- The Goon Show
Infobox Radio Show
show_name = The Goon Show
format = Comedy
record_location = Camden Theatre
producer = Peter Eton (101)
Dennis Main Wilson(38)
Pat Dixon (29)
Charles Chilton(25) John Browell(23) Roy Speer(14)
Leslie Bridgmont (4)
Tom Ronald (3)
Jacques Brown (1)
runtime = 30 minutes
Michael Bentine(1951-1953) Spike Milligan Harry Secombe Peter Sellers
home_station = BBC Home Service
num_episodes = 238 plus 12 specials.
"The Goon Show" was a British
radio comedyprogramme, originally produced and broadcast by the BBC Home Servicefrom 1951to 1960, with occasional repeats on the BBC Light Programme. The first series, broadcast between May and September 1951, was titled "Crazy People"; all subsequent series had the overall title "The Goon Show".
The show's chief creator and main writer was
Spike Milligan. The scripts mixed ludicrous plots with surreal humour, puns, catchphrases and an array of bizarre sound effects. Some of the later episodes feature electronic effects devised by the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop, BBC Radiophonic Workshop#Sound effects and music contributions] many of which were reused by other shows for decades afterward. Many elements of the show satirised contemporary life in Britain, parodying aspects of show business, commerce, industry, art, politics, diplomacy, the police, the military, education, class structure, literature and film. NBCbegan broadcasting the programme on its radio network from the mid-1950s.cite web|publisher=Firesign Theatre |url=http://www.firezine.net/issue4/fz4_13.htm |title=Under the Influence of the Goons |work=FIREZINE #4 |format=HTML |year=1997/98 |month=Winter |accessdate=2006-10-14] The programme exercised a considerable influence on the subsequent development of British and American comedy and popular culture. It was cited as a major influence by the Monty Python team and the American comedy team The Firesign Theater.
The series was devised and written by
Spike Milliganwith the regular collaboration of other writers including (singly) Larry Stephens, Eric Sykes, Maurice Wiltshireand John Antrobus, under the watchful eye of Jimmy Grafton(KOGVOS - Keeper of the Goons and Voice of Sanity). However, on four occasions during the 8th series, Milligan was unable to come up with scripts, so Stephens wrote " The Stolen Postman", and Stephens and Wiltshire " The Thing On The Mountain", " The Moriarty Murder Mystery" and " The White Neddie Trade", in very convincing Milligan-esque style. In the 9th series, when a similar situation occurred, Stephens and Wiltshire also wrote " The Seagoon Memoirs" (Stephens had contributed a solo script during the 4th series).Wilmut, Roger; Jimmy Grafton (1976). "Goonography", The Goon Show Companion - A History and Goonography. London: Robson Books, pp. 137, 147, 151. ISBN 0-903895-64-1.] Many senior BBC staff were bemused by the show's surreal humour and it has been reported that senior programme executives erroneously referred to it as "The Go On Show" [cite book | last = Wilmut | first = Roger | coauthors = Jimmy Grafton | title = The Goon Show Companion - A History and Goonography | year = 1976 | publisher = Robson Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-903895-64-1 | pages = pg.37 | chapter = The Birth of the Goons | quote = ...one puzzled planner was heard to ask, 'What is this "Go On Show" people are talking about? ] or even "The Coon Show". [cite book | last = Milligan | first = Spike | title = More Goon Show Scripts | origyear = 1973 | year = 1974 | publisher = Sphere Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-7221-6077-1 | pages = pg.13 | chapter = Interview | quote = Goon. What's a Goon? D'you mean The Coon Show...? ]
Harry Secombebecame friends while serving in the Royal Artilleryduring World War II; they met up with Peter Sellersand Michael Bentineback in England after the war and got together in Grafton's pub performing and experimenting with tape recorders. [cite book | editor = Farnes, Norma (ed.)| title = The Goons: The Story | year = 1997 | publisher = Virgin Publishing | location = London | id = ISBN 1-85227-679-7 | pages = pg.48 | chapter = Spike Milligan's Story] Famously, Milligan first encountered Secombe after Gunner Milligan's artillery unit accidentally allowed a large howitzerto roll off a cliff - under which Secombe was sitting in a small wireless truck: "Suddenly there was a terrible noise as some monstrous object fell from the sky quite close to us. There was considerable confusion, and in the middle of it all the flap of the truck was pushed open and a young, helmeted idiot asked 'Anybody see a gun?' It was Milligan..." [cite book | last = Secombe | first = Harry | title = Goon For Lunch| year = 1975| publisher = M. and J. Hobbs | location = London | id = ISBN 0-7181-1273-3 | chapter = Goon Away - Try Next Door]
This show was very popular [cite book | editor = Farnes, Norma (ed.)| title=The Goons: The Story | year=1997 | month=Nov | day=6 | publisher=Virgin Publishing | location=London | id=ISBN 1-85227-679-7 | pages = pg.96 | chapter = Harry Secombe's Story | quote = ... people used to fight to get in there, fight to get tickets for the recording at the Camden Theatre] in Britain in its heyday; tickets for the recording sessions at the BBC's Aeolian Hall studio in London were constantly over-subscribed and the various character voices and catchphrases from the show quickly became part of the vernacular. The series has remained consistently popular ever since – it is stillwhen being broadcast once a week by the ABC in Australia, as well as on
BBC 7; and it has exerted a singular influence over succeeding generations of comedians and writers, most notably the creators of " Monty Python's Flying Circus" and The Beatles' movies.
