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Series 1 in review

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

We’re starting on the second series tomorrow. Before we do, I’ve managed to dig out a few reviews and articles about the first series.

First up is an article by the Daily Mirror’s Clifford Davis from the eve of the first show.

Awk, awk – the Goons are coming!

When four zany young men walk into Studio One at the Aeolian Hall, London, on Sunday, the biggest BBC gamble in radio humour will have begun.

The comics – all in their twenties – have arrived to challenge the old patter-and-song routine of too many radio fun shows with a new type comedy series called “Crazy People”.

They will record on Sunday – for transmission on Monday night’s Home Service. To Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Spike Milligan comes the biggest chance of their vaudeville lives. Backed by the Ray Ellington Quartette [sic], these four newcomers, unknown before the war, have crashed the BBC barricades with radio’s first crazy gang show.

Secombe and Company call it goon humour. Ask them what a goon is and they’ll tell you “a single cell brain of which the thought segments are widely scattered. They don’t often come together.”

The show has had four provisional titles and four producers. Final job of presenting goon humour in terms of radio goes to the Corporation’s youngest variety producer – twenty-seven-year-old Denis Main Wilson.

Sunday’s studio audience will find Wilson’s first comedy series one of radio’s noisiest. Studio managers Doug Hespe, 22, and Phil Hicks, 24, have had to provide sound effects ranging from running bath water, Bren guns, zooming planes and a shipwreck.

Unlike ITMA, good humour will not be relying on puns. There is no cross talk.

“We take several situations and develop them to their most illogical conclusion,” says Milligan.

The show has no women – any female voices will come from the Goons themselves. You’ll be hearing the goon catch phrases “Yuckabakka” – naturally it means nothing – and “awk”. The latter sound is arrived at by putting the upper teeth over the lower lip and blowing hard. Meaning? You’ve got me there. It’s nothing but a nothing.

My main worry over this exciting experiment is the time of the broadcast. Six forty-five on a Monday night is no time for specialised humour of this sort.

I’ll wager its chief appeal is for the Braden cabaret-loving public. I hope the Home Service will switch the goons to a nine-thirty airing.

(Clifford Davis, writing in the Daily Mirror, 25 May 1951)

Noted, Clifford - the show did indeed switch to 9:30pm, but not until the start of the second series. I like the fact that Davis is baffled by the meaningless catchphrases. This seems to chime with the 'More coal' sketch early in the first series (see 21 June blog).

“I took out a sleeping pill, woke it up, and swallowed it.”—Typical gag from the new radio series, “Crazy People”. If the Goons (Secombe, Sellers, Bentine, and Milligan) can keep up the standard of lunacy and find some funny new noises, they will soon be one of the top shows on the air.

(from Sunday Dispatch, 3 June 1951)

With “Take It From Here” off the air for the summer the comedy outlook was bleak but “Crazy People” (Home [Service], Mondays, 6.45) started off brilliantly and promises well.

(from Kensington Post, 22 June 1951)

Newspaper cuttings sourced from the British Newpaper Archive.

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