Tributes to The Goon Show & Spike Milligan

Terry Gilliam

Actor, animator, director, producer and screenwriter

One of the main reasons I made my way to England many years ago died the other day. That reason was named Spike Milligan - one of the most brilliant, whirling dervish comic geniuses the world has ever had to put up with... and the brains behind the Goon Show. I remember hearing the Goons for the first time on an FM station in New York sometime in the mid sixties. Never had I heard anything so absurd, so giddyingly wonderful, wild, and silly in all of my life. There was nothing in America to compare with it. If Britain could produce nonsense as pure and anarchic as that, then that was the place for me.

Whatever doubts about forsaking America were dispelled when, a few years later, I bumped into a strange English film that had clambered up onto the less-than-silver screen of a dingy New York art house called The Running Jumping Standing Still Film (that was the name of the film, not the cinema - the cinema was called Leslie). Although I didn't know it at the time, this too was the product of Spike's corkscrew mind - and it did for cinema what the Goon Show had done for radio - reduced it to lunacy of the finest unexplainable kind.

I had to get to Britain and wallow in this ridiculously funny world. And I did.

But, Spike didn't stop with radio and, he took on the task of deconstructing television comedy as well. Unfortunately, the BBC, in it's wisdom, destroyed the tapes of his shows to make more storage space in their vaults and Python waltzed away with the credit for changing the face of television comedy. But, the truth is that it was Spike Milligan who got there first.

I never thanked him properly for opening the doors to English humour for me and being the illegitimate father of Python - now it's too late - he's already gone and pissed off this mortal coil. Spike was always way ahead of the rest of us.

This article is sourced from Pythonline's Daily Llama