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The characters - part 1

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

For those less familiar with the voices on the Goon Show, here’s a quick rundown of which idiot is which. I’ll delve a bit more into some of these in the coming weeks, as some have fairly detailed back stories as to how they came about.

Neddie Seagoon (Harry Secombe)

Telegoon puppet of Neddie

A caricature of Secombe that emerged from the early series of the show. In the beginning, The Goon Show episodes were predominantly a set of unrelated sketches rather than the half-hour storylines that typify the later shows (fourth series onwards, essentially).

In these early shows, a regular feature was The Adventures of Fearless Harry Secombe. Once Michael Bentine had departed in 1952, Secombe’s distinctive voice naturally became the centre point around which the others rotated.

Eccles (Spike Milligan)

Based on Milligan’s childhood admiration of Goofy, Eccles is the archetypal Goon. In the 1991 radio documentary At Last The Go On Show, Milligan explained:

“I slightly refined him [from Goofy] and made him more into a Homo sapiens, on a very low key. He represented the loser in life who always came up smiling out of every occasion, and could not be defeated by logic. He can always overcome it.”

Bluebottle (Peter Sellers)

A genuine cardboard-and-string Boy Scout hero, Bluebottle was based on a specific person: Ruxton Hayward, a scout leader who accosted first Michael Bentine and then Peter Sellers in an attempt to get the latter to appear at a Scouts event.

Such was his remarkable appearance and unique voice, Sellers adopted him into his repertoire. Initially referred to in early scripts as Ernie Splutmuscle, he eventually became a regular character and took on his famous moniker. I’ll give him his own blog later this month.

Grytpype-Thynne (Peter Sellers)

Reputedly based on the British actor George Sanders. Sanders had a prolific film and TV career, but is best known to me as the voice of Shere Khan the tiger from the original Disney cartoon movie of The Jungle Book.

Grytpype’s suave voice lends him to play government or establishment figures, but in later episodes he and his lackey Moriarty became increasingly down on their luck.

Keep still, Moriarty – do you want us both out of this suit?

(from ‘The Childe Harolde Rewarde’, Series 9 Episode 6, broadcast 8 December 1958)

Moriarty (Spike Milligan)

Grytpype’s partner-in-crime and a “French scrag” often introduced as a Count and, in later series, implying a dramatic fall from grace.

Grytpype: Pardon the steam king, Neddie, he’s never been the same since the fall of France. Moriarty: It fell on me, that’s why!

(from ‘The £1,000,000 Penny’, Series 9 Episode 3, broadcast 17 November 1958)

In earlier series, Moriarty’s voice is fairly low and gruff, and his character is quite cunning (usually at Seagoon’s expense). As the series progressed, in tandem with Grytpype, he became more desperate – coinciding with his voice becoming higher-pitched.

For a little more on the characters and some of the peripheral players, see The Goon Show Site. The Telegoons website also has some copies of cartoons by Milligan and Sellers of the main characters.

Image of Neddie Seagoon puppet from the Telegoons website.

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