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ADSactly Comedy: Spike Milligan and The Goon Show by adsactly

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ADSactly Comedy: Spike Milligan and The Goon Show
<center>

![](https://i.imgur.com/KgCrJ0Y.jpg)
<sub>[source](https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwi_nJf7_YHjAhVuwAIHHUzPC2gQjhx6BAgBEAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.comedy.co.uk%2Fradio%2Fthe_goon_show%2F&psig=AOvVaw1XxWozFFGUqtIMG77g2JmZ&ust=1561461053165109)</sub>
</center>

I remember the first time I encountered Spike Milligan. 
He was right there, inside a cozy library, sitting on a shelf. He was unusually quiet, yet something about him just stood out. I had heard about Milligan before – I’d read about him in the autobiography of Python member, John Cleese, and was keen to find out more about this man, who was said to have influenced the legendary Monty Python. 
So of course, I picked up Spike and headed home and boy, was I in for a treat. ‘The Essential Spike Milligan’ is by far one of funniest books I’ve read in my life. It contains all sorts of writings and diary entries by the late comedy legend and provides great insight into one of the funniest minds of the 20th century.

Last time, we talked a bit about [British comedy troupe Monty Python](https://steemit.com/comedy/@adsactly/adsactly-comedy-monty-python) and how they changed the way we understand humor. But I thought it’d be nice, before we move on to other post-Python giants, that we take a look at what inspired the Pythons themselves. What went before, what made them know they’d like to be in comedy themselves.

And that means talking about the four goons. 

## Spike Milligan


<center>

![](https://i.imgur.com/xQ0JXiY.jpg)
<sub>Sellers, Milligan and Secombe [source](https://steemit.com/comedy/@adsactly/adsactly-comedy-monty-python)</sub>
</center>

> I’m not going to thank anybody, because I did it all on my own.
Spike Milligan, presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994

Nicknamed ‘The Godfather of Alternative Comedy’, Terence Alan Milligan was born in India, in 1918, and soon afterward change his name to something much funnier. 

Spike’s first comedic venture came in the early 20s in the by-now infamous venue known as The Second World War. Milligan often put on jazz concerts to entertain the troops and also wrote comedic sketches for said concerts. 
In his memoirs, he recalled that his commanding officer took an instant dislike to him, not only because Milligan was a more talented musician, but because his main interest seemed to be keeping up morale, whereas the commanding officer had an obvious interest in taking it down.
 
> “I have the body of an 18-year-old. I keep it in the fridge.”

<center>

![](https://i.imgur.com/6kpOFFD.jpg)
<sub>[source](https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjBy53agoLjAhUICewKHevyCL0Qjhx6BAgBEAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.npg.org.uk%2Fcollections%2Fsearch%2Fportrait%2Fmw249436%2FSpike-Milligan&psig=AOvVaw1TJcvorSvoo_WGrqcewY5L&ust=1561462343645440)</sub>

</center>

Interestingly enough, when Milligan was doing ‘The Goon Show’, he would always warm up by playing the trumpet in front of the studio audience, with Peter Sellers on drums.
Spike Milligan was nothing if not prolific. ‘The Goon Show’ - the radio comedy show that made him famous and was written by Milligan – ran for nine years and over 100 episodes. After ‘The Good Show’, he appeared in several films, with other legends such as Peter Cook and Ken Russell. 

>  “I thought I’d begin by reading a poem by Shakespeare, but then I thought, why should I? He never reads any of mine.”

He did cartoons, appeared in various theater plays and wrote a great deal – from non-sense poetry, to memoirs, to children’s books, to an actual novel called ‘Puckoon’.

> “I turned and rubbed my hands with glee. I always keep a tin of glee handy.”

He was an incredible individual and I honestly think the best way to show you that is to expose you directly to his genius, so here goes another quote:

> “And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light, but the electricity board said he would have to wait until Thursday to be connected.”

<center>

![](https://i.imgur.com/mSmhVi3.png)
<sub>[source](https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjuzPD_goLjAhUJNOwKHe9oApIQjhx6BAgBEAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcinemajam.com%2Fmag%2Ffeatures%2F100-years-of-spike-milligan&psig=AOvVaw1TJcvorSvoo_WGrqcewY5L&ust=1561462343645440)</sub>
</center>

Nowadays, it’s a bit hard to get into ‘The Goon Show’. It was a radio comedy and it’s a bit weird sitting in front of your laptop, struggling to understand a seventy year old recording, but nevertheless, worth the trouble. So, do that. Or do as I did, read him. He was a brilliant writer. 

