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‘The funniest show we’ve ever done’

A few days ago we explored the series five collaboration between Eric Sykes and Spike Milligan, which produced some of the best Goon Show episodes (in my view, anyway).

The co-writing arrangement didn’t last long, though. After the paperweight incident, the pair wrote alternate episodes – but even then that didn’t mean all was well.

As Sykes recalls in his autobiography If I Don’t Write It Nobody Else Will, towards the end of his stint writing for the Goons he appeared at a Sunday morning rehearsal only to find the cast looking rather downhearted. Producer Peter Eton reluctantly informed him that the script was “not very funny”.

This was an anathema for Sykes. He was wonderfully self-deprecating but had an underlying confidence in his ability as a writer that would not let a criticism like that slide.

“Perhaps if you put your heart and soul into the lines will come alive,” I rasped. […] As I turned to go, I fired my parting shot: “I will never set foot in a Goon Show studio again.”

(from If I Don’t Write It Nobody Else Will, by Eric Sykes, published by Fourth Estate, 2005)

He was busy enough to not be put off by not working on the Goon Show any more, but did feel somewhat hard done by. Fortunately, after the recording that evening, Peter Sellers tracked him down and declared: “That was the funniest show we’ve ever done.”

Sykes was delighted – but he never did go back into a Goon Show studio.

I’ve tried and tried to work out which show this story refers to, but to no avail. Sykes doesn’t give much detail in his book about dates, but it must have been towards the end of the fifth series. If anyone has any ideas, send me a registered boot.

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