Terry Jones death: Monty Python stars' 'Two down, four to go' joke is entirely appropriate

Anita Singh
It was announced on Wednesday that Terry Jones, founder member of Monty Python, had died at 77. He was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia in 2016.   - Geoff Pugh

The death of a close friend is not traditionally the occasion for a joke. But when that friend is a fellow Python, it seems entirely appropriate.

It was announced on Wednesday that Terry Jones, founder member of Monty Python, had died at 77. He was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia in 2016.

John Cleese’s response? A statement that ended: “Two down, four to go,” referring to the deaths of Jones and Graham Chapman, and the remaining members of the troupe.

Jones would have expected nothing less. At Chapman’s memorial service in 1989, following the Python star’s death from cancer, Cleese said in his eulogy that most would think it sad that Chapman had died at 48 when he had so much left to achieve. “Well, I feel that I should say: nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading b-----d. I hope he fries,” Cleese jokes, to uproarious laughter.

For Sir Michael Palin, who counted Jones as his closest friend, yesterday’s news was heartbreaking.

“It’s sort of like losing a limb,” Sir Michael said of a friendship that began when the pair met as Oxford University students in 1962. They wrote together for several years before forming Monty Python and were “inseparable”.

“Even in the last few years, when Terry was doing his thing and I was doing my thing, we would still meet up. We were very close friends and I valued Terry’s opinion perhaps more than any other,” Sir Michael said.

He broke down during an appearance on the BBC News when asked what he would most miss about Jones. “I just miss putting my arm around him and having a drink,” Sir Michael said.

“He was a terrific companion. So I shall miss our trips to the bar, I shall miss our pints and I shall miss our sessions setting the world to rights. He was the most wonderful friend.”

Jones first showed signs of dementia in 2014, when Monty Python played a reunion show at the O2 in London. He struggled to remember all of his lines and instead read them from an autocue.

“Fairly soon after, his dementia increased and he lost the power to communicate and it was very sad to see… He was a man of words. He was brilliant with words,” Sir Michael said.

But he recalled a recent visit to Jones’s north London home, and a sign that his friend had not lost all power of understanding.

The remaining members of the group have paid tribute to Terry Jones Credit: Philip Toscano/PA

He said: “I took a book that we had written together, Dr Fegg’s Encyclopaedia of All World Knowledge, and started reading a few little bits out of it. And for the first time in a long time I heard real laughter. And I thought that was a marvellously encouraging thing to happen.

“But what was best of all was that Terry was only laughing at the bits he had written. I thought, well, that’s defying dementia for you.”

In a statement, Jones’s family said he died on the evening of January 21 with his wife, Anna Soderstrom, by his side “after a long, extremely brave but always good humoured battle with a rare for of dementia, FTD.

“Over the past few days his wife, children, extended family and many close friends have been constantly with Terry as he gently slipped away at his home in North London.

"We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades.

"His work with Monty Python, his books, films, television programmes, poems and other work will live on forever, a fitting legacy to a true polymath.

"We, his wife Anna, children Bill, Sally, Siri and extended family would like to thank Terry's wonderful medical professionals and carers for making the past few years not only bearable but often joyful. We hope that this disease will one day be eradicated entirely."

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