The Goon Show
March 8, 2010 10:16 PM   Subscribe

The Goon Show was a highly popular and immensely influential radio show on the BBC in the 1950s featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan. They would sometimes do live readings of episodes, here's a video recording of The Whistling Spy Enigma (parts 1, 2, 3) and a much later recording of Tales of Men's Shirts (parts 1, 2, 3). The first features Ray Ellington, musical director of the Goon Show, and the second John Cleese, who, like his fellow Pythons, was a huge fan of The Goon Show growing up. In the 50s BBC turned The Goon Show into a TV show with puppets, called Telegoons. A number of shows exist online: The Lurgi Strikes Britain (1, 2), The Nadger Plague (1, 2), Captain Seagoon RN (1, 2), Tales of Montmartre (1, 2), The First Albert Memorial to the Moon (1, 2), The Hastings Flyer (1, 2), The Affair of the Lone Banana (1, 2), The Africa Ship Canal (1, 2), The Booted Gorilla (1, 2), The Ascent of Mount Everest (1, 2), The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill on Sea (1, 2), Fort Knight (1, 2), The Terrible Revenge of Fred Fu Manchu (1, 2), The Lost Colony (1, 2) and, finally, back where we first began, the Telegoons version of The Whistling Spy Enigma (1, 2).
posted by Kattullus (43 comments total) 125 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, this rocks SO DAMNED HARD. Thank you for this great post. I'm going to have a blast watching these. :)
posted by zarq at 10:19 PM on March 8, 2010

This AskMe sent me looking for visual Goon Show material. All Telegoons episodes I linked to uploaded by YouTube user Dyynamo.
posted by Kattullus at 10:21 PM on March 8, 2010

holy shit
posted by KokuRyu at 10:40 PM on March 8, 2010

Hah, I always wondered where the hell "The lurg" came from.
My father would always say that's what we had when we were sick.
posted by madajb at 10:52 PM on March 8, 2010

I have this childhood memory, sometimes in the early '60s I think, of not being allowed to watch this TV program. My parents thought it 'unsuitable' for a young lad. How strange that I can now get to watch them 40-odd years later.

Great post - thank you!
posted by vac2003 at 10:55 PM on March 8, 2010

One of the strangest Muppet Shows was when Spike Milligan was the guest. And Peter Sellers' Cigarettes and Whiskey was nothing short of kick ass.

Oh, and a big THANK YOU for the post.
posted by edgeways at 11:24 PM on March 8, 2010

...Tales of Men's Shirts (parts 1 , 2 , 3 )...

Ah, this explains much.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:27 PM on March 8, 2010

I share a birthday with Spike Milligan. I grew up listening to Goon Show records, and they were the funniest things I'd ever heard in my entire life. For more Milligan fun, check out his war memoirs; they start with "Hitler: My Part in His Downfall" and go on from there.

Thank you for this, this is awesome.

also my father was literally born in Bexhill-On-Sea, making the Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler particularly funny in our house
posted by KathrynT at 11:33 PM on March 8, 2010

Serious love for this post. Thank you!
posted by strixus at 12:01 AM on March 9, 2010

We lived in London in the '50s, and my father was a working studio musician there. He tells how they sometimes used to go into a BBC studio to do some radio broadcast or other, and find out that the previous users had been the Goons, doing a program taping. (You don't want to read what's coming next)

The Goons left crap all over the place - including their own marked-up and annotated copies of the typed scripts for the show - just tossed aside. Dad and his buddies would pick these off the floor, flip through them for a laugh or two, and then ... toss them aside again.

Sigh ...
posted by woodblock100 at 12:16 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

omg omg omg

posted by louche mustachio at 12:30 AM on March 9, 2010

Many, many thanks for so many childhood memories - my family's all-time favourite radio show! The wonders of internet: Icelandic Katullus in the US recreating for an ancient Brit (not an Ancient Brit!) in Italy happy memories of a Yorkshire long gone...
posted by aqsakal at 12:31 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You rotten swine you!

Look at my productivity. You have deaded it!
posted by flabdablet at 1:54 AM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

Before RTFA'ing, I thought this would have something to do with the Goon Squad. I was glad to be wrong.

Stuff like this is why I love the internets.
posted by alvarete at 3:26 AM on March 9, 2010

I've always loved the Goons, but it's hard to appreciate just how much a part of British life they became.

I mean, it's only recently that I realised that they were the source of the word 'lurgy' that every British person understands to mean a general purpose feeling of illness, somewhere between a cold and the flu that needs sympathy but not a doctor. Outside the UK it seems to be pretty much unknown...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 3:47 AM on March 9, 2010

Oh awesome!

The first features Ray Ellington, musical director of the Goon Show

Pardon my Goon geeking, but wasn't Wallace Stott was the musical director of the Goon Show usually? Ray Ellington did a song with his quartet in every show between the second and third acts (Max Geldray did a harmonica performance between the first and second acts), as well as frequent bit parts.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:01 AM on March 9, 2010

"What're you doing here?"

"Everyone's got to be somewhere."

posted by turgid dahlia at 4:07 AM on March 9, 2010

Grew up in a Goons-loving house (well, a Goons-obsessed dad and merely tolerant mum). Hence vast overuse of "Sflashoo!", "He's fallen in the water!" and "What time is it, Eccles?"
posted by scruss at 4:46 AM on March 9, 2010

Many sausinges to you, Katallus, for this post! How I love the Goons.
posted by Spatch at 5:09 AM on March 9, 2010

I don't much care for the Goons personally. Wrong era, I suspect.

