The Last Goon Show of All


The Last Goon Show of All

Infobox Radio Show
show_name = The Last Goon Show of All


imagesize =
caption =
other_names =
format = Comedy
runtime = 30 minutes
country = flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
language = English
home_station = BBC Radio 4
syndicates =
television = Simulcast on BBC 2
starring = Spike Milligan
Peter Sellers
Harry Secombe Ray Ellington Max Geldray Andrew Timothy
creator = Spike Milligan
writer = Spike Milligan
director =
producer = John Browell
executive_producer =
narrated = Andrew Timothy
record_location = Camden Theatre, London
first_aired = 5 October 1972
last_aired =
num_series =
num_episodes = Special edition
audio_format =
opentheme = Old Comrades March
endtheme = Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead
website =
podcast =

The Last Goon Show of All, broadcast on 5 October 1972, was a special edition of the famous BBC Radio show, The Goon Show, commissioned as part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the BBC. It was simulcast on radio and television, and later released as an audio recording on long-playing record. This in turn has been re-issued in other formats such as compact disc. In early October 2007, 35 years after the original broadcast, a full unedited version was broadcast on BBC 7, the digital channel dedicated to re-runs of classic shows.

Different versions of the show could be heard in different contexts. The television broadcast began with pre-show announcements by the producer, John Browell and introduction of the participants, followed by warm-up routines by the cast. The broadcast proper begins with Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe each trying and failing to lead the other two in saying "It's great to be back." This was the start of the show from the radio audience's point of view. Announcer Andrew Timothy then intervenes with "They haven't quite got the hang of it yet, but after another smoke they should be switched on."

From there the show re-capitulates the cast introductions with typically skewed humour. There is a spoof "warm-up" where Sellers, using a "dramatic voice" announces that the best way to warm up an audience is to have the gentlemen squeeze the thigh of the lady sitting next to them.

Timothy then announces that, since Her Majesty the Queen is not available [The performance was attended by some of the Royal Family, including Prince Philip and Princess Anne. Prince Charles, an avid fan, famously sent a telegram from the Navy ship on which he was serving.] , Mr. Secombe has donned a "floral cretonne frock" and stepped in for her at the last minute. Secombe then attempts to "start the show" which sounds a lot like starting, or rather failing to start, a car. This play on words was used by Milligan in his other scripts, particularly the contemporaneous "Milligna Show". The tone of the whole show, in fact, was much more like Milligan's current writing than any of the original shows. Although all the stock characters put in an appearance, the humour consists mostly of one-liners.

Secombe eventually starts the with the help of "a Constabule (sic) of Olde England played by an aging Peter Sellers" who points out that the show has no jokes in the "fuel tonk". Again, humorous typographical errors were a staple of Milligan's writing at the time. For this interlude, Sellers used his impression of Michael Caine's voice, complete with the catchphrase "There's not many people know that!" This is a reference to Caine's supposed fondness for telling people obscure facts.

Before the "plot" begins, there is a musical interlude in which Ray Ellington performs a very upbeat version of The Tennessee Waltz.

Plot

Andrew Timothy takes us to the Westminster City Council Rubbish Dump, situated in Hyde Park, where Hercules Grytpype-Thynne and Count Jim Moriarty, more ragged than ever, are starving. The Council has just dumped a huge amount of lagging, because "it was in feet and inches, and we have gone metric". Secombe, now in character as Neddie Seagoon, arrives "driving an unlicensed Goon Show with CD plates on" [Cars registered to diplomats bear a special plate with the letters "CD" standing for Corps Diplomatique". Such cars are ubiquitous in London, and are notorious for ignoring traffic laws, to the irritation of residents.] . Gritpype's comment is "Yes, it does look a bit seedy, doesn't it." The two villains then attempt their usual swindle of Neddie, in this case convincing him that his legs must be lagged to keep them warm for the coming winter, the payment being his "war gratuity" of one hundred pounds.

However when Seagoon lifts his trouser leg, it is revealed that Bluebottle has been hiding inside, and is threatening to release pictures of Neddie's bloomers unless he is given money he will use to impress his schoolyard paramour, Mollie Quotts. Bereft of all cash, Seagoon decides to head for Blackpool to earn some money doing his old stage act, the "shaving routine" which was Secombe's own stock-in-trade.

Seagoon fades away, Andrew Timothy dismissing him with "Mr. Secombe's departure is a timely one. Any departure of his is timely." Timothy then introduces Max Geldray as follows: "Just before this show started, Max Geldray died. His wife described his condition as: satisfactory." [ In the 1960's and 1970's "satisfactory" was one of the terms used in medical bulletins issued to the press when a public figure had medical treatment.] Geldray then plays "The Carioca"with the orchestra.

After the interlude Andrew Timothy announces that "Seagoon is hauling his huge bloated Welsh body up the motorway to Blackpool, and all lanes are blocked." The show moves to the home of Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister for a typical exchange between the two old fossils, with no consequence to the plot other than to link to the entrance of Major Bloodnok, pursued by the Red Bladder, played as always by Ray Ellington. After an exchange of empty threats with the Bladder, Bloodnok is told by his aide, Singhiz Thing, that it is time for his "perversion". There follows an interlude of bizarre and suggestive sound effects overlaid with ecstatic yelps from Bloodnok, although the piece could be more of a satire on the kind of lascivious role Peter Sellers played in several of his movie roles up to that point. Bloodnok then sends Seagoon to the cellar to rest, this serving to re-introduce Eccles to the audience.

