Author Archives: howardjohnson1985


Terry Jones was a true Renaissance man. I’ll let the journalists describe all of his talents and the various roles he played in his life, but they included director, children’s book author, historian, and Mr. Creosote. And he was brilliant at all of them.

What many people don’t know is what a kind man he was. He couldn’t pass a homeless person on the street without putting money in their hands.

He was the consummate host. Terry never let anyone’s glass run dry. He truly appreciated the best food and drink, and was no slouch as a chef.

He was brilliant. I spent weeks in Tunisia watching him direct Life of Brian, and I think the results speak for themselves.

He was funny. Obviously. I was privileged to work on a screenplay with him, and observe how quick he was at both jokes and story construction. And of course, there was Monty Python. Say no more.

And he was the truest, dearest, most loyal friend a guy could ask for. To be able to spend time in his company was one of the greatest privileges I have ever enjoyed, and to know I won’t be enjoying his company on this mortal coil is heartbreaking.

But I have memories. Oh, so many memories. Introducing him to Del Close one afternoon, a raucous dinner with Terry and Douglas Adams one evening in Chicago, enjoying dinners with his family, producing shows and workshops for him in New York, Atlanta, and especially in Chicago.

I spent a week with him in London a week before he went public with his diagnosis of dementia, knowing it would be the last quality time I would ever spend with him, and I’m so glad I did.

We all knew this day was coming, but I am surprised at how ill-prepared I am to say goodbye. Terry was larger than life, with shoes impossible to fill. I mourn with his family and friends in London and around the world.

I leave it to John Cleese to offer his take on it, one that Terry would have loved: Two down, four to go.

Goodbye, old chum.

#terryjones #ripterryjones  #montypython


Sir Michael

Michael Palin’s knighthood did not come as a total surprise to me. I heard rumors in recent weeks from rather reliable sources, so when the official announcement came, it was not a shock.

Still, the news that Michael would become a real-life k…nigget is a little amazing, yet completely Pythonesque. Knowing him over the past 40 years, and seeing him play one of the Knights Who Say Ni, there was little reason to think that it would ever happen. The Pythons were never particularly respectful of the Royals in the traditional British sense, and never took it all very seriously.

On the other hand, it makes complete sense. Once Michael began introducing TV viewers to the rest of the world, he took a step further from Python, and a step closer to the sort of chap that would become a knight.

And of all the Pythons, who better than Michael? John and Eric have been spending less and less time in Britain. Terry Jones never showed any inclination toward such an award. Graham is, unfortunately, dead. And Terry Gilliam—even worse—insisted on spending the majority of his life as an American.

So why not Michael? He has spent years as a respectable author and documentarian, distancing himself enough from Python that the Royals could overlook his portrayal of Sir Galahad and the leader of the Knights Who Say Ni, and encounters with the Pantomime Princess Margaret, enough to make him a real knight.

So congratulations Sir Michael! You have made this American very proud of you and your career. And best of all, I know that the next time we meet, you’ll be the same old Michael.#montypython #michaelpalin

Bleed Out

I don’t post much lately, but there’s something so important that it’s actually got me blogging again.

My old friend and Baron’s Barracuda Brother Steve Burrows has gone through hell over the past ten years, but he’s done an incredible job making lemonade out of a real-life horror story.

His mother went into the hospital for a routine hip replacement, and wound up in a coma with brain damage. Steve tried to find out why, and who was accountable. The result is a brand new HBO documentary titled Bleed Out. I can’t recommend it too strongly.

Well done, Steve and Margo–your mother would be proud of you.

Happy 75th!

Ridiculously happy birthday wishes to Michael Palin, the last of the Pythons to turn three-quarters of a century! That’s 75 years of being the Nicest Man Alive (and I’m happy to say that I’ve known him for over half of them). I’m going to celebrate by watching Michael’s brilliant performance in The Death of Stalin, where he portrays the nicest of the brutal Soviet despots. Happy birthday Michael, and many more!

Morgan and the Professor

MJ HawkingFor me, as with so many things, I knew Professor Stephen Hawking best for his work with Monty Python.

Professor Hawking was one of those rare scientists who, in addition to incredible scientific achievements, managed to achieve mainstream recognition against all odds. In addition to his success as a bestselling author, lots of people instantly recognize him for his appearances on “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Simpsons,” and “Star Trek.”

The night I met the Professor was, admittedly, a bit hectic. My son Morgan and I were backstage at the O2 in London for the final night of Monty Python, and there was even more activity than usual. A TV crew was setting up for a live broadcast, and friends, family, celebrities, and other hangers-on were packed into a reception room. But the crowd parted when the Professor was brought in, and we found ourselves standing next to him.

I’m always grateful that Morgan was able to talk to him and tell him about his school. I don’t know how interested the Professor was, but it sure did a great job of inspiring Morgan. And, that’s where I was able to get a photo of the two of them together.

Later that night, after the show, I had a chance to speak to him myself, and tell him a few of my Python-related stories. I don’t know what the Professor thought, but I was able to make his assistants laugh, so I’ll take that as a win. And for the Professor to live as long as he did, and contribute so much to the world—well, I’ll take that as a win for the world.

R.I.P. Stephen Hawking.

Happy Python Birthday! …

On this date in 1978, I was in Tunisia, and wished Michael Palin a Happy Monty Python birthday. He seemed a little surprised, and I suspect it may have been the first time he realized that anyone paid attention to things like Python anniversaries. (In fact, he was so surprised that he commented on it in his published Diaries.) At that time, Python was 9 years old. Today is the 48th anniversary of the first airing of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A lot has changed over the years, but Python is still as funny as ever. If you haven’t watched an episode in a while, this might be a good day to enjoy it. If you’re lucky enough for your city to be on John Cleese’s current tour, don’t miss it. Happy Python birthday!

#montypython #johncleese #montypythonsflyingcircusPython Showtime group

At Last the 1948 Show Live in Chicago!

1948 Top of the Class photo

It’s the moment that I’ve been waiting for–At Last the 1948 Show Live! is opening for the first time ever, at the iO Theatre in Chicago! Shows begin at 7:30 Friday, Sept. 8, and end on Sept. 15. If you’ve ever wondered what John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman would be doing if they had been born 50 years later in Chicago with ovaries, this show will answer your rather strange questions. And our special guest star is Camilla Cleese, who is no relation to Graham, Tim, or Marty.

For more information and to order tickets, click here. And to see more with Camilla Cleese in the Chicago Sun-Times, click here or to watch her on WGN, click here.

At Last the 1948 Show!

1948 Show photo Ant

Another great rehearsal today for At Last the 1948 Show! Lauren Pizzi and Bill Russell are going to kill with “The Wonderful World of the Ant.” We’ll be opening on September 8th at the iO Chicago, featuring the lovely and talented Camilla Cleese–you won’t want to miss it. Nuff said!

1948 Show poster