The principal parts were performed by
Spike Milligan, Peter Sellersand Harry Secombe, with Sellers and Milligan performing as dozens of different characters. The first two seasons also featured Michael Bentinein the role of Professor Osric Pureheart and musical interludes from singing group The Stargazers, but both they and Bentine left during the second series. The show went on to feature musical intermissions from singer Ray Ellingtonand his quartet, and virtuoso jazz harmonica player Max Geldray. The BBC announcer Andrew Timothy, succeeded by Wallace Greenslade, provided spoken links as well as occasionally performing small roles in the scripts, usually as himself.
"The Goon Show" paved the way for surreal and alternative humour. Many of the sequences have been cited as being visionary in the way that they challenged the traditional conventions of comedy. [cite book | editor = Farnes, Norma (ed.)| title=The Goons: The Story | year=1997 | month=Nov | day=6 | publisher=Virgin Publishing | location=London | id=ISBN 1-85227-679-7 | pages = pgs.161,168 | chapter = Eric Sykes' Story | quote = p161 ... The Goon Show was a new departure in comedy ... seemingly free-form style of humour ... p168 ... presented scenes of seemingly uncontrolled anarchy] Perhaps one of the most famous is from " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/series07/s07e19.html The Mysterious Punch-Up-The-Conker] ", where Bluebottle (Sellers) asks Eccles (Milligan) what the time is. Eccles consults a piece of paper, on which is written "Eight o'clock" – the answer he received the last time "he" asked somebody what the time was. The implications of this method of telling the time are then explored at some length::(Recording): various noises of clocks chiming, cuckoos, chickens, tubular bells, etc. (all obviously chiming "three o'clock"), finishing with a brief 'parp!' on an old-fashioned bulb motor horn.:Bluebottle: What time is it Eccles? :Eccles: Err, just a minute. I've got it written down here on a piece of paper. A nice man wrote the time down for me this morning. :Bluebottle: Eeuughh. Then why do you carry it around with you, Eccles? :Eccles: Well, if anybody asks me the time, I can show it to them. :Bluebottle: Wait a minute Eccles, my good man... :Eccles: What is it fellow? :Bluebottle: It's writted on this bit of paper, what is eight o'clock, is writted. :Eccles: I know that my good fellow. That's right. When I asked the fella to write it down, it was eight o'clock. :Bluebottle: Well then, supposing when somebody asks you the time, it isn't eight o'clock? :Eccles: Then I don't show it to them. :Bluebottle: Well how do you know when it's eight o'clock? :Eccles: I've got it written down on a piece of paper!
This idea appeared frequently in similar guises: pictures and audio recordings of money being accepted as legal tender, the word "dinner" written on a piece of paper and eaten served as a full meal, and so on.
Music and sound effects
Musical intermissions were provided by the
Ray EllingtonQuartet and Max Geldray. "The Goon Show" was also famed for its unique library of sound effects.Fact|date=February 2007 Originally for the first two series the only effect was of a rusty, sinister chain Fact|date=February 2007; Milligan became so frustrated that he demanded sound effects from the BBC board of directors. Later, Eccles and Bluebottle would perform an out-of-tune, speeded-up, comedy version of " Unchained Melody", featuring the same chain at the beginning and end as a homage. Later on, "Unchained Melody" developed into a fully fledged piece with the entire cast of the Goons 'playing' musical instruments: Minnie on Saxophone, Eccles on Drums, Seagoon doing something (though not specifically anything), Grytpype and Moriarity on Brass, Crun trying to restrain Minnie - and finally the drums collapsing, almost killing Bluebottle.
