You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody. You have got to think for yourselves. You are all different,” pleads the eponymous protagonist of Life of Brian. A large crowd in Roman-occupied Judaea responds in agreement: “Yes, we are different”. But then someone mumbles, “No, I am not”. These lines lampooned a range of group loyalties — from religio-spiritualist to socialist-communist. Brian would go on to skewer humanity’s quest for a messiah while caricaturing political militants, tyrants, Latin, even those who throw stones. It was heresy at its best. Christians, Protestants and Jewish groups protested. Life of Brian was banned in Ireland, Norway and several British municipalities. But its writer-director Terry Jones, who passed away on Wednesday, was unfazed. Life of Brian was followed by the even more heretical, Meaning of Life.
The creative force of the cult British Comedy sextet, Monty Python, Jones was perhaps the least flamboyant of the group. He met fellow Python, Michael Palin, in Oxford University in the late 1960s. In 1999, the two were joined by the Cambridge graduates, John Cleese and Graham Chapman, and later, the song-writer and musician, Eric Idle, and animator Terry Gilliam. The ensemble came together on the BBC comedy show, Monty Python Flying Circus. Jones co-directed the Python film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Gilliam. The two also came together for Meaning of Life.
A medievalist of distinction, Jones evoked the legendary British monarch, King Arthur to poke fun at larger than life personalities. He parodied Catholic attitudes towards contraception in a song-and-dance number in Meaning of Life. The humour was never larger than life. Perhaps that had something to with Jones’ personality, typified by the line spoken by Brian’s mother — a role, he himself assayed — “He is no messiah. Just a naughty boy”.
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