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Terry Jones has died (bbc.com)
650 points by acdanger 26 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 91 comments

Not only a comedian/actor/writer but also a fine medievalist who engaged in original scholarship. Some years ago he caused quite a stir in Chaucerian circles by arguing that the Knight in the Knight's Tale (Canterbury Tales) was not actually the ideal of a knight but rather a mercenary and further, that the Knight's Tale, rather than being an ode to chivalry, "emerges...as a hymn to tyranny, dressed-up in the rags of a chivalric romance."[0] This sounds fairly minor but it's an interpretation, albeit one not wholly accepted by many scholars, that upended centuries of scholarship. An impressive achievement.

[0] http://smuhlberger.blogspot.com/2007/03/chaucers-knight-by-t...

> Not only a comedian/actor/writer but also a fine medievalist who engaged in original scholarship.

As much as I loved discovering Monty Python in my college years, I think I've watched more episodes of Terry Jones' history documentaries than Monty Python episodes. A lot of of them are on YT, uploaded way back when 480p was the best you could get. I would love to see them again in high quality some day though.

Link(s) for archival purposes?

EDIT: Thank you, it is appreciated. Archived.

I just searched for it for you, and by coincidence found one I hadn't seen myself yet! The Hidden History Of Egypt with Terry Jones[0]. Aren't I lucky? I can honor the man while treating myself.

Anyway, these playlist[1][2] contains his Medieval Lives series as well as a few about the Romans (I think there were more episodes in that series though). Sadly, his Crusades and Barbarians series have all been blocked. There are also a few other documentaries he hosted - including one about the number one!

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVw6b15w8Ys

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbisfXkmOx8&list=PLEr7udSNoJ...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrLQW1vQklE&list=PLaaaWAUe8c...

Hell, I want to look up the series he did about weapons of war a long time ago. I remember watching a bit of it and then couldn't find it...time to trawl YouTube.

Thanks for these great links! Terry seems to have a penchant for alternative hypotheses, and a refreshingly entertaining style of presentation.

Makes perfect sense to me - I would have had a harder time reconciling a legendary absurdist contrarian comedian with a conformist historian! ;)

Also worth looking out for the Great Map Mystery - 4 eps where Jones retraces the path of the first road atlas and wonders why it would have been drawn at all, comes up with some very interesting history along the way. Looks like it might be available on Amazon Prime in some countries, could also be on YT but it's geoblocked for me in New Zealand.

For anyone interested in reading Terry Jones' book: https://www.amazon.com/Chaucers-Knight-Portrait-Medieval-Mer...

A true legend through and through. RIP.

Barbarians is a great read too. It was the first non-fiction I read got me hooked on history.


BBC show based of the book is also worth watching: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0905688/

He had a few director credits as well, with Cleese tweeting today:

"Of his many achievements, for me the greatest gift he gave us all was his direction of 'Life of Brian'. Perfection"

In a clip for BBC Radio, Cleese also couldn't refrain himself from reaching for old stereotypes about "hot tempered" Welsh people, god forbid he should pass on a chance to spread his (not-so-)casual racism far and wide once more.

It's such a shame how badly that man has aged.

You sound fun.

Your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries!

I got to take a writing workshop with him once and I’m proud to say I made him laugh. He was very kind, and obviously had great stories.

Python was very much a group effort, but I think he made an enormous difference behind the scenes.

Nice. I got to ask John Cleese "if it's not a personal question, are you a virgin?". I count that as one of my lifetime accomplishments.

What was the response?

yes please what was the response?

"[laugh] Oh no, I took care of that in 19xx"

I probably caught him by surprise, and to be fair, I'm sure Terry was asked that in the past[1], not John.

I was tempted to not answer you, so you'd imagine that he had a super witty comeback... oh well, it is what it is.

[1] while I still hope I was the first to ask that question of anyone in their crew, I very must doubt that.

I got Kevin Smith laughing hysterically on stage once without even trying, I felt like I'd unlocked some life achievement, it was awesome. I can only imagine how great it would be to get a laugh out of a legend like Terry Jones!

I vaguely remember Dan Harmon talking about this on his podcast, lord knows which episode. Basically about how his audience or random people he brings up on stage can spontaneously cause him to crack up more than any professional.

He reasoned that since he's a professional, when he watches another comedian act, he pretty much knows what's going on under the hood. He can predict where a joke is going because there are tried and true formulas, he can see through their pacing, etc. But if a noob cracks one, even if it's a joke he's heard before, he knows there's probably none of the calculation that a pro puts into it. It was a genuine thing, which makes it all the more hilarious to him.

