The actor, comedian, director, and medieval historian Terry Jones passed away last week, but Mr. Creosote will never die. Nor will any of the other characters portrayed by Jones in his work with Monty Python, the culture-changing comedy troupe he co-founded with Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, and Terry Gilliam. You can get a sense of Jones’ range as a comedic performer in the three-minute compilation above, which features a range of Jones’ characters including the crunchy frog-dealing candy-shop owner, the aviator-helmeted Spanish Inquisitor, one of the four Yorkshiremen, and of course, the Bishop.
My own introduction to Jones’ work came through the Spam waitress, a Monty Python character beloved of many children not yet born when Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the troupe’s BBC series, first ran in the late 1960s and early 70s.
Set in a diner where nearly every dish involves Spam as at least one ingredient, the sketch pokes fun at the cheap tinned meat’s persistence on British tables well after the austerity of the Second World War, and more subtly at the even deeper and longer-lasting persistence of the British wartime mindset. I naturally knew little of all this when first I saw the Spam sketch, and had never once tasted Spam itself, but Jones’ commitment to his character — and that character’s blithe seriousness about the word “Spam” — got me laughing.
Generations of children and adults alike will continue to enjoy the Spam waitress, as well as all of Jones’ other characters and their often absurd interactions with those played by the rest of the Pythons. And the more they learn about the troupe and its work, the more they’ll appreciate Jones’ special contributions to its legacy. After co-directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Gilliam, he singlehandedly directed the next two Python features, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. It was in that last film that Jones managed to balance his directorial duties with those of playing the colossally obese, frequently vomiting Mr. Creosote, whose sheer gluttony results in his explosion. So yes, technically, Mr. Creosote did die — but every time we watch The Meaning of Life he lives, and we laugh, once again.
via Laughing Squid
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.