Another musical item was a multi-tracked choir of Eccleses singing "
Good King Wenceslas" (" [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/series08/s08e16a.html The String Robberies] ")
The show's scripts often provided the BBC's sound effects department with such challenges as generating the audible equivalent of a piece of string; the sound of a wall/piano/Christmas pudding being driven at high speed; the noise made by an idiot attempting to open a door in the wrong direction; and various explosions, splashes, splatters, clatters, and bangs. Apparently, the BBC sound library, whose previous work had involved producing nothing more stimulating than "footsteps on a gravel path" or "a knock on the door", greatly appreciated the variety of challenges posed by the show's often surreal requirements. [cite book | last = Wilmut | first = Roger | coauthors = Jimmy Grafton | title = The Goon Show Companion - A History and Goonography | year = 1976
publisher = Robson Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-903895-64-1 | pages = pg.44 | chapter = A Quartet of Goons | quote = Sound effects were 'a knock on the door and tramps on gravel' - that was it and I tried to transform it ] A classic example of this was the attempt by Spike Milligan to create a sound like "a sock full of
custardsplattering against a wall." A story recounted in Harry Secombe's biography relates that a bemused canteen cook made up a pot of custard at Milligan's request (thinking that Milligan was suffering from an upset stomach), only to see him pour it into his socks; and run off whimpering into the kitchen. Milligan then went to an already prepared tape recorder and slapped both socks against a table, but was still unable to get the correct effect. He was then heard to cry "Shit!" and storm off, because, as Secombe recounts, "if truth be known, that was "really" what he wanted the sock to contain." ["Spike Milligan: His Part In Our Lives"]
Many of the sound effects created for later programs featured innovative production techniques borrowed from the realm of "
musique concrète", and using the then new technology of magnetic tape. Many of these sequences involved the use of complex multiple edits, echo and reverberation and the deliberate slowing down, speeding up or reversing of tapes. One of the most famous was the sound effect created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshopto represent the sound of Major Bloodnok's digestive system in action, which included a variety of inexplicable gurgling and explosive noises. This effect kept turning up on later comedy shows, and can even be heard on a track by The Orb.Fact|date=February 2007
Another pair of sound effects were featured in "The Nasty Affair at the Burami Oasis", in which the Arabs are attacking the British army garrison to tire them out, in order for the Arab football team to have the advantage over the British in an upcoming football match. The battleship from which Seagoon is directing operations has run aground, because the oasis has been drained. Grytpype-Thynne warns Seagoon that if he takes one step closer, his men (the Arabs) will drink the contents of the oasis. Neddie then receives a phone call from Bloodnok, reporting the loss of 20,000 gallons of gin, which Bloodnok placed in the oasis "on account of the shortage". Neddie, realising the probable effects, calls Grytpype's bluff, whereupon the sound of corks being pulled from bottles is heard, followed by the sound of 2,000 men drinking what would appear to be 10 gallons of gin each. Greenslade goes on to recount that, when the football match was played, the Arabs, despite their intoxicated state, defeated the British garrison team by 68 goals to 12, and comments: "Which just goes to prove, that gin is a dashed good drink!".
Communication with the radio audience
The show relied heavily on breaking the
fourth wall. Examples include:
*In the episode " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/series09/s09e05.txt The Mountain Eaters] ", after Milligan's anguished portrayal of Moriarity in need of money, Grytpype-Thynne tells Ned Seagoon that the money must be found soon as Moriarty's "over-acting is becoming increasingly apparent to us all".
*Milligan would sometimes bait his audience by having a character ask them a question and having the sound of sheep bleating played back as their response. This trick was also used in a parody of "
The Archers" that began "The Spanish Suitcase".
*And from "The £1,000,000 Penny", Grytpype and Moriarty knock on Henry Crun's door. When Henry answers, he asks: "Who's knocking?':Moriarty: It was my friend Mr Grytpype Thynne.:Crun: I can't see him.:Moriarty: That's because you are playing him, he's never around when you're here.:Crun: I don't understand ....:Moriarty: Neither do the audience, that's why it isn't getting a laugh!:Crun: Very quiet tonight, isn't it?:Moriarty: It is, it is.
*In "World War I", Bluebottle is on sentry duty in a lonely wood, and isn't happy about it. Then he says: "Suddenly sees studio audience - hello everybody!" (rapturous applause) and goes into a rock 'n roll routine, ignoring the plot.