That might also be why he enjoys the company of that box of randomness going by the name "Rob Schrab".

Can't say I got him hysterical, but yes, felt like a major life achievement.

He was a generous laugh, and that's a really admirable trait from a comedy legend.

The type of dementia he had - FTD - sounds particularly painful for somebody who had such a strong personality and who clearly loved writing and language as much as he did.

I've put together a JustGiving page to raise money for the leading charity in this area in the UK, with the hope that in Terry's memory a few people might be able to say thank you with a few quid.


RIP Terry.

Great idea. Thanks for setting that up!

Not ready for Monty Python crew to kick off, what legends that changed everything, for the better.

Some Terry Jones quotes:

> "Some people are passionate about aisles, others about window seats."

> "The funny thing about history is that we imagine that people didn't laugh in the old days, but of course they did, at stupid things."

> "Every age sort of has its own history. History is really the stories that we retell to ourselves to make them relevant to every age. So we put our own values and our own spin on it."

> "I'm cheerfully optimistic about life. Optimism is very important!"

We'll try to be optimistic Terry Jones, we'll try and thanks for helping by making us think critically and laugh at the absurdity of things. Always look on the bright side of life.

> "Some people are passionate about aisles, others about window seats."

What did he have to say about reclining seats?


> "Some people are passionate about aisles, others about window seats."

Isn't anyone passionate about center seats?

I passionately hate them.

Always look on the bright side of death.

Terry Jones wrote the novelization (and voiced the audiobook of that novelization) of the videogame Starship Titanic. That novelization and its audiobook are two of the best things about the game Starship Titanic. The game is more associated generally with Douglas Adams, but the novelization was entirely Terry Jones. Worth a read or a listen if you get a chance, whether or not you have played or have any interest in playing the game.

(The game is a weird relic of a Myst clone that wanted to be a Parser IF game and had delusions/experiments of using early chat bot AI/ML that mostly fall flat.)

(The game was published through traditional book publisher Simon & Schuster, and requiring that novelization was probably the smartest thing they did. I will forever recommend the book.)

I remember getting emails from Stevedave and Davesteve for weeks after signing up!

Sadly, shortly after that Adams died. I bought "Salmon of Doubt" and it took me almost 10 years to read it because I didn't want to read his final words.

Same. Read every other Adams book at least a dozen times. That one sits on the shelf untouched.

I have a copy of that game sitting in my basement. Loved it, the book, and the whole package. I must go dig it out.

One of the best "morbid motivations", from Terry:


If you’ve already watched Holy Grail, Life of Brian and Meaning of Life so many times, you know them by heart. You should watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus - Season 4 next. It’s the one they did without John Cleese. Some of the stuff in there is so surreal and out there, that it feels different from the other stuff they did as a group.

It’s a great way to remember this beautiful man.

Years of living in a shoebox in the middle of the road will do that to you.

Rest in peace.

A shoebox? Bloody luxury!

Might also have to do with working 24 hours a day and being sliced in two.

Rest in peace.

If you love the Four Yorkshiremen sketch you'll love Capstick Comes Home


They are only slightly exaggerated from the war stories you got as a kid.

I was surprised to learn that the Four Yorkshiremen sketch actually predates Monty Python -- I guess this is why they only did renditions in their live shows. Of the original Four, only Cleese and Chapman went on to be Pythons.


Cardboard box?

No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'!

So long Terry and thank you for making the world a better place.

He's pining for the fjords!

Worth pointing out that the current political climate at the BBC would render Monty Python impossible to make today, and apparently this is considered progress.

Not entirely sure about that.

I enjoy listening to the shows "Dead Ringers" and "The Now Show" on Radio 4 which provide pretty accurate satire of current politics. Other enjoyable comedy sketch shows include "That Mitchell and Webb look" and "Harry and Paul".

There remains hope.

Tabloids and opinion pieces in deeply partisan papers are what they are, but they aren't at all reliable for establishing truth.

Sadly, many Pythons got old, lost their edge, and wound up wealthy entitled out-of-touch conservative old men - their complaints reflect their own shortcomings more than anything else.

Terry Jones was one of the exceptions, which makes his loss all the sadder.

Its not what the tabloid said, it is what the senior leadership of bbc said. Specifically saying this sort of combination (regardless of talent or chemistry) is not going to happen today. Sad, that is.

My takeaway from the Telegraph opinion piece is a bit different, and the opinion writer's conclusions don't follow from the premises, but if you'd like to believe it, feel free.


