Born in Wales in 1942, Jones was also an author, historian and poet. He had been diagnosed in 2015 with a rare form of dementia, FTD.
Jones was one of the creators of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the British TV show that rewrote the rules of comedy with surreal sketches, characters and catchphrases, in 1969.
He co-directed the team’s first film Monty Python and the Holy Grail with fellow Python Terry Gilliam, and directed the subsequent Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.
Python Michael Palin, who met Jones at Oxford University, said he was “kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full”.
“He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation, he was the complete Renaissance comedian – writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have,” Palin said on Wednesday.
Jones’ family said his work with Monty Python, books, films, television programs, poems and other work “will live on forever, a fitting legacy to a true polymath”.
Jones wrote comedy sketches with Palin in the 1960s before the pair teamed up with Cambridge graduates Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman – who died in 1989 – and US filmmaker Terry Gilliam to create Monty Python.
One of Jones’ best-known roles was that of Brian’s mother in the 1979 comedy Life of Brian, who screeches at worshippers from an open window, “he’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.
Another was the hugely obese Mr Creosote who explodes in a restaurant at the end of an enormous meal after eating a “wafer-thin mint”.
Cleese noted the contradiction between Jones’ life and his death.
“It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away,” he said, adding, in a reference to the late Chapman, “two down, four to go”.
As well as his comedy work, Jones wrote about medieval and ancient history, including a critique of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale.
He made an emotional public appearance in 2016 when, just weeks after revealing his diagnosis with dementia, he received a Bafta Cymru award for his outstanding contribution to film and television, which was presented by Palin.
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