Spike Milligan died in 2002 of kidney failure. After the death of good friend and fellow Goon, Harry Secombe, from cancer, Milligan said 

> “I'm glad he died before me, because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral."

In true Milligan fashion, a recording of Harry’s singing was played at his funeral. As a final joke, his tombstone reads “I told you I was ill”.

## Harry Secombe

<center>

![](https://i.imgur.com/cfiaQSy.jpg)
<sub>[source](https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjwh7Gng4LjAhVE6qQKHXKpCSQQjhx6BAgBEAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fmusic%2Fartists%2Fadcfccd9-30fa-449b-a4bb-4c1e3312912c&psig=AOvVaw3r2xzF-2wJBjWlWkhRlrsE&ust=1561462490235152)</sub>
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Harry was born in Swansea in 1921. At the age of 17, with WWII not too distant, he decided to enlist. The only trouble was, he was notoriously shortsighted, an obvious issue what with being a soldier and all. So, here’s what Secombe did. He got a friend of his to teach him the sight test by heart and got into the army.
To me, that is so absurd it’s funny. While in the army, he met fellow Goon, Spike Milligan. In the late 1940s, after the war was over, they both joined a group of artists in Italy and became a comic duo. And later, of course, they went on to do The Goon Show, with Secombe playing Neddie Seagoon, the main character of The Goon Show (as must as the show had a main character). 

<center>

![](https://i.imgur.com/WL36fbl.jpg)
<sub>[source](https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiU-vzKhILjAhWCaFAKHb63APoQjhx6BAgBEAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FHarry_Secombe&psig=AOvVaw0u-Qn2am6y2GfhbkGFcCiF&ust=1561462852733078)</sub>
</center>

Early on, Secombe began developing his singing career as well. Many of the episodes of The Goon Show featured his singing and his characteristic deep, baritone voice was actually used as a main part in the plot on some occasions.

After The Goon Show, he mainly focused on making music. Like Milligan, Secombe had an amazing sense of humor. When he was knighted in 1981, he kept referring to himself as Sir Cumference (he was notoriously fat – it was one of the chief gags of The Goon Show). In later life, he also worked as a presenter for religious programs.

As I mentioned, he died of prostate cancer at the age of 79, in 2001.

## Peter Sellers

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![](https://i.imgur.com/g7b5Owp.jpg)
<sub>[source](https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjo3dnVg4LjAhUL2KQKHcIXASEQjhx6BAgBEAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.petersellers.com%2F&psig=AOvVaw0Q61GvgzgZWjIxDTOh87mI&ust=1561462570612326)</sub>
</center>

It’s so hard to describe Peter Sellers in just a few words. Interestingly, of all the Goons, his life was shortest, but also… versatile. Much like him.
Many remember him as a comedy giant and Goon, and he was that. Others know him as Inspector Clouseau in the original Pink Panther movies – a performance that was on par with that of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton (according to biographer Peter Evans). He was that, too. Yet some know him as Clare Quilty, in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. He was that as well. And then, there was Dr. Strangelove. He was Dr. Strangelove also. 

<center>

![](https://i.imgur.com/m7LE7v3.jpg)
<sub>[source](https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiG7eWvhILjAhXFDuwKHaJfBJ0Qjhx6BAgBEAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fpurpleclover.littlethings.com%2Fentertainment%2F6119-hollywood-potheads%2Fitem%2Fpeter-sellers-1%2F&psig=AOvVaw0Q61GvgzgZWjIxDTOh87mI&ust=1561462570612326)</sub>
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He was many things, it seems. In fact, legend has it that Kubrick decided he wanted Sellers as Quilty after listening to his album, ‘The Best of Sellers’, and seeing him in ‘The Battle of the Sexes’ precisely because he was so versatile. Needless to say, they got on tremendously well.

What else can we say about Sellers?

Oh, he created the character of Inspector Clouseau himself. Well, not the actual character, but everything we know today – the trench coat, the moustache, the make-up. Everything. He made Clouseau. 

Oh, and he had the biggest obsession with Sophia Loren, whom he met while appearing in the romantic comedy ‘The Millionairess’. Apparently, Sellers was not interested in the movie until he learned that Loren would be in it.
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<iframe width="480" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2nTBNHwar5o" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe></center>

> "I don't normally act with romantic, glamorous women... she's a lot different from Harry Secombe."

