Not much dun all day as car broke down on way to Dick Emery” / “Watched the Goons on Parkinson”
Looks like my folks had a torrid time getting to that show last night?
I did wonder if a diary entry would throw up the opportunity to write about The Goons?!
The Goon Show was a BBC radio comedy programme which entertained the UK for most of the 50’s. However, its influence continues to pervade well over half a century later.
Created by (the world’s GREATEST comedian EVER) Spike Milligan, The Goon Show featured anarchic surreal comedy decades before anarchic surreal comedy became fashionable. Spike’s eccentric scripts – acted out by Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike himself – were ludicrous to the extreme, combining obtuse plots, puns, silly voices and daft sound effects.
The shows were VERY much the precursor to – and the primary influence behind – the likes of Peter Cook, Monty Python, The Firesign Theatre, The Young Ones… in fact almost all alternative comedy.
Spike created characters like Neddy Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle. Moriarty and more, whilst single-handedly inventing (IMHO) the “catchphrase”. Radio listeners would sit and wait for their favourite characterto utter things like “I ‘ave been deaded“, “You rotten swine you“, “We’ll all be murdered in our Beds” or (my favourite) “He’s fallen in the wah-ter”
From 1951 until 1960, Spike and the gang banged out over 260 episodes. However, the pressure of writing, and then having to perform, all this material took its toll on Milligan who suffered from (what later came to be called) bipolar disorder. Thus consigning Spike to the seemingly never-ending list of “tortured comics” (see “Lenny Bruce“, “Bill Hicks” or “Mitch Hedberg“). Indeed, Spike was absent from the show for several months in 1954 after he attempted to murder Peter Sellers….. with a potato peeler!
The Goon Show ceased to be in 1960, but was repeated constantly on BBC radio. (Indeed, it is STILL repeated on BBC’s Radio 7!).
In 1972, to celebrate the BBC’s 50th anniversary, the troupe were persuaded to get back together for “The Last Goon Show of All“. Although far from the tightest or funniest of Millgan’s scripts it nevertheless serves as a suitable tribute to how bizarre The Goons were, even outside of their heyday. It was simulcasted as a BBC TV documentary… here seen in 5 segments (the funniest, I think, being Part 3)
As per my diary entry, the Goons obviously got together to promote the show on Michael Parkinson‘s popular TV chat show, although I can find no footage to substantiate that.
Years later – in 2001 to be precise – I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting Spike in person. He was nearing the end of his time, very frail and weak, but still willing to travel the country to do instore meet & greets to promote his latest book “Treasure Island“.
I dutifully queued in line at the Southampton Waterstones to meet him and have him sign my copy of the book. When it was my turn to at the desk I told him “Mr Milligan, I’d like to shake your hand” and held mine out. He looked me in the eye and said “You don’t have anything do you” (referring to sicknesses or illnesses). I shook my head at which point he grabbed my hand with both of his – in a genuine friendly grasp – to which I simply mumbled “Thank you sincerely for all the laughter you’ve given me over the years”. He smiled. I smiled. I walked away.
I’m not normally phased by ‘stardom’ – always reminding myself that these people are just “people” – but on this occasion I felt genuinely starstruck and in awe of the presence I was in.
There are a million and one online sites dedicated to The Goons, but this one seems to be pretty comprehensive.
Finally, here’s the Goons’ novelty hit single “The Ying Tong Song” from 1956!…