A weekly task for the Goons
The strain of writing and performing took a heavy toll on Milligan, who was later diagnosed with
bipolar disorder. He suffered a nervous breakdown during the run of the show, requiring hospitalisation, [cite book | last = Wilmut | first = Roger | coauthors = Jimmy Grafton | title = The Goon Show Companion - A History and Goonography | year = 1976 | publisher = Robson Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-903895-64-1 | pages = pg.48 | chapter = Ringmaster: Peter Eton | quote = ...Milligan's nervous trouble, which had been getting worse all through the 2nd series, finally blew up into a full-scale nervous breakdown and he went into hospital ... ] and the intense pressure also contributed to the failure of his marriage. Milligan was absent from the show for twelve episodes in the third series after an attempt to murder Peter Sellers with a potato peeler. The story was that he left his house and made for the Sellers household, but Milligan's wife managed to telephone Sellers before Milligan arrived at the door. [cite book | last = Farnes | first = Norma | title = The Goons: The Story | year = 1997 | publisher = Virgin Publishing Ltd. | location = London | id = ISBN 1-85227-679-7 | pages = pg.115 ]
Sellers could be similarly eccentric. Once, around midnight, he turned up on Milligan's doorstep totally naked. "Can you recommend a good tailor?" he askedcite book|title=Story of the Goons|author=Alfred Draper|publisher=Everest Books|year=1976] . On another occasion Sellers had bought a Jaguar and asked
Graham Starkfor his help in locating an annoying squeak coming from the rear of the vehicle. Graham got into the boot and Sellers drove the car four miles down the road before being stopped for speeding by a policeman - who said "Hello, hello, hello, who have we got here then?" upon investigating noises coming from the boot. [cite book | last = Sellers | first = Michael | title = P.S. I Love You: Peter Sellers 1925-1980| year = 1981 | publisher = Collins | location = London | id = ISBN 0-00-216649-6 | pages = pg.39 | chapter = Marriage and Stardom ] Milligan recounted a similar version on a chat show years later, which involved him and not Stark in the boot of the car, and ended with the policeman opening it, taking one look at Milligan, and saying, "I should have known it would be you," and closing the boot again. ["The Goons: The Story"] Yet another version was recounted by Eric Sykes. Sykes claimed that Sellers stopped off at a public house for something to eat. The Barman apparently heard knocking coming from inside the boot, but Sellers simply stated he was taking his son to school, finished his lunch and promptly drove away. This incident was recounted in the section on Sellers in Sykes' book, "Eric Sykes' Comedy Heroes".
"The Goon Show" was cited [cite web | title = the Goon Show: Information From Answers.com | work = encyclodictionalmanacapedia | publisher = Answers Corporation | url = http://www.answers.com/topic/the-goon-show
accessdate = 2006-08-05 | quote = The three main performers proving that comedy doesn't need to be smutty to be funny ] as entertaining without resorting to sexual innuendo. However, this is because many listeners didn't understand the sexual jokes in the show.
Due to his dislike of rules imposed by the "establishment", [cite book | last = Wilmut | first = Roger | coauthors = Jimmy Grafton | title = The Goon Show Companion - A History and Goonography | year = 1976 | publisher = Robson Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-903895-64-1 | pages = pg.25 | chapter = The Birth of the Goons | quote = His early experiences of life bred in him a detestation of officialdom and the establishment in general ] Milligan spent a lot of time working allusions to rude and/or sexual "barrack room" jokes into his scripts. These were instantly recognised by his peers and went completely over the heads of the BBC and other innocent listeners. For instance the "
Good Ship Venus" was mentioned either directly by name or allusion (eg HMS Venus) in at least four shows (" [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/series08/s08e11.html Stolen Postman] ", " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/Call_of_the_West.html Call of the West] ", " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/seriesvg/svge04a.txt Giant Bombardon] ", " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/series08/s08e05.txt Treasure in the Tower] "). Often innocent but quirky things are no such thing at all. For example, in " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/Spy_or_Who_is_Pink_Oboe.html The Spy, or Who is Pink Oboe?] ", Seagoon has to remember a list of secret agents: "Black Rabbit, the Blue Pelican and the Yellow Alligator, Octoroon Monkey, the Pink Oboe, and the Purple Mosquito, Vermilion Sock, the Vermilion Ponk, the Chocolate Speedway and the White Bint" - the Pink, Chocolate and White bits allude to a male organ, and two possible destinations. [cite book | last = Wilmut | first = Roger | coauthors = Jimmy Grafton | title = The Goon Show Companion - A History and Goonography | year = 1976 | publisher = Robson Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-903895-64-1 | pages = pg.78 | chapter = The Method in the Madness | quote = The object of the exercise was to slip a dirty joke into the script in such a way that it was either not obvious, or else couldn't be objected to. ] In one episode, the Goons had Wallace Greenslade issue good wishes to their friend Hugh Jampton ("i.e.", "huge Hampton") at the beginning of the show. Those who do not know the term "Hampton" as a rhyming slangterm for the penis – from "Hampton Wick", "i.e.", "prick" – may find this incomprehensible, as the BBC managers presumably did. Similarly in one show Sellers "accidentally" spoonerises the Thames River town Tilbury Docks to Toolbury Dicks.
Another example is in [http://www.thegoonshow.net/scripts_show.asp?title=s05e05_the_affair_of_the_lone_banana The Affair of the Lone Banana] : cowardly Bluebottle seeks to escape hazardous duty by claiming, "It's my turn in the barrel," a reference to a classic obscene joke.
