Sunday, February 16, 2014
And This Blog Loves Spike Milligan
As comedy and showbiz fans ponder and mourn the recent passing of powerhouse Sid Caesar, today's posting remembers another wild and crazy guy (and favorite of this blog) who blasted into the comedy zeitgeist in the 1950's, the great Spike Milligan.
Like Marty Feldman, he was a trumpet player who, instead of leading a British bebop big band, became a comedian. The musical nature of Spike's writing proved a constant in his career as a performer and author.
Born in British India in 1918, Spike made his name as a writer, cast member and co-founder of BBC radio's The Goon Show.
In over 200 radio shows and a few TV and film appearances, The Goons - Spike, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe - for all practical purposes threw out the comedy playbook and invented a new one.
After The Goon Show, Milligan began doing standup comedy and guest appearances on various TV variety programs.
He would soon follow up The Goon Show by producing, writing and starring in his own sketch comedy program Q.
Very likely the first time Americans saw Spike Milligan was on the short-lived but glorious 1970 sketch comedy show, The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine.
Unfortunately, the 10+ seasons of Spike's Q series, at least on Your Blogmeister's home turf, the San Francisco Bay Area, did not get TV distribution in the United States, even during the 1970's and 1980's stretch when British comedy - Python and Python offshoots (Fawlty Towers, Ripping Yarns), The Two Ronnies, Benny Hill and such lesser known shows as Dad's Army and Up Pompeii (starring Frankie Howerd)- could be found everywhere on the boob tube, especially via a then more prosperous PBS. Granted, non-Python British comedy (Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Sid Field, Flanagan & Allen, George Formby, Tony Hancock, Kenneth Horne, Jimmy James, Morecambe & Wise, Eric Sykes, Kenneth Williams, Norman Wisdom) was also seldom seen.
Thanks to YouTube DailyMotion and other online portals, it is possible now for comedy-challenged Americans to spend a bit of time in Spike's surreal comedy world.
Onscreen, he was the silliest of the silly, but offscreen was quite the activist in the environmental and animal rights arenas, as well as a prolific author. His books included a seven-volume autobiographical account of his World War II service. Hitler, Nazis, fascism and pompous twits in general were frequent targets of his humor.
Since Spike was known as a poet and author of Silly Verse for Kids, let's finish this post with one of his poems!