Monty Python's Terry Jones Dies at 77 After 'Extremely Brave' Battle with Dementia

Jen Juneau

Terry Jones — one of the original members in the renowned British comedy troupe Monty Python — has died.

In a statement to the BBC, the BAFTA Cymru Lifetime Achievement Award-winning actor, director and author’s family revealed they were “deeply saddened” over the news of his passing “on the evening of 21 January 2020 at the age of 77 with his wife Anna Soderstrom by his side after a long, extremely brave but always good humoured battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD.”

“Over the past few days his wife, children, extended family and many close friends have been constantly with Terry as he gently slipped away at his home in north London,” the statement continued. “We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades.”

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“His work with Monty Python, his books, films, television programmes, poems and other work will live on forever, a fitting legacy to a true polymath,” said the statement. “We, his wife Anna, children Bill, Sally, Siri and extended family would like to thank Terry’s wonderful medical professionals and carers for making the past few years not only bearable but often joyful.”

The statement concluded, “We hope that this disease will one day be eradicated entirely. We ask that our privacy be respected at this sensitive time and give thanks that we lived in the presence of an extraordinarily talented, playful and happy man living a truly authentic life, in his words ‘Lovingly frosted with glucose.’ “

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From L to R: Monty Python's Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin in 1969 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Terry Jones on the set of Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus in 1971 | Archiv Hajek/Imagno/Getty
Terry Jones in 2015 | Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic

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Jones was one of the six founding members of Monty Python. Formed in 1969, the slapstick set also included Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Michael Palin. While they were largely inactive as a group from 1983 on, their 2014 reunion show went on to sell out within 43 seconds of going on sale, according to CNN.

Before joining Monty Python, Jones starred alongside Palin, 76, in the British sketch comedy series Twice a Fortnight, and opposite Palin and Idle, 76, on the series Do Not Adjust Your Set. Other early gigs were in acting and writing for The Complete and Utter History of Britain, as well as writing for The Frost Report — his first television job.

He would go on to break out with his fellow “Pythons” in the sketch comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which aired from 1969 to 1974 and paved the way for comedy films by the group like And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), 1979’s Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life (1983) — the latter three of which he also directed.

Jones was also a prolific, accomplished author in both fiction and nonfiction. His final novel, The Tyrant and the Squire, was published in 2018.

Terry Jones in Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) | Evening Standard/Getty Images

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In a September 2016 Facebook post, Palin shared a photo of himself with his friend and costar alongside a sweet message following Jones’ announcement that he has been diagnosed with a rare form of dementia (Primary Progressive Aphasia, a variant of frontotemporal dementia).

“Terry J has been my close friend and workmate for over fifty years,” Palin wrote. “The progress of his dementia has been painful to watch and the news announced yesterday that he has a type of aphasia which is gradually depriving him of the ability to speak is about the cruellest thing that could befall someone to whom words, ideas, arguments, jokes and stories were once the stuff of life.”

“Not that Terry is out of circulation,” he continued. “He spends time with his family and only two days ago I met up with him for one of our regular meals at his local pub. … Terry doesn’t say very much but he smiles, laughs, recognises and responds, and I’m always pleased to see him. Long may that last.”

“Friends often ask: will he recognize me?” Jones’ daughter Sally said in an in-depth interview with The Guardian in 2017. “I tell them: of course he will. It is his speech that has gone. In fact, he loves seeing friends. His only problem is that he no longer has the ability to tell them how pleased he is to see them.”

The Guardian also reported that Jones offered Palin (both of whom were present at the time) a sweet gesture toward the end of the interview, squeezing his friend and longtime collaborator’s hand.

Terry Jones (L) and John Cleese in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983) | Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images

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Palin shared a black-and-white throwback photo of himself and Jones on Wednesday, tweeting alongside it, “You will be very missed old friend. I feel very fortunate to have shared so much of my life with Terry.”

Cleese, 80, also mourned Jones on social media Wednesday, writing on Twitter, “It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away … “

“Of his many achievements, for me the greatest gift he gave us all was his direction of ‘Life of Brian’. Perfection,” Cleese continued, writing of the group’s members, “Two down, four to go.”

The other Monty Python founding member Cleese is referring to is Chapman, who died in 1989 at age 48 after a battle with throat and spinal cancer.

British comedian and musician Neil Innes, known for his collaborative work with Monty Python, died just last month at the age of 75 after suffering a heart attack, his wife Yvonne told The New York Times.