But props to Katullus: if Carlsberg wrote a MeFi post on the Goons, this is what it would look like.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:40 AM on March 9, 2010

posted by Pallas Athena at 5:47 AM on March 9, 2010

Lentrohamsanin: Wallace Stott was the musical director of the Goon Show

You're absolutely right. I misremembered Ellington's role. Wally Stott, incidentally, transitioned to female and became Angela Morley and had a successful career as a TV composer in the US.
posted by Kattullus at 5:51 AM on March 9, 2010

Wow, I did not know that. Cool!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:54 AM on March 9, 2010

My first English boyfriend won my heart with his dead-on Eccles impression.

Thank you for the awesomeness, Kattullus!
posted by stuck on an island at 5:58 AM on March 9, 2010

What can you say about a series where someone as great as Peter Sellers is only the third funniest guy?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:01 AM on March 9, 2010

Wally Stott, incidentally, transitioned to female and became Angela Morley

And arranged Scott Walker's classic 60s albums. Funny old world.
posted by Grangousier at 6:09 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I'm glad to see others share the love.

I work at a horse farm, and when one of the animals has some skin infection or other, it makes me sad that if I said, "Looks like a touch of Lurgi," nobody, but nobody, would know what I was talking about. (But I always think it.) >>thinks<< Looks like a touch of Lurgi.

I have about sixty episodes on my mp3 player permanently, and I listen to them again and again.

Eccles: Do you have any idea of who you're talking too?
Seagoon: No.
Eccles: Have you ever heard of the Duke of Windsor?
Seagoon: Yes.
Eccles: Well I'm...Eccles!
posted by Trochanter at 8:49 AM on March 9, 2010

Enter Bluebottle Kattullus to rapturous applause!

Grew up with a Goon-mad dad and we bonded through a shared love of Goon insanity - his record of The Scarlet Capsule (a joke on the Quatermass and the Pit film) was a revelation that adults did silliness too:

Bannister: Knick knack, knick knack. (sings) Paddy-whack, give the dog a bone… (rhythm-type humming)

Crun: (hums accompaniment to Min’s line)

Crun and Bannister: (hum for a while, then stop)

Crun: What are you doing, Min? The dog’s had four bones already, you know. Three of them are mine, I tell you. Now, look, another one. Oh, look!

Bannister: Ohhh! Lord Crun?

Crun: What?

Bannister: This skull is 5 million years old!

Crun and Bannister: (sings) Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.

posted by patricio at 9:03 AM on March 9, 2010

Fantastic! Thank you.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2010

Any good leads on where to get these in mp3? I've never heard, but always wanted to!
posted by stenseng at 10:07 AM on March 9, 2010

Wonderful! I quote the few Goon lines I know to my kids, who love them. Now they can hear the real thing. Thank you so much.
posted by angiep at 10:07 AM on March 9, 2010

Can I post a link?

If this is not good re: TOS please delete.

It's a huge torrent, but you can pick and choose.
posted by Trochanter at 10:46 AM on March 9, 2010

Oh lordy, thanks for this! These guys were the beginning of some wonderful stuff- for me, Beyond the Fringe was my introduction to this melange of humor (dudley moore, peter cook, paxton whitehead...) and I still have most of that stuff memorized.... I know, I know. I need a life. And get off my lawn!

And- what flabdablet said. You have just deaded my productivity. Damn good thing I retired last year.
posted by drhydro at 12:19 PM on March 9, 2010

ZOMG I was addicted to this stuff 20 years ago. Really did have a formative effect on my admittedly warped sense of humor. About time it got some press. Milligan was a genius.

If anyone is interested, his war memoirs (WWII) are bittersweet, alternately ROFLcopter-funny, and achingly sad. Well worth the read.
posted by Sportbilly at 12:57 PM on March 9, 2010

Acquired taste. Never found them funny myself
posted by A189Nut at 1:07 PM on March 9, 2010

My dad had a Goon Show LP (The dreaded batting pudding hurler of Bexhill on sea) which was in a plain brown paper sleeve. He never introduced me to them, but I found it and played it at the tender age of 10 (in 1978)... I can still remember howling with incomprehensible laughter at the funny voices and the few jokes I got (this finger is loaded, the running gag of the germans shelling them every time anyone struck a match)... Later that year he bought me the book of the Goon Show scripts. Lifelong fan...

Thanks for the post.
posted by itsjustanalias at 1:21 PM on March 9, 2010

I was an American teenager living overseas when I discovered the Goons. Spike was a wildly inventive genius. The writing was unlike anything else ever seen - or heard - before. Now my son, who is 21, has discovered the Goons and is addicted. I am proud to say he is a silly, twisted boy.
posted by jleisek at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2010

"Do you play the saxaphone?"

"Only during the mating season!"

posted by sneebler at 2:54 PM on March 9, 2010

Watch out Moriarty!

Thanks very much for this; I've heard about The Goon Show for years, but never experienced it myself... until now.
posted by languagehat at 3:13 PM on March 9, 2010

"You're looking well, Spike."
"No I'm not. I've been dead for years and nobody's noticed."
posted by ovvl at 4:23 PM on March 9, 2010

Wonderful post. My favorite Goon line (of hundreds) comes from a 1955 show called Napoleon's Piano, when the boys are lost at sea (i.e., floating on a piano in the English Channel):

Great galloping crabs! Look in the sky.

[sound effects: Helicopter]

It's a recording of a helicopter. Saved!
posted by LeLiLo at 7:21 PM on March 9, 2010

Fantastic, thanks!

Back in college I led a troupe of radio drama players. We performed live on the campus FM radio show, mostly from scripts from BBC Radio series. Hitchhikers Guide, naturally, and the Lord of the Rings, and a six hour adaptation of The Hobbit I wrote. But the most fun I had was the two semesters we spent doing the Goon Show.
posted by ewagoner at 7:24 PM on March 9, 2010

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