January 11, 2008 / 5:06 PM / 10 years ago

We'd never get Monty Python onto television today: Jones

<p>Former Monty Python star Terry Jones gestures in front of a "time machine" before an interview with Reuters in Lisbon January 10, 2008.Nacho Doce</p>

LISBON (Reuters) - Terry Jones says being funny as a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus was just a byproduct of the real aim: subversion.

The 64-year-old writer, director and actor told Reuters in Lisbon ahead of the world premiere of his new musical "Evil Machines" that he is still surprised by the popularity of the Monty Python series of television shows and films.

"I think one reason was that with Python we purely wrote for the six of us," he said. "Our message was: don't believe anything people say."

Jones, who co-wrote and performed in the British television series during the late 1960s and early 1970s alongside Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle said their absurd brand of humor would never make it past today's television programmers.

"Nowadays it would be impossible to do that. You really have to satisfy the needs of television stations which carry out audience surveys before they commission shows," he said.

Jones -- whose many madcap characters include the lynch-mob happy mother in "Life of Brian" and the obscenely obese diner Mr. Creosote who explodes after a touch too much supper in "The Meaning of Life" -- said he doesn't see himself as a comedian and would hate to do a stand-up routine.

"I'm not really that funny, but I do like to laugh."

Python's original name -- "Bun, Whackett, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot" -- was rejected by the BBC, which urged Jones and his friends to come up with an easier name for viewers to digest.

"We spent ages discussing names," he said, adding that other proposals included A Horse, a Spoon and A Basin, before the group eventually settled on Monty Python's Flying Circus.

EVIL MACHINES

Jones's new show, which features singing telephones, ovens and parking meters, may prove that he is still closely in touch with the innovative humor that has made the Pythons famous.

The show derides the modern world's disposable culture.

"We have come into an age of a throw-away culture and it has reached machines," he said. "Evil Machines is about machines realizing this and deciding to take matters into their own hands."

He hopes to take "Evil Machines" to London and New York, adding that a New York orchestra has shown interest.

"The music is great. The show is quite original and the sound is very particular," he said.

Jones recently underwent surgery for colon cancer but said he was now doing fine.

"Unfortunately, my illness is not nearly bad enough to sell many newspapers, and the prognosis is even more disappointing," he said in a message on his website www.terry-jones.net.

Not only is he in improving health, he also plans to carry on writing, directing and acting as long as he can.

"I hope I never retire. I hope to die in harness."

Editing by Paul Casciato

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