Eccles has been in the cellar since he delivered coal and forgot to let go of the sack. He has been eating coke to survive and letting his nephew, Little Jim, live in his boot. Possibly the highlight of the show, the encounter of Seagoon and Eccles produces what may be the quintessential Eccles quote:

:Seagoon: What are you doing down here ?:Eccles : Everybody's got to be somewhere!

The philosophical appeal of this was not lost on the audience, who responded with the slow-building but long-lasting laughter that is the sure sign of a palpable hit by the scriptwriter.

Neddie eventually falls asleep, setting the stage for Bluebottle to re-emerge from his bloomers and thus begin a conversation with Eccles, usually another high-point in a Goon Show. This section ends with Bluebottle persuading Eccles to help him dump Seagoon in a well, which naturally leads to Little Jim's catchphrase "He's fallen in the water!" During the subsequent audience applause, Spike Milligan shouts "Had to get it in folks! Had to get it in!"

Bloodnok reappears, pursued by the Red Bladder, but mysteriously transforms into Grytpype-Thynne, who announces to Neddie that "we have found Goon Show number 1-6-3 [The "number" of this edition of the Goon Show was, along with Neddie dressing as the Queen, one of the few running jokes in the show. Secombe begins by announcing the start of "Goon Show number 1-6-1". Later Bloodnok answers the telephone and announces that the BBC has switched to "number 1-6-2". Grytpype announces "number 1-6-3" and at the end, Bluebottle declares that the show is now "number 1-6-4" in which he charges people to poke at Neddie's belly through the hole in the floor. Based on the publication "More Goon Show Scripts" and the chronology therein, the final Goon Show proper was number 264.] , in which you play the lead all the way through as an underfloor heating detective". Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, this line falls victim to one of Seller's "fluffs", for which he was notorious, followed by an attack of giggling, another one of his trademarks. After some asides by his castmates, he delivers the line, which plays into a "risqué" reference to former Goon Michael Bentine. Neddie is then nailed under floorboards for his role, and left there for some months.

In fact he is under the floor of a dressing-room at the Palace Theatre, Blackpool, and this room is given to Bluebottle to prepare for his appearance with "Capt. Goatcabin's Balancing Stallions". He hears Neddie's cries for help, then sees his belly through a knot-hole. The show ends with him poking Neddie in the stomach, as a cacophony of pre-recorded lines from previous parts of the show rise up, followed by a recording of an explosion, a common end to a Goon Show plot.

Andrew Timothy finishes the show with "The next Goon Show will be on July 7th, 1982. And from Goon Show number 167, farewell." The orchestra plays the signature tune, as Andrew Timothy announces the credits, then moves into "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead", the traditional play-out for the show.

In the full recording broadcast on BBC 7, the cast are then heard saying their thank-you's to the audience, with Milligan coming close to abusing them, again something for which he was known in the years after the Goon Show.

Credits

* Performers
** Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan
* Musicians
** The Ray Ellington Quartet, including Judd Proctor (guitar) and Dick Katz (piano).
** Max Geldray, jazz harmonica player.
** The Wally Stott Orchestra, conducted by Peter Knight.
* Announcer Andrew Timothy.
* Writer Spike Milligan.
* Producer John Browell.

Cuts and edits

* Spike Milligan's contribution to the pre-show warm-up was cut to a minimum in the TV broadcast and on the vinyl release. Only in the BBC 7 broadcast is his parody of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" heard.
* The script referred to then Prime Minister Edward Heath, as "Grocer" Heath, a sobriquet invented by the magazine Private Eye. This was heard during the TV broadcast but the word "Grocer" was cut for the vinyl release. It was left intact in the BBC 7 broadcast.
* Sellers' line ending with "underfloor heating detective" leads to the following scripted exchange:::Seagoon: I've always wanted big parts!::Grytpype: You've always had them Neddie, you and Bentine!:This was cut from the original television and radio broadcast, but left untouched in other versions.
* Andrew Timothy's winding up of the show is heard as ending with "..farewell, forever" in the BBC 7 broadcast. The word "forever" was cut from all other versions.

Reviews

The British press celebrated the event more for its historic significance than the actual content of the show. There was extensive reporting of the pre- and post- show publicity including interviews with the participants. Since Sellers was a premier player in movies at this point, and Secombe had become a much-loved presence on television and film, notably appearing as Mr. Bumble in the film version of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver!, there was much public interest even among those who had never heard the original show. The sleeve notes for the vinyl recording quote various newspaper articles, including this one from the Guardian, headlined "Goons Reithed in Glory".

"Fifty years of nation speaking peace unto nation. Fifty years of Reith, Normanbrook, Hill and Alvar Lidell and how does the British Broadcasting Corporation celebrate the occasion? Answer: with a maniac cackle. It showed a fitting sense of history. The Goons, after all, were the fathers of the great national in-joke and a private language..."

Footnotes


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