Really, things got so bad and the pair grew so close that Sellers even declared his love for Loren in front of his own wife. Even though he left his first wife citing his love for Loren, there are serious doubts whether an affair actually existed between them or it was all in Sellers’ mind. He seems to have been a difficult individual, as is the case with a lot of geniuses. 

But let’s not let that overshadow this man’s fantastic career. He had a brilliant mind and would’ve undoubtedly gone on to do much more, had he not died at the relatively young age of 54 from a heart attack. 

## Michael Bentine


<center>

![](https://i.imgur.com/pWrhMLp.jpg)
<sub>[source](https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiA-LDyhILjAhXOjqQKHU1OBq8Qjhx6BAgBEAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fprogrammes%2Fb01k9tt3&psig=AOvVaw3r-m-YWOR9UDdzleNbaCMZ&ust=1561462905660618)</sub>
</center>

While Sellers, Secombe and Milligan were the core of The Goon Show, it seems unfair to write a post about it without mentioning Michael Bentine, who also co-founded and starred on the program for 2 years, appearing in a total of 38 episodes. 

He had a very interesting, off-the-wall sense of humor that really marked the early episodes of the show. Sadly, very few of those episodes have survived today, so Bentine is mainly forgotten, often referred to as ‘the other Goon’, which is a bit unfair because he was as responsible for creating the show as any of the other three.

It was a strange moment, really. In 1953, Bentine went off to America to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show and upon his return to the UK, he parted ways with the other Goons. It is believed that creative friction between him and Spike Milligan was what drove Bentine out of The Goon Show. Perhaps proving this point, he remained good friends and even collaborated later on with Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe, but not with Milligan.

After his departure from The Goon Show, he went on to write and star in various comedic shows, but never achieved the same fame as the other Goons. He also died of prostate cancer at the age of 74, in 1996.


---

As I said, it’s a bit hard to get into ‘The Goon Show’ now, but there are many ways out there – from clips on YouTube to books and yes, even old recordings, to get a sense of the comedic genius of these four men and I really hope this post has encouraged you to do just that.

## Are you a Goon fan?

##### Authored by @honeydue
*References [1](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spike_Milligan) [2](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Sellers) [3](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Secombe) [4](https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/comedy/news/spike-milligan-centenary-jokes-witticisms-goon-show-sketch-comedy-prince-charles-a8299301.html) [5](http://www.thegoonshow.net/cast/michael_bentine.asp) [6](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0HLn9X68HA)*

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vote details (776)
@ahmanik ·
Thats a great to see your blog and enjoy  your comedian men performance. Its a true when you Feel more and more bore you should read over this comedian task hope you smile....thanks sir @adsactly i am always your blog reader..

Posted using [Partiko Android](https://partiko.app/referral/ahmanik)
👎  
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@hlezama · (edited)
$0.03
Fantastic post.
Very inspiring and informational. I loved the Milligan quotes you interspersed. It would be great to read form his book. I read George Carlin's compilations, *Three Times Carlin,* and I laughed out loud. Of course, this is a different kind of humor.
I had obviously heard about Monthy Python, but I never had the chance to follow the show on TV. I've watched youtube videos here and there. It was illuminating to see your presentation of the influencial humorist forces behind that emblematic show.
From the group of Goons I only knew Peter Sellers, especially his Pink Panther role. Now I really want to see more of the work of the whole quartet.
Thanks for a post that makes readers want to now more about the subject.
👍  
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@honeydue ·
Ha, as it happens I only really knew Milligan before writing this, so this gave me a great chance to read more about him! Yes, I love George Carlin, he is like a god to me :)) And hopefully, there'll be a post about him someday too :D
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@hlezama ·
Great. Looking forward to reading it
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@nancybriti ·
Too bad I did not know this team until now. From Peter Sellers if I have read, heard and seen his work. The 4 seem great, but Spike Milligan seemed hilarious and fascinating. I liked that you have interspersed some of his words because his sense of humor is clear. Another thing that calls me is the radial comedy program. In the past, artists were complete and had to devise ways to reach the public. When we refer to actors of radio programs, obviously they will encounter an obstacle: the image. Many actors use gestures and mimicry to arrive and reinforce the message. I do not want to imagine what this quartet should have done to make its audience laugh. Thanks for this post, @honeydue.
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@josemalavem ·
I didn't get to know the quartet or the program "Goon Show"; I'll see if I can access it through youtube. Since I have a fondness for the Monty Python and if Milligan influenced them so much, even more to interest me. From the four alone to Peter Sellers, in Kubrick's two films, as "Pink Panther" and in the cinematographic version of *From the Garden*. 
Thank you for your informative post, @honeydue.
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