will forever be identified as a member of the outrageous British comedy troupe, Monty Python's Flying Circus
. He's the man who delivered the magical line "Spam, spam, spam!" In recent years, Jones has become somewhat of an expert in medieval history and authored several books on the subject. But don't think the humorist has abandoned any of his silly sensibilities. Jones says that Python's surreal humor was often best played in a historically accurate setting, as in the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail
and Life of Brian
. His new History Channel series, Terry Jones' Medieval Lives
, tells the true stories behind many of the iconic medieval myths of the past. Informative and witty, the show proves that, despite what your teachers might have said, you can
laugh and learn.
TV Guide Online: Is this show a boring history lesson?
Jones: Oh, no. Very often when people are teaching history, they assume that people in the past never laughed. People had just as much of a sense of humor back then as they have now. What interests me about history are not so much the differences from today, but the similarities. I find that people are the same in any age — it's just the furniture that's different.
TVGO: What kind of things will viewers learn about the Middle Ages?
Jones: People might be surprised to find out that in the Middle Ages, they didn't think the world was flat. An American journalist named Washington Irving invented that. He wrote a biography of Christopher Columbus, and [wrote] this scene in which Columbus faces the church fathers and tells them that the world is round. He's accused of heresy for saying that the world is round when everyone knows the world is flat. Irving totally made this up.
TVGO: Most people must still ask about Monty Python. What do you think when you see the shows now?
Jones: I used to squirm all the time. Whenever I'm looking at them, I'm thinking, "Oh, God, we didn't do that right." But looking at them has gotten easier.
TVGO: Is there any chance of a Python reunion?
Jones: There was a time, about four years ago, when we were very keen on doing a stage show and it really looked like it would take off. John Cleese was very keen on doing it and Eric Idle did a lot of work putting the show together. Then, Mike Palin didn't want to do it and Terry Gilliam didn't want to do it anyways, so the whole thing just suddenly collapsed. It's not something I would have chosen to do, artistically speaking, because it does feel a bit retrogressive, but I'd have done it because we'd have had fun.
TVGO: What about the rumor of a stage version of Holy Grail?
Jones: Yeah, Eric Idle's got this plan for a Broadway musical version of Holy Grail. I listened to some of the songs and there were some really good ones there. I made a few comments, but he's working ahead on it with John Du Prez. We [the Python troupe] all agreed for him to go ahead; we're all cool about it. His one-man stage show, Eric Idle Rips Off Monty Python, was really good. So I hope for good things with the Grail show.
TVGO: Over the years, what famous people have you heard were Python fans?
Jones: Elvis, evidently was a fan of Python. George Harrison was a great fan, and said he was watching our shows while going through his worst time during the break-up of The Beatles. So when Life of Brian's funding fell through, Eric Idle asked if George could help. George put up the money because he wanted to see the film. It was the most expensive cinema sit ever!
TVGO: Who makes you laugh?
Jones: I'm a great fan of the comic Eddie Izzard and he was a big fan of Python. I think Woody Allen is a total genius. Every year, he's producing one or two films and everybody says, "They're always the same." But he's got such command of the medium. I mean, he's a genius. A film like Crimes and Misdemeanors is a great film.
TVGO: Any film projects for you in the near future?Two new episodes of
Jones: Whoa, golly. I always feel if you talk about an idea, it's the end of the idea. When we were doing the Medieval Lives program, one of the shows is about monks, and I play one. I've got to write a film about monks. I just look so convincing as a monk, and how many people can say that?
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives air Saturday, beginning at 7 pm/ET, on the History Channel.