Terence Graham Parry Jones (born 1 February 1942) is a Welsh comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director, children's author, popular historian, political commentator and TV documentary host. He is best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy team.
As a member of the Monty Python troupe, Jones is remembered for his roles as middle-aged women and the bowler-hatted "man in the street". He typically wrote sketches in partnership with Palin.
One of Jones's early concerns was devising a fresh format for the Python TV shows, and it was largely Jones who developed the stream-of-consciousness style which abandoned punchlines and instead encouraged the fluid movement of one sketch to another – allowing the team's conceptual humour the space to “breathe”. Jones also objected to TV directors’ use of sped-up film, over-emphatic music, and static camera style, and took a keen interest in the direction of the shows. He later committed himself to directing the Python films Monty Python and the Holy Grail (with Terry Gilliam), The Life of Brian, and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, and as director, finally gained fuller control of the projects, devising a visual style that allowed the performers 'space'; for instance, in the use of wide shots for long exchanges of dialogue, and more economical use of music. As demonstrated in many of his sketches with Palin, Jones was also interested in making comedy that was visually impressive, feeling that interesting settings augmented, rather than detracted from, the humour. His methods encouraged many future television comedians to break away from conventional studio-bound shooting styles, as demonstrated into the 21st century by shows such as Green Wing, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen.
Of Jones's contributions as a performer, his parodic, screechy-voiced depictions of "pepperpots" (middle-aged women, such as the Waitress in the "Spam" sketch) are among the most memorable. His humour, in collaboration with Palin, tends to be conceptual in nature; a typical Palin/Jones sketch draws its humour from the absurdity of the scenario. For example, in the “Summarise Proust Competition”, Jones plays a cheesy game show host giving a series of contestants 15 seconds to condense Marcel Proust's lengthy work À la recherche du temps perdu; in the "Mouse Organ" sketch, he plays a tuxedoed man using mallets to bash mice who have been trained to squeak at a select pitch, and when “played” in the correct order reproduce the tune "Bells of St. Mary". In both cases, the laughs originate in the madness of the idea itself. Jones was also notable for his gifts as a Chaplinesque physical comedian, perhaps best demonstrated in the "Undressing in Public" sketch. He was often cast as the straight man, or as a nerdy or put-upon character, often with ambitions or dreams beyond his abilities, in contrast to the authority figures often played by John Cleese or Graham Chapman.
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