Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Episode four of the first series was broadcast on 18 June 1951 on the Home Service at 7:45pm. The Radio Times listing is available here.
My love of the Goons stems from my mother’s efforts to keep my brother and I quiet and behaving ourselves when eating dinner. For us, the silly voices and noises emanating from the cassette player were exactly our level of humour – I think we were probably aged 10 and five at the time.
As kids we would occasionally baffle friends or teachers by reciting lines from our favourite episodes, in particular ‘The Mysterious Punch-Up-The-Conker’ (Series 7, Episode 19). I’m fairly sure Mike and I both knew the first five minutes of that episode by heart at one point. It’s a good job we didn’t repeat too much – there are many jokes we didn’t understand at the time that would have gotten us into trouble…
Mum’s love of the Goons – she was born in 1961, so missed the original broadcasts too – was in turn encouraged by her parents. My grandfather, Ernie, loved the Goons and Morecambe and Wise, among others. Almost all of my memories of him (he died in 2006) involve comedy in one way or another. Nan is also a big Goons fan – maybe more so than Grandad, so my mother tells me – but I think for the most part she was happy to sit back and let him be the silly one, which is why it’s him that I associate it all with.
Grandad was a big kid at heart, and loved entertaining me, my siblings and my friends with a sense of humour I can now appreciate as being a cross between the Goons and Morecambe & Wise. It helped that he looked like Eric Morecambe, too.
Towards the end of his life when his mobility was limited by Parkinson’s, I have a clear memory of him sitting in his armchair giggling to an episode of the Goon Show, something he had obviously been doing for 50 years.
Goon Show jokes have become part of our own family humour (the clean ones, anyway), so much so that my sister, born in 1999, only realised recently where all these daft things we say to each other actually came from.
Towards the end of dinners, Mum or Dad will ask: “Have you had enough nuff?”
Sellers: Yes, alright, that’s enough. After all, enough is as good as a feast. Secombe: I haven’t had enough. Sellers: Oh, haven't you? Secombe: No. Sellers: Well, swallow this obstacle. Secombe: Hup! [Gulps] Oh ho - delicious! What was it? Sellers: It was enough. Secombe: I don’t feel as if I’ve had enough. Sellers: Well it was enough! It was marked on the tin: “A N-U-double-F. Net weight four ounces.” So you have just eaten a four ounce nuff. Secombe: Well, if that was a four ounce nuff, I haven’t had enough nuff. Sellers: Well I've had enough. Say “Ahhh”. Secombe: Aaaa... [FX: Gunshot] Secombe: Aaaahh! I’m dying! At last, I have had enough!
(from ‘World War One’, Series 8 Episode 22, broadcast 24 February 1958)
If one of us cracks a particularly groan-worthy pun, Mum can be heard to remark: “That’s an old joke but a new stick.” The whole skit between Neddie (Harry Secombe) and Eccles (Spike Milligan) is a wonderful example of Goon humour.
Seagoon: Listen, blue shivering frost-covered figure, what gives you the idea that it’s hot today? Eccles: Well, my granddad phoned up this morning and he said “Out of bed, lad! Out of bed! It's a beautiful day.” Seagoon: Where is he? Eccles: He was phoning from Bermuda. Seagoon: Dear grandson Eccles, sit down on this fossilised shooting stick. Eccles: Oowww! That’s an old gag but a new stick. Seagoon: Now let me put you right before you freeze to death. It’s summer in Bermuda but it’s winter over here. Eccles: You can’t fool me Neddie. Look at the reading on this thermometer. Seagoon: A hundred and thirty degrees? ... This thermometer has a temperature. We must get it to a doctor at once! ... Wait a minute. You took the thermometer out of a hot water bottle. Eccles: Of course. I always keep it in there. If I didn’t it would drop below zero and we’d freeze to death.
(from ‘Insurance: The White Man’s Burden’, Series 7 Episode 21, broadcast 28 February 1957)
I’m reminded by Mum of the regular appearance in our conversations of phrases such as “Everybody gotta be somewhere” and “Curse this wind, I should never have eaten those balloons”.
And then there are the moments when one of us will finish waffling on about a subject another person doesn’t understand, to which they will respond by pausing and saying in an Eccles-type voice, “Well, dat’s de end of dat”.
It’s a sense of the ridiculous that has brought us all closer as a family over the years. Doubtless, many Goon Show fans have similar tales of families absorbing the show and its oeuvre – if you’d like to share them I’d be delighted to hear your stories. Just drop me an email.