer, comedian, screenwriter, film director and historian. He is a member of the Monty Python comedy team.

Terry Jones
Jones in 2014
Terence Graham Parry Jones

(1942-02-01) 1 February 1942
Alma materSt Edmund Hall, Oxford
  • Actor
  • writer
  • comedian
  • film director
  • presenter
  • poet
  • historian
  • author
Years active1966–2016
Known forMonty Python
Alison Telfer
(m. 1970; div. 2012)

Anna Söderström (m. 2012)

After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in history, Jones and writing partner Michael Palin (whom he met at Oxford) wrote and performed for several high-profile British comedy programmes, including Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Frost Report, before creating Monty Python's Flying Circus with Cambridge graduates Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Graham Chapman, and American animator/filmmaker Terry Gilliam. Jones was largely responsible for the programme's innovative, surreal structure, in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with the team's first film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed the subsequent Python films, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.

Jones co-created and co-wrote with Palin the anthology series Ripping Yarns. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson's 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of his work remained in the final cut. He is a well-respected medieval historian, having written several books and presented television documentaries about the period, as well as a prolific children's book author.

In 2016, Jones received a Lifetime Achievement award at the BAFTA Cymru Awards for his outstanding contribution to television and film.

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][4] He became interested in the medieval period through reading Chaucer as part of his English degree.[5] He graduated with a 2:1.[6] While there, he performed comedy with future Monty Python castmate Michael Palin in the Oxford Revue. Jones was a year ahead of Palin at Oxford, and on first meeting him Palin states, “The first thing that struck me was what a nice bloke he was. He had no airs and graces. We had a similar idea of what humour could do and where it should go, mainly because we both liked characters; we both appreciated that comedy wasn’t just jokes.”[7]

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.[8][9]

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 (or “ratbag old women” as termed by the BBC) are among the most memorable.[10] 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 "All-England Summarise Proust Competition", sketch, 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 Charlie Chaplin-esque 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.[11] In 2011, he was commissioned to direct and write the libretto for another opera, entitled The Doctor's Tale.[12]

On the commentary track of the 2004 "2 Disc Special Edition" DVD for the film Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, 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.[13] The film features Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Robin Williams and the voices of the five remaining members of Monty Python. It was shot in London during a 6-week shoot.[14]


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


Jones co-wrote Ripping Yarns with Palin. They also wrote a play, Underwood's Finest Hour, about an obstetrician distracted during a birth by the radio broadcast of a Test match, which played at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in 1981.[15] Jones 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.[16]


"[you] speak to him on subjects as diverse as fossil fuels, or Rupert Bear, or mercenaries in the Middle Ages or Modern China ... in a moment you will find yourself hopelessly out of your depth, floored by his knowledge."

—Python biographer George Perry on Jones.[17]

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 II, and that after Richard was deposed, Chaucer was persecuted to death by Thomas Arundel.[18]

Jones' 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.[19] 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.[20]

As performer

Apart from a cameo in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky and a memorable minor role as a drunken vicar in the 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. In July 2014, Jones reunited with the other four living Pythons to perform at 10 dates (Monty Python Live (Mostly)) at the O2 Arena in London. This was Jones' last performance with the group prior to his aphasia diagnosis.[21][22]

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.[23][24]

Personal life


Jones married Alison Telfer in 1970, and they have two children together, Sally (born in 1974), and Bill (born in 1976). Jones and Telfer had an open marriage.[25] In 2009, Jones left her for Anna Söderström, who is 41 years his junior and with whom he had been in a relationship for five years.[26] In September 2009, a daughter, Siri, was born to Söderström and Jones.[27]


In 2015, Jones was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of frontotemporal dementia that impairs the ability to speak and communicate. He had first given cause for concern during the Monty Python reunion show Monty Python Live (Mostly) in July 2014 because of difficulties learning his lines.[28] By September 2016, he was no longer able to give interviews.[29] During an interview at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival on 8 April 2017, fellow Python member Michael Palin revealed that Jones is no longer able to speak.[30]

