Jones was instrumental in creating the wacky, absurdist style of comedy that Monty Python made famous in the 1970s and directed two of the English comedy group’s most successful films, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” In the latter, Jones played Mandy Cohen, mother of the titular Brian, and appeared before a crowd to deliver probably his most famous line in a comically squawky voice, “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”
He also wrote the screenplay for the 1986 cult classic “Labyrinth” starring David Bowie.
In 2004 Jones was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the BBC documentary series “Medieval Lives,” and in 1983 he was nominated for a BAFTA for best original song for “Every Sperm is Sacred” from “Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life.” In October 2016 Jones received a standing ovation as he was awarded the BAFTA Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television. He was introduced at the ceremony by fellow Python Michael Palin, and Jones’ son spoke on his behalf because he was physically unable to make the speech.
Born in the seaside town of Colwyn Bay on the north coast of Wales, Jones’ acting career began when he started performing comedy with future Monty Python co-star Michael Palin while at Oxford University. The Python members formed while they all worked on the satirical BBC show “The Frost Report” before making their TV debut as a group with “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” a comedy sketch show which launched them to stardom.
Jones was mainly a writer and director for the troupe, letting Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman take most of the lead roles in their films, but served as co-director with Terry Gilliam on the group’s first feature-length film “The Holy Grail.”
In the farcical medieval romp, Jones played Sir Bedevere, who is asked to put a woman on trial for being a witch. He devises a test to weigh her against a duck, using the logic that if their weight is equal then she must be able to float and therefore she is a witch. Sir Bedevere is knighted for his wise pronouncement.
“The Meaning Of Life” provided another iconic Jones character in the form of the enormously fat Mr. Creosote. In the iconic restaurant scene, Mr. Creosote orders plate after plate, vomiting occasionally on himself and the waiter. He ends up consuming so much food and becoming so fat that he bursts open, spewing vomit and guts all over the restaurant.
Later in the film, Jones plays a Catholic wife with 37 children and joins in with her husband’s rendition of “Every sperm is sacred,” a song making fun of the church’s opposition to contraception. Each of her offspring comes walking out of their front door in a hilariously long procession, which demonstrated Jones’ uncanny knack for comedic timing as a director.
More recently, Jones co-wrote the 2015 sci-fi comedy “Absolutely Anything,” starring Simon Pegg and the remaining members of Monty Python. Even though it received poor reviews, fans were delighted to see the Pythons reunited, and the film also featured the voice of Robin Williams in his final performance.
He also authored several books, both fiction and nonfiction.
Jones is survived by his wife Anna Soderstrom and their daughter Siri, as well as two children from his first wife, Sally and Bill Jones.