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Terry Jones At UWF: Chaucer, Richard II, & Dead Parrots

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In the wake of the news that Monty Python founding member Terry Jones has been diagnosed with dementia, we look back at his visits to the University of West Florida.

In a statement released by Britain's film academy, a representative says the 74-year-old Jones has primary progressive aphasia, which erodes the ability to use language. As a result, he can no longer give interviews.

Terry Jones visited West Florida twice – to lecture on his book “Who Murdered Chaucer?” which he co-wrote with UWF English professor Bob Yeager in 2005. In 2007 Jones returned with a book on King Richard II, who ruled England from 1377 to 1399.

“He was ten years old when he came to the throne, and he was usurped and murdered by Henry IV,” said Jones. “Because he was a very guilty man, Henry IV. He’s committed treason, he’s destroyed all his vows of loyalty to his liege lord. And he shouldn’t be there, he’s illegal.”

In researching the book, Jones found that Henry’s propaganda campaign against Richard had stood up in the 600+ years after the Monarch’s slaying.

“One of the clever things that Henry did was to back date it, so it looked as if it was stuff that was written during Richard’s reign,” Jones said. “And it’s only just now that we’re beginning to realize that it wasn’t.”

Later in the interview, Terry Jones spoke about Monty Python. In 1969 five Brits and one American – Jones, John Cleese, the late Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam – debuted their brand of sketch comedy, music and animation on the BBC. The series ran until 1974, and then nearly faced a permanent demise.

“Because the BBC actually had a policy of wiping shows after two years or something like that,” said Jones. “And so I panicked and we smuggled out the shows, out of the BBC and put them onto VCR.”

The tapes saved, Monty Python continues to enjoy a cult following around the world. The program first appeared in the United States on PBS – which Jones said was a good fit.

“So it went out uncensored, uncut, and without commercials,” said Jones. “Which was what the programs were designed to do. Whereas in Canada and Australia they went out with commercials.”

In remembering the series’ five-year, 45-episode run, Jones talked about his favorite sketches that he wrote, including Mr. Creosote -- the fat man who explodes in the restaurant. An accomplished pianist, Jones also recalled a favorite sketch that featured his keyboard skills.

“I was playing Sviatoslav Richter, the pianist,” Jones said. “[I] played Rachmaninoff’s ‘Warsaw Concerto’ while escaping from a strait jacket and six padlocks.”

Jones was also active behind the camera. He directed the Python films "Life of Brian" and "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life." Jones also co-directed "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" with Terry Gilliam.