‘This is my banana night!’
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Fred Nurke is missing! An over-ripe banana, in a deserted Cannon Street shipping office, is the only clue to his whereabouts. Inspector Ned Seagoon follows the trail to a British Embassy in South America, where he is just in time to help the Embassy staff in a brush with the rebels. Why are Senor Gonzales Mess and his gang trying to cut down the only banana tree in the Embassy gardens, and what is the connection between Fred Nurke and the over-ripe banana in Cannon Street?
(from the Radio Times listing for 26 October 1954, page 24, issue 1615, published 22 October 1954)
Spike Milligan is on form again in this episode, this time experimenting with extended gags. Right from the off, the audience is treated to a recording of the William Tell Overture that lasts for more than 30 seconds, getting steadily faster and more high-pitched, until it eventually ends in an explosion. As Harry Secombe explains: “And why not?”
Spike was obviously a fan of the long build-up of comedic tension before a punchline. The extended gag format comes in several times more in this episode, whether it’s a long period of footsteps getting nearer and nearer (these were occasionally provided by Spike or Peter Sellers stomping around the stage, much to the studio audience’s amusement) or the following excerpt involving Seagoon and Henry Crun.
Crun: Let us get some details and documents […] Your name? Seagoon: Neddie Pugh Seagoon. Crun: N-E-D-D-I-E. Neddie - what was next? Seagoon: Neddie Pugh Seagoon. Crun: Pugh. P-H-E-W? Seagoon: No, no, no, it's pronounced ‘Phew’, but it's spelt ‘pug’. Crun: P-U-G-H – there. Neddie Pugh - Sea-dune, wasn't it? Seagoon: Yes, Seagoon. S-E-A-G-O-O-N. Crun: Could you spell it? Seagoon: Certainly – S-E-A-G-O-O-N. Crun: Seagoon. S-E-A, er - mnkk - mnkk [Snores] Seagoon: G-O-O-N - Seagoon. Crun: Oh yes, yes, yes, good, good, yes, yes, yes, the full name. Now er - address? Seagoon: No fixed abode. Crun: No, F-I-X-E-D, fixed, A-B... Seagoon: A-B-O-D-E. Crun: O-D-E. There we are - No fixed abodee. What number? Seagoon (starting to get irritated): 29A! Crun: 29A. Twenty-nine, A… District? Seagoon: London, SW2. Crun: L-O-N-D-O-N. South-west, E-S-T... Two, wasn't it? Seagoon (irritated): Yes, two. Crun: T-W... It’s no good, I'd better get a pencil and paper and write all this down.
The plot is as broadly summarised by the Radio Times as above and on page 24, although in reality there was no mention of Cannon Street. Lady Marks (Sellers) summons Inspector Seagoon to find her son, Fred Nurke. Nurke is traced, via a single abandoned banana in Crun’s shipping office, to South America.
On arrival, however, Seagoon has his work cut out negotiating revolutions and rebellions. As Moriarty explains, the United Anti-Socialist Neo-Democratic Pro-Fascist Communist Party is fighting to overthrow the Unilateral Democratic United Partisan Bellicose Pacifist Co-belligerent Tory Labour Liberal Party. Reading that in one go deserved a round of applause in my view.
Seagoon is arrested for carrying a loaded banana and seeking out Fred Nurke. He acquaints himself with a fellow prisoner.
Seagoon: He appeared to be a man of breeding and intellect. Eccles: Hello dere. Seagoon: I was wrong.
It’s at this point we hear for the first time another extended gag that Milligan revisited several times in later episodes. A dull, repetitive activity – in this case, Seagoon and Eccles stacking a seemingly infinite number of chairs to reach a high window – is masked by a musical interlude.
Wallace Greenslade introduces “that well-known tenor and market gardener, Mr Cyril Cringingnutt”. The character, played by Sellers, thanks “Rikki Fulton” – a reference to Scottish comedian and compere of The Show Band Show on BBC radio – and introduces his song: Three Goons In A Fountain.
Cringingnutt (crooning): Three Goons in a fountain - which one will the fountain drown - I have got a shop full of Schmutters - Greenslade (interrupts): Thank you! Ladies and gentlemen, Seagoon and Eccles have reached the high window so we won't need Cyril Cringingnutt any more, so we'll say- [FX: Chairs collapse in a terrific crash. Stacking starts again.] Cringingnutt (crooning): Three Goons in a fountain, which one will the fountain drown…
Fortunately, at this point Seagoon and Eccles are summoned to meet with British diplomat Major Bloodnok. He has been guarding a banana tree, the last under British control.
Seagoon: Gad, Bloodnok, I admire your guts. Bloodnok: Why, are they showing?
Now, all they can do is wait to hear of Fred Nurke’s mission. Has he been successful in dynamiting the rebel HQ and saving the last banana tree? Bloodnok and Seagoon wait in the darkness.
[FX: Lone cricket chirping] Bloodnok: Listen - what's making that noise? Seagoon: A cricket. Bloodnok: How can they see to bat in this light? Eccles: Major, Major, a man's just climbed over the garden wall. Bloodnok: A boundary! Well played, sir!
Of course, it isn’t a well-timed reverse swing off leg stump (is that a thing? My knowledge of cricket terminology is sketchy). It’s potential a rebel assassin. One of Bloodnok, Seagoon and Eccles has to go and investigate.
Bloodnok: Well, who is it going to be, eh? Seagoon? Seagoon: I'm terribly sorry, but I have a wife and 63 children. Bloodnok: I too have a wife and children. That only leaves dear old - [FX: Panicky rattling of telephone] Eccles: Hello, hello, operator? Get me the marriage bureau.
Moriarty calls to threaten the trio with death if they do not cut down the tree. Bloodnok and Eccles both make attempts to save their own skins, but Seagoon intervenes, throwing the saw away – whereupon it clouts Bluebottle on the nut.
Bluebottle: Does ‘body racked with sobs’ pose, as done by Robert Newton on seeing income tax return.
(Robert Newton was an actor most famous for his portrayal of Long John Silver in the 1950 big-screen adaptation of Treasure Island, which influenced most modern film portrayals of pirates. He was also very well paid.)
Seagoon proceeds to the rebel HQ where he is accosted by Grytpype-Thynne, the rebel leader. He is locked up as the dastardly duo exit to take down the banana tree. Seagoon believes Nurke will capture them, until the phone rings and he answers it.
Fred Nurke (Sellers): Right, you swines - this is Fred Nurke, and this is my banana night. In three seconds a time-bomb explodes in your room, ha ha! [FX: Click] Seagoon: Three seconds - I've got to get out of here at once! [FX: Footsteps running for door] Greenslade: Will Seagoon get out in time? [FX: Explosion] Greenslade: Oh, hard luck - still, he tried.
As for the banana tree…
Bloodnok: Timber!!! [FX: Tree crashing]
Everyone has a price, even for a banana.
For radio tech enthusiasts like me, this article on the role of a studio manager from the 22 October 1954 edition of the Radio Times may be of interest – see page 7.
Title: The Affair of the Lone Banana
Series 5, Episode 5
Broadcast: 26 October 1954
Written by: Spike Milligan
Producer: Peter Eton
Banana tree image by icon0 via Pexels; lone banana image by Ryutaro Tsukata via Pexels.