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Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77, 5 years after dementia diagnosis

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Terry Jones, a star of the seminal comedy group "Monty Python " who delivered some of the most famous lines in comedic history, has died, his agent confirmed to the PA Media news agency. He was 77.

Jones was a major creative force behind the surrealist troupe's pioneering works, which flitted between styles and tones and cemented the six-man group as one of the most influential acts in the British cultural canon.

In recent years the Welsh actor, director, author and historian battled primary progressive aphasia -- a rare form of dementia that affects speech. He died on Saturday evening with his wife by his side, his family said in a statement.

"Over the past few days his wife, children, extended family and many close friends have been constantly with Terry as he gently slipped away at his home in North London," the statement said. "We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades."

Jones was known for playing a variety of "Monty Python" roles, including a number of female characters, and uttered perhaps its most famous line -- "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!" -- while playing Brian's mother in the classic 1979 satire on religion "Life of Brian."

Sometimes referred to as the Beatles of comedy , Python's influence permeated a half century of comedy on both sides of the Atlantic -- and prominent comics and actors paid tribute to Jones on Wednesday.

Python co-star Michael Palin said Jones was "passionate about living life to the full," while fellow member John Cleese said "it feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away."

Referring to fellow Python Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, Cleese added: "Two down, four to go."

A legendary troupe

Immediately identifiable by the gigantic "Foot of Cupid" that thundered down during their opening titles, "Monty Python" stomped their authority on British comedy during a lengthy and prolific stretch in the 1970s and 1980s.

Jones helped create the group a few years earlier, after meeting co-star Michael Palin at Oxford while performing in the university's dramatic societies.

"Terry seemed to have his own integrity and his own little world which he carried around with him and there was no one really quite like him," Palin remembered in the Pythons' 2003 autobiography.

The troupe first won acclaim for their offbeat and unpredictable TV sketch show "Monty Python's Flying Circus," which ran for five years until 1974.

Some of the most iconic scenes in British comedy came from the show. Jones co-wrote and starred in the affectionately daft "Spam" song and sketches about "Four Yorkshiremen" and "the Spanish Inquisition," all of which have been frequently quoted and imitated.

The show's irreverent style and disregard for established comic formulas resonated worldwide.

When it eventually aired in the United States, "Flying Circus" achieved further acclaim and was parodied by a number of shows. "Saturday Night Live" re-created its famous "Dead Parrot" sketch, for instance, while writers of "The Simpsons" referenced it on several occasions.

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