Terry Jones

Terry Jones

Name: Terrence Graham Parry Jones
Born: February 1, 1942
Father:
Mother:

Siblings: Nigel (b. 1940)
Spouse: Alison Telfer (Married 1970, sep. 2004); Currently dating Anna Sonderstrom.
Children: Sally (b. 1974), Bill (b. 1976), Siri (b. 2009)
Education: Church of England primary school; Royal Grammar School at Guildford; St. Edmund Hall College, Oxford University (Modern History)

 

  

Terry Jones and son Bill

Terry Jones and son Bill

Terry Jones was born on 1 February 1942 in Colwyn Bay, Wales. Despite spending most of his upbringing in Claygate, Surrey (where the Jones family moved when Terry was 5), Jones still considers himself Welsh. Jones was educated, first at the local Surrey primary school, before moving on to the Royal Grammar School in Guildford. Here Jones' behaviour could be described as that of a "goody two-shoes" - Jones being involved in every activity going from the Army Cadet Corp, to rugby (Jones eventually became the 1st XV rugby squad's captain), before in the course of time becoming Head Boy.
 
Whilst at school, Jones - like many other Pythons, became deeply interested in comedy and film, including The Goons. Jones recalls at the time that his favourite film was a movie starring Danny Kaye pulling extraordinary faces. Despite this, Jones was never a thespian in a way some of the other Pythons were - his headmaster was against acting, to the extent that he called all actors "homosexuals and communists". Because Jones had to retake his third year at sixth form (due to Jones misreading a question and doing 4 essays instead of 2), he was turned down by universities in Manchester, London, Bristol and Exeter. Finally he was offered an interview by Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and an exam at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, from which he received an offer that he accepted (Jones was also eventually offered a place at Cambridge but luckily for us he didn't take it). In 1961, Jones entered Oxford to read English Literature.
  

At Oxford, Jones became involved in the undergraduate magazine Isis, eventually becoming the designer. This brought him into contact with the thespians that were in Oxford at the time, and before long Jones had become actively involved in the college theatre scene. Along with friend and contemporary Michael Rudman, Jones started the Experimental Theatre Company, performing a wide range of material from Brecht (a very serious Eastern European playwright) to cabaret. In his second year, Jones penned the revue show "****" which was performed at the Edinburgh festival, before moving to the LAMDA theatre in London, then to the Phoenix. Returning for his third year, Jones joined the writing partnership of Michael Palin and Robert Hewison, and together they wrote the production Hang Down Your Head and Die (a comic look at the death penalty set in a circus ring, with Jones playing the condemned man). This ran for 11 days at the Oxford Playhouse, then for 6 weeks at the Comedy Theatre in London. A year later Jones, along with Michael Palin wrote for, and organised The Oxford Revue that played at the 1964 Edinburgh Festival. Whilst Jones' first production "****" had been very satirical, The Oxford Revue was much more Python. It was at the end of the show that David Frost introduced himself and all but offered them a job (it was also here that Jones and Palin ran into Messrs. Chapman, Idle and Cleese).

The cast of "Do Not Adjust Your Set"

The cast of "Do Not Adjust Your Set"

     

When Jones graduated he landed a job as a copywriter for Anglia Television, before moving to the BBC as script editor. It was here that he was put on to a 6-week director's course (which he failed to complete due to a severe case of peritonitis). Despite this Jones became a production assistant, before being recruited as a joke writer for Late-Night Line-Up by producer Rowan Ayres. Here Jones joined Barry Cryer, and his old writing-mates from Oxford, Michael Palin and Robert Hewison. Before long, Hewison dropped out to return to academia, and Jones and Palin were admitted into the hallowed circle of writers for The Frost Report. In addition to this, the Jones-Palin team was also contributing to other shows, such as The Late Show, and A Series of Birds starring John Bird. From here Palin and Jones moved on to LWT's series Do Not Adjust Your Set (collaborating with Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam), as well as writing for Broaden Your Mind and the BBC production Marty (along with Messrs. Cleese and Chapman). At this point, producer Barry Took suggested that this group of writers got together to produce their own show - Monty Python was born.

