If you have even a passing knowledge of comedy, then you should know what the Monty Python is. Making its television debut in 1969, the British troupe has become a household name for their satirical, surreal, and sometimes dark humor. Between their sketch comedy program, five motion pictures, and countless other media ventures, the Python is one of the most influential groups in the history of entertainment. This week, one of the troupe’s founding members, Terry Jones received an award outstanding contribution to television and film from BAFTA Cymru (the Welsh branch of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts). While the actor and writer was certainly deserving of the honor, there was another, less joyous reason he was selected. Last month, Jones was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a type of dementia that seriously impairs his ability to communicate verbally.
As a member of the Monty Python, Jones excelled at making people laugh. He could play the straight man – like he did in the “Nudge Nudge” skit – or the funny man – as he did in the “Crunchy Frog” sketch – with great showmanship. Also, he showed great skill in playing characters, like the title character’s mother in The Life of Brian and Sir Bedevere the Wise in The Holy Grail. While he may not be as recognizable as John Cleese or Eric Idle, Jones was an integral part of making the Monty Python the icon that it is. The Welshman has a successful career apart from the group as well. Most notably, he penned the screenplay for the cult classic Jim Henson fantasy film, Labyrinth. Jones also showed his knack for history with his documentary series, Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives and Terry Jones’ Barbarians; the former earned him an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming.” Few people have been gifted with as much talent as Terry Jones has, and his work as an entertainer changed the world.
The BAFTA Cymru took place on October 2 in Cardiff, Wales. Jones received the award from his fellow Python member and close friend, Michael Palin, with whom he performed in numerous memorable scenes. Due to his condition, the recipient was assisted by his son, Bill Jones, who delivered a short yet sentimental speech on the dais: “We’d just like to say thank you to everyone. I know it’s a great honor for Dad to win this award. The struggles we’re having at the moment, it’s a bit hard, but we’re so proud of him. Thank you.” The speech was less than half a minute long, and yet, the speaker left the stage in tears. Jones made first public appearance since his diagnosis at the awards ceremony, and upon first glance, it seems that he has not lost his sense of humor. Despite his illness, he jokingly told the audience to “quieten down” before his son’s speech. According to Palin, the rest of the Python members will support their friend through his dementia.