It didn’t take long after Terry Jones’s death at the age of 77 was confirmed early Wednesday morning before the tributes began to pour in. (The comedy legend had been battling a rare form of dementia since 2015.) The founding Monty Python member was, after all, one of the most beloved and influential voices of his generation. As Jones’ fellow Monty Python founder Michael Palin put it in a statement to the United Kingdom’s PA News, “He 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.”
Jones and Palin, along with fellow Monty Python founders Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Eric Idle, became some of the most influential forces in comedy after they started the surreal comedy group, which launched Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969 on the BBC. Over the decades the Monty Python cult only grew bigger and more expansive, as the group became a worldwide phenomenon, with its name on books, films, stage shows, and more. It’s no surprise, then, that upon Jones’ death, fond memories began to well up.
Cleese tweeted, “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. Two down, four to go.” (Graham Chapman died in 1989.)
Gilliam paid tribute as well, writing, “HE WAS A VERY NAUGHTY BOY!!...and we miss you. Terry was someone totally consumed with life... a brilliant, constantly questioning, iconoclastic, righteously argumentative and angry but outrageously funny and generous and kind human being... and very often a complete pain in the ass. One could never hope for a better friend. Goodbye, Tel.”
Idle, too, remembered Jones on Twitter: “I loved him the moment I saw him on stage at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963,” he wrote. 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.”
“Thank you all for your kind thoughts and messages of support for our dearly beloved brother Terry,” he added minutes later. “It is a cruel and sad thing. But let's remember just what joy he brought to all of us.”
Comedian-actor-writer Stephen Fry, who performed with Monty Python in 2014, was equally effusive: “Farewell, Terry Jones. The great foot has come down to stamp on you. My god what pleasure you gave, what untrammeled joy and delight. What a wonderful talent, heart and mind.”
The love came from outside the Monty Python family as well. Mystery Science Theater 3000 writer/performer Bill Corbett tweeted a photo of himself with Jones, noting that he “had the honor of getting directed by him to read some scenes from his work, at DragonCon 2015. Such a great man. (And I regret I dressed like such a dipshit for the occasion).”
The Thick of It and Veep writer Simon Blackwell described Jones as “the heart of Python.”
“Ripping Yarns remains so gloriously funny, and Bert Fegg's Nasty Book For Boys & Girls made me laugh like a small fool when I was eight,” he tweeted. “Very sad to see him go.”
British comedian Rufus Hound echoed the sentiment: “You may not have the kind of affection for The Pythons that comedy fans of my vintage have,” he wrote, “but know that if you've ever enjoyed any flavour of surreal, silly anti-comedy, you owe them. And Terry Jones was the beating heart of it all. What a man.”
For more, listen to the most recent episodes of The Last Laugh podcast.