From time to time the two
Hinducharacters Lalkaka (Sellers) and Banerjee (Milligan, although occasionally "vice versa") would appear, and converse in broken English salted with bits of Hindi, including sexual referencesFact|date=February 2007 which the producers did not catch. However, when interviewed later by Michael Parkinson, Sellers told how old ladies who had been to India would send in letters complaining about these conversations, the implication being that they were therefore not "nice old ladies" given their knowledge of the obscenities involved.
Most broadcast shows provide some entertainment for the audience before the show proper begins, and this was no exception. One famous feature was "Braces-Ho!!", where Harry Secombe would sing in his fine tenor, pretending not to notice that one or both of his fellow Goons were surreptitiously removing the braces (suspenders to Americans) from his trousers by unbuttoning them from the waistband. At the climax of the song the braces would be removed with a flourish and held high, whereupon the holder's own trousers would fall down instead of Secombe's. The nature of the underwear thus revealed has not been recorded.
Only two "warm-ups" are known to have been recorded. A rehearsal tape exists of '
The Nasty Affair at the Burami Oasis' along with warm-ups: for example, Sellers describes his ancestor Cridnolt Flules and his musical Quinge. The only warm-up recorded for broadcast occurred during "The Last Goon Show Of All". Spike Milligan sang a parody of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco", featuring lyrics such as "I left my teeth on Table Mountain/High on a hill they smile at me". Harry Secombe sang "Falling in love with love", while former professional percussionist Peter Sellers thundered an accompaniment on concert tympani, with added loud thuds and train sounds.
Cast members and characters
The Goon Show cast members and characters
Harry Secombe's Characters:Major: Neddie Seagoon:Minor: Uncle Oscar • Private Bogg • Nugent Dirt • Izzy • Welshmen • Yorkshiremen
Spike Milligan's Characters:Major: Eccles • Minnie Bannister • Count Jim Moriarty:Minor: Throat • Little Jim • Spriggs • Yakamoto • Cor blimey • Thingz • Hugh Jampton • Fu Manchu
Peter Sellers' Characters:Major: Major Bloodnok• Hercules Grytpype-Thynne• Bluebottle • Henry Crun:Minor: Cynthia • William "Mate" Cobblers • Mr Lalkaka • Eidelberger • Flowerdew • Cyril • Fred Nurke • Gladys • Lew/Ernie Cash • Churchill • Hearn • And more...
Michael Bentine's Characters:Prof. Osric Pureheart and more
*Other cast members
*Guest cast members
Episodes and archiving
Goon Show episodes and archiving
The Goon Show running jokes.
The dreaded Lurgi
Several of the words and phrases invented for the show soon entered common usage, the most famous being the word lurgi. In the episode " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/Lurgi_Strikes_Britain.html Lurgi Strikes Britain] ", Spike Milligan introduced the fictional malady of Lurgi, (sometimes spelled "lurgy") which has survived into modern usage to mean any miscellaneous or non-specific illness. Milligan was later to make up his own definition in "
Treasure Island According to Spike Milligan", where Jim Hawkin's mother describes it as 'like brown spots of Shit on the Liver'.
Alcohol was strictly forbidden during rehearsals and recording, so the cast fortified themselves with milk. The milk in turn was fortified with brandy. In later episodes the catchphrase "'round the back for the old brandy!" or "the old Marlon Brando" was used to announce the exit of one or more characters, or a break for music;
Ray Ellington, on one occasion, before his musical item began, mused, "I wonder where he keeps that stuff!" In another, he sympathised with the listeners, "Man, the excuses he makes to get to that brandy!", causing Spike Milligan to wail "MATE!" in protest. [cite book | last = Wilmut | first = Roger | coauthors = Jimmy Grafton | title = The Goon Show Companion - A History and Goonography | year = 1976 | publisher = Robson Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-903895-64-1 | pages = pg.62 | chapter = Produced by Pat Dixon | quote = Possibly the cast's brandy-and-milk in the back room had a little to do with it (those cries of 'round the back for the old brandy' before the musical items are not there just for effect!).]
Watch out Moriarty!
Peter Sellers, as Grytpype-Thynne, usually pronounced the name of his henchman "Morry-arty" (IPA2|ˌmɒɹiːˈɑːtɪ). However, if he (Sellers) was not in a good mood, or Milligan (as Moriarty) was overdoing his part, Grytpype-Thynne would start pronouncing the name as "Mor-EYE-atty" (IPA2|mɒˈɹaɪətɪ). This gave Milligan a cue to simmer down.Fact|date=June 2008
Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb!
