The Goon Show

The Goon Show. Image shows from L to R: Neddie Seagoon (Harry Secombe), Professor Osric Pureheart (Michael Bentine), Count Jim Moriarty (Spike Milligan), Bluebottle (Peter Sellers). Copyright: BBC.

The Goon Show

Highly surreal radio adventures that helped take British comedy into a new age. Starring Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Friday 8th February 2019, 3:21pm
  • England
  • 17,470 posts

Yesterday I listened to the latest repeat on Radio 4 Extra, which was The Moriaty Murder Mystery and I was in hysterics yet again as I had forgotten so much of this superb episode, and so wanted to share that with you; BUT amazingly I found there wasn't an actual Goons thread. OK, there's the sort of "Anyone remember.........." but surely this deserves its own thread for posterity, and let's face it, I won't be here for yonks to wave the flag ..........(picks up violin and plays "Hearts and Flowers")

Never keen on analysis of comedy - it's subjective and if it's good, it's good; but you cannot under estimate the importance of The Goon Show in post war Britain. There were, in my eyes/ears, good radio comedy then (no TV as such) with the likes of Much Binding in the Marsh, Ray's a Laugh, Take It From Here etc. but Spike Milligan, along with others, wanted to tear up the rule book and so Crazy People was born, and when founder member Michael Bentine left after just a few episodes, it went on to become The Goon Show, or as some BBC execs thought when reading the pitch "The Go On Show"

Thank God for the BBC for giving Spike his head and letting him prove a point and prove a point he did as it developed a cult following that remains today, with the likes of The Pythons, Goodies et al all citing Spike as their inspiration.

There are so many characters that come and go played by Spike, Peter and Harry, along with guest stars such as the excellent Man in Black, Valentine Dyall, with his sinister voice - here I list the main ones, starting with the ones that were usually paired :-

(Thought to be the original Goon) - The famous Eccles and Ace cub reporter Bluebottle who most weeks tried not to get deaded by usually being blown up.

Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister - the very ancient couple who live in sin and it is rumoured she had an affair with Denis Bloodnok.

Hercules Grytpype - Thynne and Count Jim "Knees" Moriarty. The dastardly Hercules, who always played the villain but used his long suffering French aristocratic lackey of no fixed abode to do the dirty work.

Mr Banerjee and Mr Lalkaka - two Indian sort of technicians that are called on occasionally to repair something, muttering in an almost incoherent language as they do so

Willium "Mate" Cobblers, usually in some menial task where he gets clobbered and sometimes playing "Sewer Man Sam they calls me Mate"

Major Denis Bloodnok - cashiered so many times for cowardice and affairs with other officer's wives, usually pushed Neddie or anyone else to the front when there was trouble brewing. Sometime purveyor of dirty postcards. An absolute blaggard.

Jim Spriggs - appears on a fairly regular basis, calling everyone Jim in a high pitch repeat of "Jiiiiiiiimmmm"

Little Jim - lives in someone's boot usually and always appears when someone falls in the water by saying "He's fallen in the water", which became a national catchphrase. Speaks gibberish which only Eccles understands.

The gloriously breathy nymphomaniac Cynthia, along with other flirty females played by Sellers "Ooooh, you can come in - your dinner's in the oven" ** The range of Sellers' voices was incredible - even playing Spike's parts when he was indisposed.

Lew/Ernie Cash, the theatrical agent or tailor

The Red Bladder, played by Ray Ellington (whose quartet played one of the music interludes) who was the prime nemesis of Bloodnok

And the man who held it all together Neddie Seagoon with his all leather megaphone/speaking trumpet with which he kept the audience up to speed with the plot.

Also trying to keep it altogether was the announcer Wallace Greenslade who did take part in the story quite often and even had his own fan club.

Mention MUST be made of the music and sound effects, which were absolutely superb when for example a vehicle is powered by a piano or the running away of lots of feet, which usually happened at the start of music breaks when the cast would "all round the back for some brandy there!" The BBC were very strict about no drinking during broadcasts and so it became a running joke as they made up jugs of milk heavily infused with brandy.

They also kept an eye on any sexual innuendo that was sneaked in and which the cast tried to get around, usually with hilarious results when they started to ad lib and you hear Sellers & Milligan breaking up, with Secombe collapsing into fits of giggles. One that comes to mind is Seller's referring to "the last turkey in the shop" - I'll leave you to figure it out.

Other persons of note ('scuse pun), who rarely took part in the script as he really was so wooden (!) was Max Geldray, the Dutch harmonica player who usually did the first music break.

And so finally what it does for me - I sit back, shut my eyes and they take me into a world of insanity. As was sometimes said, especially when they had no tag line Wallace Greenslade would say "It's all in the mind you know".
How true.

Bit of trivia for you - the original announcer Andrew Timothy is the father of the actor Christopher Timothy and Ray Ellington is the father of Lance Ellington who is one of the singers in Strictly.

