One thing I’ve noticed about what I shall call the Sykes era of Goon Shows is that there is a new propensity for catchphrases.
The Goons initially mocked the idea of catchphrases, but I wonder whether Sykes and Milligan ever discussed the notion that perhaps audiences needed catchphrases in order to connect more with a show.
Right from the start of the fifth series, Grytpype-Thynne began to regularly dismiss Neddie as a “silly twisted boy” – and even allowed Wallace Greenslade and Ray Ellington use of his new catchphrase.
“You can’t get the wood you know” – Henry Crun’s regular lament – first appeared in ‘The Mystery of the Marie Celeste’ (Series 5 Episode 8) and came up regularly in the fifth and then throughout later series, with several variations.
Crun: Have we got any 1956 calendars Min? Bannister: No, you can't get them Henry. Crun: You can't get them, you know, you can't get the calendars. Bannister: You can't get the calendars.
(from ‘The Lost Year’, Series 6 Episode 13, broadcast 13 December 1955)
Towards the end of the fifth series, Minnie Bannister began to warn on a regular basis that “we’ll all be murdered in our beds”.
Most famously, Bluebottle was deaded on a weekly basis throughout the fifth series, giving rise to his much-repeated cry of “you rotten swine you, you have deaded me again” and variations thereof.
It’s just a theory, but it seems to me that one of the changes (albeit gradual) in the fifth series that helped the Goons reach new heights of popularity was this approach to catchphrases.
Bannister: We'll all be murdered in our tigers!
(from ‘The White Box of Great Bardfield’, Series 5 Episode 25, broadcast 15 March 1955)