In this candid conversation, comedy historian (and friend of the show) Robert Ross talks to CinePunked’s Robert JE Simpson backstage at the Slapstick Festival, Bristol, about his 20 year friendship and the work of ex-Python – actor, writer and director Terry Jones, who died in January 2020 age 77.
Sleeve notes are below.
With Robert JE Simpson and Robert Ross.
Produced by Robert JE Simpson
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We had a plan for the first few months of 2020 to link a number of our shows together. And after taking a week off we had an edition nearly ready to go when plans changed. We didn’t expect to be doing another ‘memorial’ show quite so quickly, let alone two so closely connected, but sometimes that’s how it goes.
The death of Terry Jones at the age of 77 on 21 January 2020 might not have been a shock, his health having declined thanks to the particular strain of frontotemporal dementia that affected him, but it still hit hard. Terry Jones was a much loved member of the Monty Python troupe and someone that all of us at CinePunked admired.
I had been at the press night for Jeepers Creepers in 2016, a play about Marty Feldman that Terry directed, and written by CinePunked regular Robert Ross. I met Terry at the Leicester Square Theatre, briefly. By then the illness had already started to make its presence felt, though Terry was still lucid. It wasn’t quite the time for a proper chat however.
With a trip to Bristol to attend the Slapstick Festival, the intention was always to record a podcast while there, and with Rob also in attendance I knew he’d be part of it. Then Terry died. And in between being asked to cover his career for BBC Radio (I think between us we must have done most of the regional stations on the day), we exchanged messages and it became obvious that we were going to pay tribute to Terry. Terry, like Neil Innes (who we featured a couple of episodes back), was a supporter of Slapstick. And they featured a lot in conversation over the weekend among organisers and guests alike.
Rob knew Terry for over 20 years, as a colleague and a friend, so I knew that this was going to be a difficult conversation to have, but also it was a chance to share some of the man rather than just the public and professional persona. And he didn’t disappoint. There’s sadness, but also acres of joy and laughter. I’m extremely grateful for Rob’s time and candidness, which brings Terry the man to the fore.
In a gap between events on the last day of the Fest, Rob and I found our way to the green room at Watershed and sat down to chat.
I recorded this with the portable desk, and tie mics. There are some minor issues with excess noise on my mic, apologies for that. A re-edit may clean this further, and I’ll update this post if we do that. There’s plenty of ambient noise, and every now and then there’s the hum of the hand-driers in the next room over – the perils of live out-of-studio recording. I’ve left the conversation pretty much as was, with two minor edits – neither of which I could manage cleanly. I made the choice just to let Rob speak about Terry rather than include clips of the man himself. Like some of our other interviews, I think the natural flow works better.
The wav files were then passed to Ben, who did an EQ pass before firing the mp3 back to me for a final edit, including adding our theme music, and an intro – the opening is clipped from the Vertigo episode as I hadn’t recorded a clean one for this instalment.
The episode image is a publicity shot of Terry for his film Personal Services. It’s a glorious portrait, photographer unknown.
We’ve released this on Terry’s 78th birthday, just days after recording, as a tribute to the man himself. We hope you enjoy.
Recorded backstage during the Slapstick Festival at the Watershed, Bristol on 26 January 2020. Recorded and edited by me, with some technical clean-up and EQ by Ben Simpson. First published on 1 February 2020.