Given that most of it was written by Spike, it's little wonder he had mental breakdowns with that amount of ideas and scriptwriting, and some for me fell by the wayside, but I would say 99% of them I find hilarious, especially my Top Ten 20+: -

The Moriarty Murder Mystery
The Pam's Paper Insurance Policy
China Story
Foiled by President Fred
The Jet-Propelled Guided NAAFI
Tales of Old Dartmoor
The Call of the West - (Peter's American accent "Hern, hern" was his take on an American version of "Rhubarb, rhubarb" is hilarious and there is a great spittoon joke)
A Christmas Carol (one of Spike's best jokes on what was then the novelty of a speaking weight machine - for me, very, very, very funny, but I won't spoil it for you)
The Fear of Wages
Six Charlies in Search of an Author
Insurance, the White Man's Burden
Ill Met by Goonlight
The MacReekie Rising of '74 (worth listening to alone for Seller's Scottish Red Hairy McLegs character!! And a rare appearance of the very funny jazz trombone player George Chisholm.)
The Man Who Never Was
The Dreaded Piano Clubber
The Saga of the Internal Mountain
The Siege of Fort Knight
The Whistling Spy Enigma
The Dreaded Batter-Pudding Hurler
Dishonoured
Ye Bandit of Sherwood Forest
Robin Hood (similar to above but with the superb Valentine Dyall and Dennis Price)
The Red Fort
The String Robberies
The Scarlet Capsule
The Tale of Men's Shirts

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Kenneth

  • Saturday 9th February 2019, 5:53am
  • Australia
  • 5,426 posts
Quote: Hercules Grytpype Thynne @ 8th February 2019, 3:21 PM

There are so many characters that come and go...

Sergeant/Miss Throat a glaring omission from your list.

Seagoon: Sir, sir, there's an Arab riding down on us on a flaming stallion!
Bloodnok: Watch your language!
Seagoon: English sir, what's yours?
Bloodnok: The same! Interpreter, you can go home.
Throat: Right mate!

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Saturday 9th February 2019, 6:48am
  • England
  • 17,470 posts

I wouldn't say glaring, but I'll give you that - I knew you'd pick me up on something. ;)

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Kenneth

  • Saturday 9th February 2019, 9:38am
  • Australia
  • 5,426 posts

The one where the musicians were all on strike, The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal, was memorable because of the the cast ad-libbing all the musical interludes and effects. Spike doing "three dramatic chords" and the like.

I notice that some recordings run to 30 minutes, while others are closer to 20 minutes. In some cases, Geldray and Ellington were cut for Parlophone releases. In other cases, arbitrary cuts seem to have been made to the dialogue.

It seems futile and juvenile to attempt to list a wildly inaccurate Top 20, but for the sake of comparison:
1. Napoleon's Piano
2. Tales of Dartmoor
3. The Whistling Spy Enigma
4. The Great International Christmas Pudding
5. Confessions of a Secret Senna Pod Drinker
6. Dishonored (Again)
7. The Greenslade Story
8. Scradje
9. Wings Over Dagenham
10. The Nasty Affair at the Burami Oasis
11. Shifting Sands
12. The Canal
13. Tales of Monmarte
14. The Phantom Head Shaver
15. The Histories of Pliny the Elder
16. The Case of the Missing CD Plates
17. The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal
18. The Call of the West
19. The China Story
20. 1985

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Friday 8th March 2019, 3:28pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 17,470 posts

Seeming now to be a fan club of one on this forum, I'll keep my end up (oooer missus) by saying that the episode on this week's Radio 4+ was the classic and very, very funny "The Man Who Never Was", based on the film that was based on the book that was based on a true WWII story.

Usually Spike altered the title if it was based on something, but not in this case, and I'm pretty sure that it not only featured all the major and minor characters, but each had some brilliant lines/scenarios.

It's worth listening to if only for Major Bloodnok interrogating the suspected German spy played by Harry Secombe. Sellers/Bloodnok's mock German is sublime and has me in stitches every time I hear it.

EDIT
I forgot to mention the hysterical ad-libbing that Peter & Spike did when the Henry Crun & Minnie Bannister characters "came on". Sellers and Milligan sparked each other off into fits of laughter with Harry Secombe barely able to contain himself with his giggling fit, so much so that they lost track of what line they were up to in the script.

God, I would loved to have been there at that recording.

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billwill

  • Sunday 10th March 2019, 9:26pm [Edited]
  • North London, England
  • 5,833 posts

I have Vinyls of some of the shows.
President Fred
Robin Hood
Dreaded Lurgi
Xmas Pudding

and a book of Spike scripts too somewhere, though I've mislaid it.

It's not clear whether copyright has expired on the Goon shows, the Law seems to say copyright for 50 (?) years after the recording is PUBLISHED, but it's not clear whether the original radio broadcasts constitute publication.

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Sunday 10th March 2019, 11:29pm
  • England
  • 17,470 posts

Yes, I have various vinyl including the quite rare "Unchained Melodies", which has all the songs on it. Also have many, many books on The Goons or just Sellers or Milligan including a first edition of his silly verse for children, and now of course I have all the CDs of the shows with again odd CDs of Sellers and Milligan.