During radio programmes of the 1920s and 1930s, the background noise for crowd scenes was often achieved by a moderately large group of people mumbling "rhubarb" under their breath with random inflections. This was often parodied by Milligan, who would try to get the same effect with only three or four people. After some time, Secombe began throwing in "custard" during these scenes (For example in " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/series06/s06e25.html The Fear of Wages] " and " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/series07/s07e15a.html Wings Over Dagenham] "). About 10 years after "The Goon Show" ceased production, Secombe,
Eric Sykesand a host of other well-known comic actors made the short film "Rhubarb" in which the entire script consisted of what Milligan called "rhubarbs".
As well as a comic device randomly asserted in different sketches to avoid silence, the blowing of raspberries entered the Goons as Harry Secombe's signal to the other actors that he was going to crack up; you would hear a joke from him, a raspberry, and a stream of mad laughter. In the Goons' musical recording "The Ying-Tong Song" Milligan performed a solo for raspberry-blower, as one might for tuba or baritone saxophone. Milligan eventually had the Radiophonic Workshop concoct "Mule Raspberries", a sound effect beginning with a mule-like braying and ending in very vulgar raspberries. This recording was often used as a reaction to a bad joke. Examples include the "
The Last Goon Show of All" where Neddie shouts old jokes into a fuel tank in order to "start the show".
Years later, Milligan collaborated with
Ronnie Barkeron "The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town", in which the credits read: "Raspberries professionally blown by Spike Milligan."
Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe shared the same birthday,
The following films were a product of Goon activity:
Let's Go Crazy (Film)" (1951)
Penny Points to Paradise" (1951)
Down Among the Z Men" (1952) (with Bentine)
The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn" (1956):A two-reeler starring Milligan, Sellers and Dick Emery
The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film" (1959):A surreal one-reeler short subject starring Milligan and Sellers and directed by Dick Lester
Spike teamed up with illustrator Pete Clark to produce two books of comic strip Goons. The stories were slightly modified versions of classic Goon shows.
*"The Goon Cartoons" (1982):"The Last Goon Show of All", "The Affair of the Lone Banana", "The Scarlet Capsule", "The Pevensey Bay Disaster" [cite book | last = Milligan | first = Spike | authorlink = Spike Milligan | others = Clarke, Pete (illus.) | title = The Goon Cartoons | year = 1982 | publisher = M & J Hobbs | location = London | id = ISBN 0-7181-2200-3 ]
*"More Goon Cartoons" (1983):"The Case of the Vanishing Room", "The Case of the Missing C.D. Plates", "The Saga of the Internal Mountain", "Rommel's Treasure" [cite book | last = Milligan | first = Spike | authorlink = Spike Milligan | others = Clarke, Pete (illus.) | title = More Goon Cartoons | year = 1983 | publisher = M & J Hobbs | location = London | id = ISBN 0-7181-2200-3 ]
*"The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" (2004):A recreation of a "Goon Show" broadcast before a studio audience is seen early in the HBO Original Movie, "
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" (2004), with Geoffrey Rushas Sellers, Edward Tudor-Poleas Spike Milligan and Steve Pembertonas Harry Secombe. A very brief moment from that recreation is seen in the [http://www.hbo.com/films/petersellers/trailer/quicktime_trailer.html trailer] for that film.
*"Ying Tong: A walk with the goons:Ying Tong is a play written by Roy Smiles which is set partly in a radio studio, partly in a mental asylum and partly in Spike Milligan's mind. It recreates the Goons recording the show, but part way through Spike has a mental breakdown and is committed to an asylum. While it features all of the Goons throughout, the focus is on Milligan and his breakdown.
Radio and television
*""'The Idiot Weekly" (1958–1962):"
The Idiot Weekly" (1958–1962) was an Australian radio comedy series written by and starring Spike Milligan. Milligan adapted some "Goon Show" scripts and included his "Goon Show" characters (notably Eccles) in many episodes. Six episodes of " The Idiot Weekly" were remade by the BBC as " The Omar Khayyam Show" in 1963.
*"The Telegoons" (1963–1964):"
The Telegoons" (1963–1964) was a 15-minute BBC puppet show featuring the voices of Milligan, Secombe and Sellers and adapted from the radio scripts. 26 episodes were made. The series was briefly repeated immediately after its original run and all episodes are known to survive (having been unofficially released on the Internet).
*"The Last Goon Show of All" (1972):In 1972, the Goons reunited to perform " [http://goonshowscripts.afraid.org/raw/LastGoonShowofAll.html The Last Goon Show of All] " for radio and television, before an invited audience that didn't, however, include long-time fan HRH The Prince of Wales (who was out of the country on duty with the Royal Navy at the time). The show was broadcast on BBC television and radio, and eventually released in stereo, first as an LP on vinyl, and later on a CD.
