Michael Palin: Terry Jones is not 'terribly well' but still laughs at his own jokes

Tom ButlerSenior Editor
Michael Palin and Terry Jones pictured at a photocall for A Liar's Autobiography, held at the Vue Cinema, Leicester Square, as part of the BFI London Film Festival.
Michael Palin and Terry Jones pictured at a photocall for A Liar's Autobiography, held at the Vue Cinema, Leicester Square, as part of the BFI London Film Festival.

Terry Jones is still laughing through his dementia, fellow Monty Python star Sir Michael Palin has said – but only at his own jokes.

Jones, 77, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementiaa form of dementia which has left him unable to communicate.

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Sir Michael, 76, told The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show that he visited Jones recently, taking a book they had written together more than 30 years ago.

The comedian and Life Of Brian director laughed but only at the parts that he had written.

CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 02: Michael Palin (L) and Terry Jones arrive for the 25th British Academy Cymru Awards at St David's Hall on October 2, 2016 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 02: Michael Palin (L) and Terry Jones arrive for the 25th British Academy Cymru Awards at St David's Hall on October 2, 2016 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

"The other day I took a book that we'd written together in the 1980s called Bert Fegg's Encyclopaedia Of All World Knowledge, which was sort of an anarchist children's book," Sir Michael said.

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"I read some of it - the things we'd written together - and amazing because Terry suddenly smiled and began to laugh.

"But the key thing," Sir Michael added, "was that he only laughed at the bits that he'd written! I thought, that shows that something is ticking over!"

Despite the laughter, Sir Michael said his friend is "not terribly well. The kind of dementia he has is not something that can be cured particularly - it's just a matter of time.

Dr. Fegg's Encyclopaedia of All World Knowledge, written by Terry Jones and Michael Palin, was first published in 1984. (Mandarin/Amazon)
Dr. Fegg's Encyclopaedia of All World Knowledge, written by Terry Jones and Michael Palin, was first published in 1984. (Mandarin/Amazon)

"I go and see him, but he can't speak much, which is a terrible thing.

"For someone who was so witty and verbal and articulate and argued and debated and all that, to be deprived of speech is a hard thing," the presenter and author told the Radio 2 show.

Jones made his last public appearance in 2017 collecting a lifetime achievement award from Palin at the Bafta Cymru Awards, where he received a standing ovation.

Jones, who collected the trophy with his son Bill, told the crowd to “quieten down” before his son thanked the audience on his behalf.

“It’s a great honour for Dad,” Bill said. “With the struggles we’re having at the moment it’s been hard, but we’re so proud of him.”

Monty Python have been celebrating 50 years of the comedy troupe.

Monty Pythons John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Pail, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Los Angeles, May 16th, 1975. (Photo by Ben Martin/Getty Images)
Monty Pythons John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Pail, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Los Angeles, May 16th, 1975. (Photo by Ben Martin/Getty Images)

The six-strong group first appeared on the BBC on 5 October 1969 and went on to have global success with their often surreal comedy. Founding member Graham Chapman died in 1989 following a cancer battle.

They last performed together as a group in 2014 at Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go, a series of sell out shows at the O2 Arena in London.

Most of their TV shows and films were added to Netflix in 2018.

With reporting by PA.

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