Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Today I’m taking the first of several detours from the chronological order of this blog to acknowledge an anniversary. On this day in 1953, the Goons took part in a special day of broadcasting to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Written by Milligan and Larry Stephens, the episode featured Graham Stark alongside Milligan, Sellers and Secombe (Bentine had left the show by this point). It also starred Wuffo the Wonder Dog, according to the Radio Times.
While I haven’t found a recording (it’s hard to believe one wasn’t made, but maybe the humour was too republican), the script for this show was sold at auction by Christie’s in 2007 along with 44 others for £6,000.
The corresponding issue of Radio Times – which is packed full of reverence and deference to ceremony and the new Queen – has the Goons’ listing on page 31. There’s not many other references to any comedy throughout this issue, suggesting that we were all supposed to be fully focused on such a solemn occasion as a rich lady getting a new hat.
(There goes my chance of a knighthood.)
On this day...
... in 1958, the first episode of a new Milligan-authored series aired on Australia’s ABC radio network. The Idiot Weekly (not to be confused with the British TV series, The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d) ran for three series and 38 episodes from 1958 to 1962.
According to no less a source than Wikipedia, Milligan was signed up for this show by ABC while visiting his parents in Woy Woy, Australia. Some scripts drew heavily from The Goon Show, particularly episodes titled ‘The Spon Plague’ and ‘The Great Christmas Pudding’.
Other shows were more topical than in the UK, perhaps because ABC was less heavily censored than its British counterpart. Excerpts can be found at WikiQuote, including this favourite of mine:
Lord Thud: My lords, I have news that is six feet deep. Lord: That sounds like grave news. Lord Thud: At 4.30 this afternoon as the crow flies, on Lords Cricket Ground, Australia won the Ashes. [Cries and groans from the cast] Lord Thud: And worse still, there were women and children present!
The US Goon Show Preservation Society has a few recordings from this series in its private archives, according to this document on its website.
Incidentally, among the cast was an actor who went on to work with Spike Milligan on several other projects in the UK: John Bluthal (right).
Vicar of Dibley fans will remember him as Frank Pickle, but he has a strong case to make as an honorary Goon, having worked with Milligan on his Q series as well as several other shows, and with Peter Sellers in Casino Royale and two Pink Panther films.
Dog image by Emily Hopper via Pixabay. Picture of John Bluthal from IMDB.