And hence we now call unwanted emails Spam. RIP Terry

Turing Award winner Robert Floyd also died of a form of FTD, Pick's Disease. He was only 65.


I was thinking that giant foot finally caught him.

He's not the Messiah, he's...

... the actor that played his mum.

" thanks a lot for the gold and frankincense, er, but don't worry too much about the myrrh next time. All right? "

I think the grandparent was just quoting what Jones (as the mum) said in the movie tho, not saying he played the Messiah: "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy".

cant tell if you dont get the joke, or if i dont get your joke

I don't think there's much of a joke to get.

My reading is:

1) Someone (person A) said "He's not the messiah, he's..."

2) Another (person B) thought A meant that Terry Jones played the messiah (Brian) and corrected them by writing "...he's the actor that played his mum".

3) I stepped in to say, I don't think A implied Terry did was the messiah in the movie, he just referenced one of Terry's lines from the movie.

Makes sense?

Was there some joke I've missed?

Yes. The joke was that Person A's comment, replying to an article about Jones, makes it seem as if the 'he' in the line is referring to Jones, not the baby Messiah from the movie. B then subverted the expected conclusion of Jones' line "...he's a very naughty boy" with a fact about Jones himself: "he's the actor that played his mum". Person B was aware of Jones' line and played off it.

This was indeed the joke I was aiming for - though in reality it was probably as funny as coldtea thought...

I dunno, I liked it. Every joke sounds bad when someone breaks it down like I did.

I liked it too.

“Analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog. Nobody laughs and the frog dies.”

- Barry Cryer

I got the mechanics of your response (the literal answer being funny because it's true while also agreeing on the "he's not") and even found it funny (let's say 56% funny).

But I considered it premised on being an (actual, regardless of if being done as a funny quip) correction of the grandparent at the same time.

Let's analyze this further, it's fun!

Yes, you missed it, but you can probably get away with crucifixion:


I bloody knew this would happen. I tried to warn them, but would they listen? no....

A world without the Pythons? Not my cuppa tea.

The other replies to this comment are a lot funnier if you read them in alternating gumby and pepper pot voices.

The real question now is what will happen to his two sheds.

He’s on his way to deliver the Spanish Inquisition!

Thanks for the laughs, Terry!

The devil will never expect it and beg God to get rid of this ruffian, troublemaker layabout.


It's funny how Monty Python humor seemed to have struck a chord with a technical audience (of course, not only them).

I wonder what the former-BDFL of Python has to say about it.

I'm sad to hear this, but also glad for him because he lead a very accomplished life.

For those of you who haven't seen Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, there are episodes on YouTube. Highly recommended.

May Brian welcome him at the threshold of whatever comes after. He will not soon be forgotten here.

Just guessing, but he probably made people laugh millions of times. I know I did my part.

What a great gift to humanity. I'll revisit his works for the rest of my life.


I hope they dressed him in a women's costume for his part in the hereafter.

He is now an ex Terry Jones!


It certainly "gratifies" my intellectual curiousity. I might also add that it's hard to work in IT and escape a Monty Python reference at one point or another during one's career.

> it's hard to work in IT and escape a Monty Python reference at one point or another during one's career.

Borderline impossible if you ever work with Python

It's actually a bit sad how this element has been progressively forgotten through the years. In the early '00s, everything-python had to make an effort to drop a Monty Python reference somewhere, anywhere, even just in docs; but nowadays it's pretty hard to spot one in the wild. Popularity inevitably waters down this sort of eccentricity.

Spam, too.

These posts usually have insightful comments about the persons life that I never would have read had it not been posted here. I would have read about his death in a headline, and moved on.

But since I came into these comments I learned a lot more about him, and will probably spend the evening watching some of his history docs.

Maybe the article its self isn't gratifying, but the comments usually are.

Pythonesque humor is a staple of nerd/hacker culture.

I also think it is off-topic. It will be covered by TV news, and I just can't imagine why deaths of famous people stimulate intellectual curiosity.

I really like what Terry Jones created, and I'm sorry that he's gone, but I don't come to Hacker News to read obituaries.

It's particularly egregious to see a thread mourning the death of a famous comedian on a forum that where humor is mercilessly stamped out and popular culture is often condemned as infantile and a cancer to the intellect.

I beg to differ. I'm not afraid to post humorous remarks, and it's relatively rare that the mediocrity police decide to brigade them out of sight. Timing matters: the US timezones in particular appear to penalise irony, absurdity, and parody, so I check the world clock first.

Wow. Hope this gets a black bar.

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