Michael Palin pays tribute to ‘most valued friend’ Terry Jones

The Monty Python star died on Tuesday, aged 77
The Monty Python star died on Tuesday, aged 77

Sir Michael Palin has paid tribute to “one of my closest, most valued friends” following the death of fellow Monty Python star Terry Jones.

The actor and comedian, who directed some of the comedy troupe’s best-loved works, “gently slipped away” at the age of 77, a statement to the PA news agency on behalf of his family said.

Sir Michael said Jones, who had dementia and died on Tuesday evening, was “kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full”.

“He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation, he was the complete Renaissance comedian – writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have,” he said.

He added in a statement to PA: “I feel very fortunate to have shared so much of my life with him.”

Fellow Python stars John Cleese and Eric Idle also paid tribute to Jones, with Cleese tweeting: “It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away…”

Referring also to sixth Python member Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, he added: “Two down, four to go.”

Idle tweeted that Jones’s death “is a cruel and sad thing”, adding: “But let’s remember just what joy he brought to all of us.”

Idle said he loved Jones “the moment I saw him on stage at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963.

“So many laughs, moments of total hilarity onstage and off we have all shared with him. It’s too sad if you knew him,but if you didn’t you will always smile at the many wonderfully funny moments he gave us.”

Jones appeared in the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series in a variety of characters, and was known for his performances in drag.

A statement on behalf of his family said they were “deeply saddened” to announce the death of a “beloved husband and father”, who had “given pleasure to countless millions across six decades”.

They hailed an “extraordinarily talented, playful and happy man living a truly authentic life, in his words ‘Lovingly frosted with glucose’.”

Jones died “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”, the statement said.

John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam
Monty Python stars John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam (PA)

“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.

“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.”

They said his work “will live on forever, a fitting legacy to a true polymath”.

The family thanked “wonderful medical professionals and carers for making the past few years not only bearable but often joyful. We hope that this disease will one day be eradicated entirely.”

The Welsh-born star suffered from a form of dementia which affects the ability to communicate.

Jones directed the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail in 1975 with Terry Gilliam.

The group’s Life Of Brian film in 1979, about a hapless man mistaken for Jesus, was attacked as blasphemous at the time but has since been voted the funniest classic comedy.

On screen, Jones’s much-loved characters included Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson, Cardinal Biggles of the Spanish Inquisition, and Mr Creosote, the monstrously obese restaurant patron.

Stephen Fry, David Walliams and Charlie Brooker were also among those paying tribute to the star, with Fry praising Jones as a “wonderful talent, heart and mind”.

Terry Jones
John Cleese and Terry Jones in rehearsals for their Monty Python Live show in 2014 (PA)

Walliams wrote: “Thank you Terry for a lifetime of laughter.”

Shane Allen, BBC controller of comedy commissioning, wrote that it was a “sad day to lose an absolute Titan of British comedy” and “one of the founding fathers of the most influential and pioneering comedy ensembles of all time”.

Jones also directed The Meaning Of Life in 1983, the Pythons’ last film together.

His other credits include The Wind In The Willows in 1996, with performances from Idle, Palin and Cleese, 2015 comedy Absolutely Anything, and Personal Services (1987).

Jones took part in a reunion of remaining Monty Python members in 2014.

He had two children with Alison Telfer, whom he married in 1970, and became a father again, at the age of 67, with second wife Ms Soderstrom.