Selected bibliography


  • Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic: A Novel (1997), ISBN 0-330-35446-9 – a novel based on the computer game of the same name by Douglas Adams.
  • Evil Machines (2011), ISBN 978-1-908717-01-6
  • Trouble On The Heath (2011), ISBN 978-1-907726-20-0
  • The Tyrant and the Squire (2018), ISBN 978-1783524624
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



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".[33]

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.[34]


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. Wilmut, Roger (1980). From Fringe to Flying Circus. London, England: Oxford Books. p. 38. ISBN 978-0413507709.
  4. "An interview with Terry Jones". IGN. San Francisco, California: j2 Global. 21 January 2004. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  5. Leopold, Todd (13 April 2005). "A Python Gets Serious". CNN. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  6. "A Python's progress". Oxford Today. Oxford, England: Oxford University. Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  7. "Michael Palin interview". Chap.co.uk. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  8. "The Frost Report". BBC Comedy. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  9. "Jimmy Gilbert, BBC producer who presided over a golden age of light entertainment – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  10. "Monty Python's Flying Circus". BBC. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  11. Martin, Francesca (16 January 2008). "Ex-Python's opera rings the changes". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  12. Williams, Holly (27 February 2011). "Heads Up: Operashots". The Independent. London, England: Independent Print Ltd. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  13. Gioia, Michael (27 February 2014). "Monty Python Members, Eddie Izzard, Robin Williams and More Among Cast of Absolutely Anything Film". Playbill. New York City: Playbill, Inc. Archived from the original on 2 March 2014.
  14. "In Conversation: Terry Jones (Director – Absolutely Anything, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Wind in the Willows)". Film Doctor. 15 April 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  15. Christopher Martin-Jenkins, "Bookshelf", The Cricketer, January 1982, p. 35.
  16. "The Terry Jones Labyrinth Interview".
  17. Perry, George (2007). The Life of Python. p. 40. Pavilion
  18. Myerson, Jonathan (15 November 2003). "Review: Who Murdered Chaucer?". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  19. Jones, Terry (11 November 2011). "How a new online venture helped to publish Evil Machines". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  20. "Website featuring Canadian doctor, Monty Python pal blends humour, health advice". ca.news.yahoo.com. 19 January 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  21. "Monty Python live (mostly), review: poignant and predictable, but tremendous fun". The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  22. "John Cleese and Mick Jagger are wrong – Monty Python's silly walks are still hilarious". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  23. "Monty Python star Terry Jones and son tearful at Bafta ceremony – video". The Guardian. 3 October 2016.
  24. "Bafta award an 'honour' for Terry Jones". 3 October 2016 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  25. Moore, Matthew (27 April 2009). "Monty Python's Terry Jones gets lover, 26, pregnant". The Telegraph. London, England: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  26. Devine, Darren (9 March 2012). "Monty Python's Terry Jones "still loves" his wife of 42 years despite plans to marry a Swedish student". Wales Online. Cardiff, Wales: Media Wales. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  27. Singh, Anita (28 September 2009). "Monty Python star Terry Jones introduces baby Siri". The Daily Telegraph. London, England: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  28. McKie, Robin (16 April 2017). "Terry Jones: 'I've got dementia. My frontal lobe has absconded'". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  29. "Monty Python's Terry Jones diagnosed with dementia". BBC News Online. London, England: BBC. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  30. "Terry Jones' dementia is so advanced he now can't speak, reveals Monty Python co-star Michael Palin". The Sun. 9 April 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  31. "In Charlie Chaplin's Footsteps with Terry Jones". Perspectives. Season 5. Episode 4. 10 May 2015. ITV. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  32. "Boom Bust Boom". Archived from the original on 5 February 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  33. Jones, Terry (1 December 2001). "Why grammar is the first casualty of war". The Daily Telegraph. London, England: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  34. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  35. "IAU Minor Planet Center". minorplanetcenter.net. Retrieved 1 August 2016.

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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