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Spike Milligan dies

By rleyton in Culture
Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 04:01:19 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

The death of Spike Milligan - possibly the biggest influence on British Humour since the second world war - was announced on Wednesday.

Spike Milligan was the comic genius behind The Goons, he had his own TV series with "Q", and was a well respected and prolific author. He was an inspiration to the Monty Python team, and several generations of comics. The face of British comedy would be truly different now without Spike's irreverent and manic humour.

Milligan was born in India in 1918, but moved to England after his father retired from the army. Milligan himself was called up to the army during the second world war, and met Secombe during his time in Italy. He was shell shocked during his time in the army, but subsequently wrote about his experiences in his various books, which included "Adolf Hitler, my part in his downfall", "Monty. His part in my victory", and "Mussolini, his part in my downfall".

The Goons, a radio comedy series, was broadcast in 1950's Britain, and featured Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine (in the first two series), and Spike Milligan. Sellers went on to find international fame with various films, notably including The Pink Panther series, and Dr Strangelove.

The Goons reached out to it's listeners in the 1950's. It's off tangent style, and rich characters appealed to the younger generations at first, but reached a wider audience as the years past. It finished in 1960, but later shows were recorded on occasions.

Milligans favourite character was Eccles "Eccles represents the permanency of man, his ability to go through anything and survive. They are trying to get off a ship on the Amazon and lower a boat. When they get to the shore Eccles is already there.

"'How did you get ashore?'

"'Ho hum, I came across on that log.'

"'Log... that's an alligator!'

"'Ooh. I wondered why I kept getting shorter.'"

The Goons went off to separate projects, and Milligan went on to work in Theatre, and then produced the Q series for BBC TV. He also worked on various films.

Milligan was diagnosed as a manic-depressive, and suffered no less than 10 nervous breakdowns. This was brought on by the shell shock during the war, and the pressure of writing the scripts for the Goon show.

He had a natural comic wit, and was both a delight and a nightmare for television interviewers. On a TV show to celebrate his 80th Birthday, the presenter was talking about him, when from behind the set a voice was heard shout "shut up and get on with it".

Asked what he'd like on his gravestone, he responded he'd like to see the words "I told you I was ill". Michael Parkinson, a favourite British chatshow host said "People assumed he was God's gift to talk shows, but he wasn't. He could veer from being absolutely obnoxious to being wonderful, depending on the mood you found him in. But he was a very gentle and nice man."

Milligan was a life long Catholic, but was in two minds about the existence of heaven. He once said: "I'd like to go there. But if Jeffrey Archer is there I want to go to Lewisham." He was also a poet, and Britain voted "The Ning Nang song" as it's favourite:

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There's a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

It is very hard to do Spike Milligan justice. Trying to summarise what Spike Milligan is about to anybody who has not heard of him before is inherently difficult. I've only tried to give a taster here.

However, his lasting legacy is not only a huge volume of work which has stood the test of time, but the lasting effect on comedy. The list includes Peter Cook, Reeves and Mortimer, The League of Gentlemen, the Monty Python team, and Robin Williams.

John Cleese said that The Goon show provided "the first flicker of rebelliousness that turned into the satire movement. He nudged us forward to be even crazier than we were intending to be".

The Press has been filled with many interesting Obituaries, and various sites exist celebrating both Milligan himself, The Goons, Q, and his various books.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o various films
o Milligan himself
o The Goons
o Q
o various books
o Also by rleyton

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Spike Milligan dies | 20 comments (8 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1FP An exceptionally brilliant man... (4.50 / 2) (#1)
by m0rzo on Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 08:10:39 AM EST

...and a huge loss for British entertainment. I always held Mr. Milligan in great esteem he was an incredible asset.

I have a feeling this might not go down with many who probably haven't heard of him but it's a fitting tribute. However, I think it's a little late. He died on Wednesday, shouldn't this have been done at the latest on thursday or friday?

Nevermind +1FP. Good.

My last sig was just plain offensive.

Yeah, I know... (none / 0) (#4)
by rleyton on Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 08:18:26 AM EST

Yes. It should have been done earlier. But, well, work got in the way. I watched a program last night on him, and had such a laugh with it, that I figured I'd put something up - as nothing had appeared.

My only problem was what topic/section to put it in. I wanted to do "Culture"/"Humour", but figured some might find such a classification crass, and vote it down accordingly... :-(

Ooooooooooooooh! What does this button do!? - DeeDee, Dexters Lab.
My Website
[ Parent ]

More links, including his own auto-obituary (5.00 / 5) (#5)
by TheophileEscargot on Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 08:26:15 AM EST

Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
Spike Milligan was here (4.00 / 3) (#16)
by Tatarigami on Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 04:30:58 PM EST

Somehow it always feels wrong to mourn the comedians. It's against the laws of comedic nature for the people who've made me feel so good in the past to make me feel so bad now.

So as a matter of personal preference, I'm never going to say "Spike Milligan is gone". I'm going to say "He was here".

I'm surprised. (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by static on Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 05:32:32 PM EST

No-one has yet posted that immortal phrase: "Goon but not forgotten"!

Oh wait - I have.


RIP (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by Mzilikazi on Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 05:45:12 PM EST

I've listened to the audio recordings of him reading his 7 books that cover his life during and after WWII. Some of the most hilarious stuff I've ever heard in my life, mixed in with amazingly poignant views of the horrors of war. His talent for impressions and accents makes the recordings even more enjoyable. Listen to them if you get a chance. (They might end up being posted on the comedy mp3 newsgroup sometime in the near future, I don't know.)
He seems to be relatively unknown here in the States. I've tried to spread the word to the best of my ability, but I don't think he's going to reach any sort of Monty Python level of cult popularity.

Goodbye Spike (none / 0) (#19)
by dollyknot on Mon Mar 04, 2002 at 08:21:27 PM EST

Many Americans might not have heard of Spike Milligan, but they will have heard of Monty Python,it is said that Spike's brand of humor inspired Clees and co. If you can get to see some of his stuff, its got Python written all over it and was created way before Monty Python.

I saw the program Theyton mentioned, it had me crying with belly laughter, more than once. Prominent on the program was Robin Williams, first he was saying that Spike had ispired him immensely, second, he was baffled by the fact that America had never cottoned to Spike's genius. Spike's comedy never translated to the big screen properly, like Sellars got recognition because of Hollywood. Milligan was more clever than Sellars, but probably he was too anarchistic for Hollywood. He was also a nicer man than Sellars but probably not quite as good a mimic, but as a clown he lives up there with the greats. He had a very visual humour full of unexpected twists. Benny Hill went down big in the states and his humour was a lot less sophisticated. Spike's humour had an Alice in Wonderland quality about it. Glorious irreverance that inspired a whole generation of comic artists. He didn't act, he happened. His epitaph should be, he inspired, anybody who does that deserves recognition, even if it is a bit belated.

They call it an elephant's trunk, whereas it is in fact an elephant's nose - a nose by any other name would smell as sweetly.

Goon Shows in mp3 format (none / 0) (#20)
by hercules grytpype thynne on Wed Mar 13, 2002 at 05:02:53 PM EST

Over a hundred Goon Shows survive in mp3 format, and can sometimes be found on P2P networks. When I'm on Gnutella I share my collection, at least. So check them out, it's very good stuff!

Spike Milligan dies | 20 comments (8 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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