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Happy birthday, John Antrobus

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

The fifth episode of the second series of the Goon Show was broadcast on 26 February 1952. Find it on page 26 of the Radio Times here.

John Antrobus pictured in 1966 (Source: Getty)

Today is the 88th birthday of John Antrobus, long-time Spike Milligan collaborator and co-writer of two Goon Shows, ‘The Spon Plague’ and ‘The Great Statue Debate’ (episodes 23 and 26 of the eighth series, respectively).

Born in north London in 1933, Antrobus dropped out of the military academy at Sandhurst to become a writer. He applied to Ray Galton and Alan Simpson at Associated London Scripts (ALS), and was swiftly hired.

During his time with ALS in the 1950s and 1960s, Antrobus wrote and co-wrote many successful scripts for TV and film. These included Carry On Sergeant, The Army Game (ITV’s first sitcom), the first episode of Son Of Fred, episodes of Sykes and a… (with Spike and Eric Sykes), and That Was The Week That Was.

Most notably, he co-wrote The Bed-Sitting Room with Spike Milligan, which became a successful stage show and film. In 1970, The Bed-Sitting Room was shortlisted for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, missing out to the TV coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landings.

Later on, Antrobus wrote for Spike’s final radio series, The Milligan Papers, which was broadcast in 2002.

For more on Antrobus and the development of ALS, I recommend the book Spike & Co by Graham McCann, available from World of Books and other places.

Here’s ‘The Spon Plague’ in all its glory:

Grytpype: Ah my masterpiece! Don’t move, Moriarty, keep that pose. Ah, how Michaelangelo would have envied me. Moriarty: What are you making? Grytpype: A pill, Moriarty. Moriarty: What? Sapristi! You mean you made me pose in the nude to model for a pill? Grytpype: I wasn’t using all of you, just a certain area.

(from ‘The Spon Plague’, Series 8 Episode 23, broadcast 3 March 1958)

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