*"Goon Again" (2001):In 2001, the BBC recorded a "new" "Goon Show", " [http://www.dirkmaggs.dswilliams.co.uk/Goon%20show%2050th%20anniversary%20dirk%20maggs.htm Goon Again] ", featuring
Andy Secombe(son of Harry), Jon Gloverand Jeffrey Holland, with Christopher Timothy(son of Andrew Timothy) announcing and Lance Ellington(son of Ray Ellington) singing, based on two unpreserved series 3 episodes from 1953, "The Story of Civilisation" and "The Plymouth Ho Armada", both written by Milligan and Stephens.
They made a number of records including "I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas" (originally sung by Milligan in the show to fill in during a musicians' strike), "Bloodnok's Rock and Roll Call" and its B-side "The Ying Tong Song". "The Ying Tong Song" was reissued as an A-side in the mid-1970s and became a surprise novelty hit. The last time all three Goons worked together was in 1978 when they recorded two new songs, "The Raspberry Song" and "Rhymes".
*"Bridge on the River Wye" (1962):A 1962 comedy LP with Milligan and Sellers as well as
Peter Cookand Jonathan Miller. A spoof of the film " The Bridge on the River Kwai", it was originally recorded under the same name. However, the film company threatened legal action if the name was used. Thus some clever editing of the recording by future Beatles Producer George Martinremoved the 'K' everytime the word 'Kwai' was uttered, creating 'Bridge on the River Wye'. The LP is based on "The Goon Show"'s "African Incident" (1957), which featured Sellers' vocal impersonation of Alec Guinness.
*"How to Win an Election" (1964):In 1964, Milligan, Secombe and Sellers lent their voices to a comedy LP, "How to Win an Election (or Not Lose by Much)", which was written by
Leslie Bricusse. It was not exactly a Goons reunion because Sellers was in Hollywood and had to record his lines separately. The album was reissued on CD in 1997.
Impact on comedy and culture
Whilst at boarding school,
Peter Cookused to feign illness on Friday evenings, just so he could listen to the Goons on the radio in the sick bay. [cite book | last = Cook | first = William | title = Tragically I was an Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook | year = 2003 | publisher = Arrow Books | location = London | id = ISBN 0-09-944325-2 | pages = pg. xviii | chapter = Introduction | quote = At boarding school, Cook would feign illness so he could listen to Milligan's meisterwerk in the school sanotorium on Friday nights.] A happy moment from his childhood concerns when he sent a script to the BBC and they sent it back, saying it was a great Goon script but not original. Despite this knock-back, this script somehow landed on the desk of Spike Milligan and brought about a meeting between Peter Cook and his heroes.Fact|date=February 2007He, and others from " Beyond the Fringe", were later to work with Milligan and Sellers on " Bridge On The River Wye". Both Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers appeared on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's TV show, " Not Only... But Also".
The future members of
Monty Pythonwere fans, and they have on many occasions expressed their collective debt to Milligan and The Goons, [cite book | editor = Morgan, David (ed.)| title=Python Speaks | year=1999 | month=Jun | day=8 | publisher=Harper Paperbacks | location=New York | id=ISBN 0-380-80479-4 | pages = pg. 72 | chapter = Take Off | quote = p72 ... MacNAUGHTON: . . . they [Monty Python] loved Milligan. MORGAN: Python Would not have been what it was had it not been for The Goon Show . . . MacNAUGHTON: Precisely. But would The Goon Show have been what it was were it not for the Marx Brothers?] but ironically their famous TV series over-shadowed Milligan's later anarchic TV efforts (such as the "Q series") – even though the Python team have credited Milligan and especially "Q" as being the source of two key Python features – sketches didn't have to be "about" real subjects and they didn't have to follow conventional structures, particularly in respect to ending sketches without the traditional punchline.
In a memorial show for Milligan,
Terry Jonesrecalled that he and the Monty Python team, while trying to think up a new sketch, were confronted by an old man at the door trying to sell them a wheelbarrowful of manure. They took this as a sign from above and made a sketch in which a similar thing happened to an upper class dinner party. Jones was horrified to discover, years later, that Spike Milligan had created an almost identical sketch years before, and had in all probability gone to his grave believing that it had been stolen. Jones then apologised to Spike in heaven from the stage.Fact|date=February 2007
Although Python now seems to be the more quoted, it is fair to say that virtually all British
alternative comedyin its modern form is based on the model created for "The Goon Show" by Milligan.Fact|date=February 2007
The Goons made a considerable impact on the humour of
The Beatles, and especially on John Lennon. On September 30, 1973, Lennon reviewed the book "The Goon Show Scripts" for The New York Times. He wrote: "I was 12 when The Goon Show first hit me, 16 when they finished with me. Their humour was the only proof that the world was insane. One of my earlier efforts at writing was a 'newspaper' called The Daily Howl. I would write it at night, then take it into school and read it aloud to my friends. Looking at it now, it seems strangely similar to The Goon Show." Lennon also noted that George Martinhad made records with both Spike Milliganand Peter Sellers.
