Two Minutes with Terry Jones
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Two Minutes with Terry Jones

The Monty Python cast member speaks (sort of) to Torontoist about reuniting with the old gang.

Exclusive Closing Night "Monty Python Live (Mostly)"

Like any person of honour and valour, we choose to live our life by a strict moral code. And whenever we find ourselves in a moment of doubt, we always refer back to an ancient proverb that has guided great people from generation to generation: Never turn down an opportunity to meet a member of Monty Python.

It was with this in mind that, last night, we enjoyed two minutes and one second in the company of Terry Jones, one of the founding members of the British comedy team. The setting is the Bloor Cinema, shortly before the Canadian premiere of Monty Python: The Meaning of Live at the Hot Docs Film Festival. Your humble correspondent is invited to the pre-screening camera call, where they are allowed two questions with Jones about the documentary and the enormously successful 2014 Python reunion it chronicles. There are exactly five living people for whom your humble correspondent would agree to such an arrangement. All of them happen to members of Monty Python.

“There has always been a certain chemistry in the group,” we tell the 73-year-old Python. “But watching this movie, it feels like there’s a different kind of chemistry. I was wondering, is there any difference in the group between the Hollywood Bowl”—where they performed in 1980—”and now?”

“No,” says Terry Jones. “I don’t think so. I mean, it’s… err… no difference, really…”

“A mellowing, maybe?” says Holly Gilliam, producer of the film and daughter of the other Python named Terry.

“Maybe a mellowing,” says Jones.

“What do you think has stayed the same?” we ask.

“Err… well, the… the…”

“The excitement they have in each other’s company,” interjects Roger Graef, co-director of The Meaning of Live. “They wind each other up, they delight each other at the same.”

We consult our notes. “Going back to the material after so long, do you have a different perspective on the material?”

“Err…” Terry Jones pauses. “Well, no, no…”

Graef chimes in again. “I think the one thing that surprised them all—if I can speak for them—is that they thought it was still funny.”

“Yeah… yeah…”

“From the moment the read-through started, they were laughing at each other’s jokes.”

“Yeah…” Jones chuckles in remembrance.

“Last question,” we say, knowing full well we’re asking one question more than allowed. “You were going back into the group dynamic after so long. Was it difficult going back into the dynamic?” Your humble correspondent feels a tugging on the shirtsleeve to wrap it up.

Terry Jones pauses. “No, no, no, no… it’s easy. It’s easy.”

Roger Graef chimes in: “They seemed surprisingly comfortable with each other and with doing the reunion, but the craft is still a challenge. John Cleese was still trying to figure out every day how to make it better, how to make it better, how to make it better.”

“He’s being nicer about it now!” says James Rogan. Jones chuckles at this.

“Also, it wasn’t as if the guys have not been together in all this time,” says Holly Gilliam. “They have dinners and they get together, so it wasn’t as if they hadn’t seen each other in 35 years and suddenly were put in a room and told to do a show. There’s a friendship that still exists.”

“It’s like a family that’s split up and has Christmas dinner together,” says Rogan.

“Yeah, yeah,” says Jones. And with that, your humble correspondent silly-walks their way home.

Monty Python: The Meaning of Live is part of the Hot Docs Film Festival, and is playing at the Fox Theatre (Sat, May 2, 9:00 p.m.) and the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (Sun, May 3, 4:00 p.m.).