    
Right from the start, Jones and Palin's writing were instrumental in toning down the clever, word-based sketches that were a hallmark of the ex-Footlights Cleese and Chapman, with the more visual style first seen in The Oxford Revue. Jones also started sitting in at the editing (along with director Ian MacNaughton), helping to shape the show more to what the Python team as a whole wanted.

 

Post-Python
 

After the creative difficulties of the first Python film And Now For Something Completely Different (where the team was subject to an outside director), the decision was made for the next film Monty Python and the Holy Grail to keep the directing "in-house" so to speak, with Jones and Terry Gilliam becoming

Terry Jones in "Medieval Lives"

Terry Jones in "Medieval Lives"

 

Terry Jones in "Hidden History of Egypt"

Terry Jones in "Hidden History of Egypt"

 co-directors. From here Jones' directorial career took off, with him directing the both Monty Python's The Life Of Brian and Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life, before taking a hand in Personal Services, Erik the Viking, Labyrinth and The Wind in the Willows. Jones also collaborated with Palin to write the successful series Ripping Yarns. Erik the Viking has now been re-released as a brand new "Director's Son's cut", with Jones's son Bill re-editing it in line with Terry's original vision. The post-Python era had also seen Jones becoming respected children's author, with stories such as Curse of the Vampire Socks, Fantastic Stories, Nicobonimus and The Saga of Erik the Viking (originally written for his son Bill). Terry Jones was also responsible for the popular children's cartoon series Blazing Dragons (about a group of dragons who are beset by evil humans) that ran from 1996 to 1998. It subsequently was turned into a computer game for the Sega Saturn console (with Jones providing some of the voices). With Palin, Jones also wrote Dr Fegg's Encyclopaedia of All World Knowledge. During the 1980's, Jones also wrote a regular column in the daily newspaper The Guardian, covering subjects such as the concentration of media power, the poll tax, nuclear power and the ozone layer. More recently he has been a vocal opponent of war against Iraq, writing a number of bitingly satirical and hard-hitting pieces for The Observer and The Guardian, many of which have been published in his book Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror.

  
Terry Jones has also built something of a career post-Python as a medieval historian. His first book Chaucer's Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary, challenged the idea that the knight in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales was a noble pillar of society, but was instead a brutal mercenary (it can now be found on the required reading lists of many university history degrees). A subsequent book Who Murdered Chaucer? speculates that the disappearance of Chaucer from historical records after 1400 was due to his being murdered by Archbishop Arundel or even King Henry IV for being a politically inconvenient critic.

  

As well as these serious academic tomes, Jones has written history books in which he (obviously with great delight) demolishes the standard rose-tinted views of the ancient world we normally hear about. His series of Hidden Histories films (Hidden History of Egypt, Hidden History of Rome, Hidden History of Sex & Love) are light-hearted look at the diets, hygiene, careers, sex lives, and domestic arrangements in the ancient world. Jones's book and series Medieval Lives (which saw Jones reverting to form and dressing up in women's clothes!) reveals that medieval kings were crueller, damsels were less helpless, knights were less chivalrous and peasants less downtrodden and diseased than Renaissance and Victorian historians would have us believe. Jones's last book and series Barbarians was about the history of the Roman empire as seen by the Celts, Germans, Greeks, Persians and Africans, showed the Romans as more barbaric than the "barbarians" they conquered. Recently, Jones has been directing an opera based on libretto he wrote called Evil Machines (based on story by the same name that he also wrote, about machines who fight back). It opened on 12 January 2008 in Lisbon, Portugal. 
 
Of all the Pythons, Jones has been the one who has consistently kept the Python flame alive, and kept the team together, however loosely. It was Jones who was behind their last big gathering, in Aspen. He is, along with Michael Palin, one of the Pythons with a career that has far exceeded where he started.
   

 

 

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