The Goons' influence was spread well beyond the UK; the members of the American comedy troupe
The Firesign Theatrerecall listening to "The Goon Show" at different times in their lives. Philip Proctorclaims that was enthused by the group's surrealist style of comedy that they adopted that style into their performances. Peter Bergman also met and got to know Spike Milligan while Bergman was a television writer in England during the mid-1960s.cite web|publisher=Firesign Theatre |url=http://www.firezine.net/issue4/fz4_13.htm |title=Under the Influence of the Goons |work=FIREZINE #4 |format=HTML |year=1997/98 |month=Winter |accessdate=2007-09-06]
The sincerest form of flattery
Although the names, catchphrases and slang of "The Goon Show" came to permeate British culture, the same could not be said of the USA, so when an issue of a Marvel comic book, The Defenders issue 148 [cite web |url=http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/bannisterminerva.htm |title=Minerva Bannister |work=The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe] , used the character names Minerva Bannister, Harry Crun (i.e. Henry), and Hercules Grytpype-Thynne, it went completely unnoticed by American readers. The reactions of British readers, if any, were not recorded. The characters were as follows:
*Minerva Bannister - Villainous heiress.
*Harry Crun - Private Detective, employed by Ms. Bannister, and in love with her.
*Hercules Grytpype-Thynne - Cop on their trail.
In the movie "
Shrek", Shrek refers to a constellation as "Bloodnok, the Flatulent".
The rock band "
Ned's Atomic Dustbin" took their name from a "Goon Show" episode.
The character of
Catherwoodin The Firesign Theatreproduction of Nick Danger, Third Eyeis vocally nearly identical to Major Bloodnok. This voice was also used in other Firesign productions. The character Tweety in David Ossman's solo work "How Time Flys" uses a voice very much like Eccles. In the book, The Firesign Theater's Big Mystery Joke Book, David Ossman references Spike Milligan as one of the comedians all four members admired the most, and Peter Bergman in fact worked briefly with Spike Milligan in London in 1966. The Firesign Theatre's most common format, an audio play lasting roughly thirty minutes with a clear if bizarre plot on which are hung surreal or buffoonish jokes, is, in terms of format, closer to the Goon Show than the work of either Beyond the Fringe or Monty Python.
Goon Show fan and one time
The Running Jumping & Standing Still Filmcollaborator, Richard Lesternamed Clark Kent's former schoolmistress "Minnie Bannister" in 1983's Superman III.
The end of the Goons
Peter Sellers was the first Goon to be "deaded", as his character "Bluebottle" would put it, at the young age of 54 in 1980. Michael Bentine died in 1996. Harry Secombe followed five years later, much to Milligan's relief, as he didn't want Secombe to sing at his funeral (though he did anyway, through a recording).
Milligan himself passed on in 2002. Two years afterwards, he (posthumously) won the right to have the words "I told you I was ill" written on his gravestone, though the church would only agree if the words were written in Irish, as "Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite". [cite news |title=Milligan gets last laugh on grave |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/southern_counties/3742443.stm |publisher=BBC News |date=2004-05-24]
The Milligan Papers- A BBC Radio comedy from 1987, often called "A Goon Show For The 80s."
Goon Show Preservation Society
*cite book | editor = Farnes, Norma (ed.)| title=The Goons: The Story | year=1997 | month=Nov | day=6 | publisher=Virgin Publishing | location=London | id=ISBN 1-85227-679-7 — includes chapters from Milligan, Secombe & Sykes. Sellers & Bentine were excused due to being "deaded".
*cite book | last=Wilmut | first=Roger | coauthors=Jimmy Grafton | title=The Goon Show Companion - A History and Goonography | year=1976 | publisher=Robson Books | location=London | id=ISBN 0-903895-64-1 — remains the definitive book on the series
* "Spike & Co" Graham McCann, 2006. Hodder and Stoughton Ltd London ISBN 978 0 340 89808 6 - An examination of the script co-operative 'Associated London Scripts' set up by Milligan, Sykes, Galton and Simpson in the 1950s. From these offices originated The Goons, Sykes, Till Death Do us Part, Hancock, Steptoe and Son and other ground breaking comedy shows.
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc7/comedy/progpages/goons.shtml "The Goon Show" on BBC7] – Plays shows online once a week
* [http://www.thegoonshow.org.uk/ Goon Show Preservation Society] – UK
* [http://www.goon.org/ Goon Show Preservation Society] – USA
* [http://www.thegoonshow.co.uk/ The Goon Show Depository]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/thegoonshow/ The Goon Show] on the BBC website
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