Monty Python celebrate ‘Life of Brian,’ honor ailing Jones

LONDON (AP) — Celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Monty Python comedy classic “Life of Brian” are being somewhat overshadowed by the health news of member Terry Jones.

Jones is “very robust” although “on the downhill slope” due to dementia, according to his friend and colleague Michael Palin. Jones was diagnosed in 2015 with a form of dementia that impairs the ability to speak.

“I go and see him and the great satisfaction is just to get a reaction; sadly, he doesn’t speak much. But I read him some stuff that we’d written together a long, long time ago and Terry actually started to laugh at it, and he laughed only at the bits that he’d written,” Palin recalled in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

“Life of Brian,” which Jones directed, is being feted with a worldwide re-release on Friday. It is among the group’s revered 45 TV comedy episodes, five films and a blockbuster Broadway musical.

When “Life of Brian” came out four decades ago, it was a huge hit, but also stirred controversy because of its plotline: It was about a man named Brian Cohen who was born in the stables next to Jesus and mistaken for the Messiah. Palin played Pontius Pilate with a speech impediment.

“We didn’t get death threats, we just got people who were deeply, deeply offended by what we’d done,” said Palin.

“Yes, the right-wing militias weren’t as strong in those days,” added troupe member Terry Gilliam.

Palin recalls the film was actually banned from a town called Aberystwyth in Wales until 2008.

“Then Aberystwyth elected a new mayor, and the mayor they elected was Sue Jones-Davies, who played Brian’s girlfriend, romping around in the nude. She was mayor of Aberystwyth and the first thing she said was, ‘We’re going to release this film in Aberystwyth,’” he recalled. “It was only shown for one night.”

Besides the anniversary of “Life of Brian,” Gilliam, 68, and Palin, 65, are also relishing the continued cultural relevance of sketches they wrote in their youth.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte recently likened British Prime Minister Theresa May, mired in Brexit, to the Black Knight (played by John Cleese in the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”) who refuses to admit defeat despite losing all his limbs in a fight with King Arthur.

“I mean Python’s had quite a resurgence owing to politics recently,” said Palin, who added that “a Python situation” now is a synonym for “ridiculous.”

Gilliam welcomed the attention, adding it was much needed now.

“People seem to be frightened of laughing at things, or especially to laugh at themselves, and that’s what really worries me,” he said. “If we can’t appreciate the utter absurdity of us as a species, we’re dead.”

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Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved with Berman Concerts and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.