Yes.................you could say I am a fan. :D

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Chappers

  • Monday 11th March 2019, 10:06pm
  • Surreyish., England
  • 31,249 posts

I've got some of the script books plus cassettes and records.

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Thursday 23rd May 2019, 11:21pm
  • England
  • 17,470 posts

"The Seagoon Memoirs" this week and how anyone Whistling nnocently cannot find The Goon Show funny is weird, as this was for me yet again laugh out loud - all three of them on top form with Sellers showing his superb extended range of voices. The Henry Crun & Minnie Bannister skit one of their funniest.

But to certain things.....................

HGT: "And let me introduce Count Jim 'Knees' Moriarty, the famous champion barbed wire hurdler, until his tragic accident..................."

Laughing out loud

Laughing out loudLaughing out loud

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garyd

  • Thursday 23rd May 2019, 11:56pm
  • England
  • 782 posts

I've albums, tapes and digital recordings, as well as a number of Goons and Milligan books.
Also a former member of the Goon Show Preservation Society (many years ago).

So many happy hours spent laying on my bedroom floor with headphones on and being taken to some very weird places!

Hands up to not listening to any recently.
I felt it influenced my writing almost to the point of copying.

But, absolutely wonderful!

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Rood Eye

  • Friday 24th May 2019, 12:02am [Edited]
  • England
  • 4,103 posts

It's almost impossible to imagine the impact "The Goon Show" had on British comedy when it first appeared on BBC radio. I doubt that many listeners had ever heard anything like it before in their lives.

It was brilliantly original and fantastically funny stuff then, and I bet many a youngster today would love it if they would only stop texting long enough to listen to it!

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Friday 24th May 2019, 6:06am
  • England
  • 17,470 posts
Quote: garyd @ 23rd May 2019, 11:56 PM

I've albums, tapes and digital recordings, as well as a number of Goons and Milligan books.
Also a former member of the Goon Show Preservation Society (many years ago).

Same here and now have all the CDs. I will NEVER tire of listening to them. The three of them were comedy personified as far as I am concerned and my God(!) I would love to have been at some of those recordings, especially when they started corpsing or losing their place in the script with Harry giggling uncontrollably.

Milligan and Sellers were the pure geniuses of course.

And yes, I too used to belong to the GPS many years ago, but dropped the subscription when I felt it was becoming too cliquey.
The THAS ditto.

Quote: Rood Eye @ 24th May 2019, 12:02 AM

It's almost impossible to imagine the impact "The Goon Show" had on British comedy when it first appeared on BBC radio. I doubt that many listeners had ever heard anything like it before in their lives.

It was brilliantly original and fantastically funny stuff then, and I bet many a youngster today would love it if they would only stop texting long enough to listen to it!

Amen to that.

I remember there were quite a lot of youngsters in the GPS so hopefully they will keep the flag flying for many years to come, but having said that, I am sure The Goons et al have already booked their place in comedy history.

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Friday 21st June 2019, 6:48am
  • England
  • 17,470 posts

"Who Is Pink Oboe? this week :-

No Peter Sellers in this one (throat problems?) so THREE actors brought in to cover for him at the last moment (Kenneth Connor, Graham Stark and the superb Valentine Dyall), and they made quite a good job of it with Spike and Harry seeming to have more air-time with their characters, which is only to be expected I suppose.

Yet again, given the very strict rules the Beeb had on naughtiness in the early years with their Green Book, I'm surprised they were allowed to call the episode what they did considering the slang term it was in the Army and one I'm sure the BBC moral guardians would have heard of - similar to the one Sellers used and got away with, "the last turkey in the shop".

The odd thing I noticed ('cos I'm ancient and need to get this down on record) is that Jack Train was in it with his ITMA character of Colonel Chinstrap, who had appeared in other odd Goon Shows, but in this one he was called Colonel Jim and was given no credit in the titles - I have since searched this and there is also no mention of him.

Could it be that the character was played and imitated by Connor or Stark as a sort of replacement for Major Bloodnok as no one could match Sellers' voice?
If so, it was a very good impersonation - anyone out there know?

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john tregorran

  • Friday 21st June 2019, 7:23am
  • mornington,victoria, Australia
  • 1,460 posts
Quote: Rood Eye @ 24th May 2019, 12:02 AM

It's almost impossible to imagine the impact "The Goon Show" had on British comedy when it first appeared on BBC radio. I doubt that many listeners had ever heard anything like it before in their lives.

It was brilliantly original and fantastically funny stuff then, and I bet many a youngster today would love it if they would only stop texting long enough to listen to it!

The wireless was pretty good then,The Goons and Hancock to make you laugh and Journey into Space to keep you awake at night

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Friday 21st June 2019, 9:58am
  • England
  • 17,470 posts
Quote: john tregorran @ 21st June 2019, 7:23 AM

The wireless was pretty good then,The Goons and Hancock to make you laugh and Journey into Space..............................

Used to listen to that with me Dad and it always kept me on the edge of my seat.