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Spike Milligan

Spike Milligan (April 16, 1918 - February 27, 2002) was a comedian, novelist, poet, jazz musician (trumpet and guitar) and member of the Goons. He was born Terence Alan Milligan in Ahmed Nagar or Ahmadnagar[?], India to an Irish-born officer in the British army. Though he lived most of his life in Britain and served in the British army, he was declared stateless in 1960, and took Irish citizenship.

Spike Milligan suffered from bipolar disorder for most of his life, having at least ten breakdowns. He was a strident campaigner on environmental matters, particularly arguing against unnecessary noise. He served in the Royal Artillery in World War 2 in North Africa and also Italy, where he was hospitalized for shell shock. During most of the 30s and early 40s he performed as a jazz trumpeter but even then he did comedy sketches. After his hospitalisation he played guitar with a jazz/comedy group called The Bill Hall Trio, at first in concert parties for the troops and, after the War, for a short time on stage. While he was with the Central Pool of Artists (a group, in his own words, "of bomb-happy squaddies") he began to write parodies of their mainstream plays, that displayed many of the key elements of what would become The Goon Show.

He was the primary author of the Goon Show scripts as well as a performer, and is considered the father of modern British comedy, having inspired many performers, notably Monty Python's Flying Circus. Writing a show a week affected his health greatly and caused him to have a series of nervous breakdowns. On one occasion Peter Sellers had to lock his door against a knife-wielding Milligan; on another, Sellers and Harry Secombe broke into Milligan's dressing room, fearing he was suicidal. Eventually lithium was found to be the most effective treatment.

He also had a number of acting parts in theatre, film and television series such as Gormenghast, and was (almost inevitably) noted as an ad-libber. He wrote nonsense verse for children, the best of which is comparable with that of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, and (while depressed) serious poetry.

Prince Charles was a noted fan, and Milligan caused a stir by calling him a "little grovelling bastard" on television in 1994. He later faxed the prince, saying "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question now?" The knighthood (honorary because of his Irish citizenship) was finally awarded in 2000.

Even late in life Milligan's black humour had not deserted him. After the death of friend Harry Secombe he said, "I'm glad he died before me, because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral." A recording of Secombe singing was played at Millgan's memorial service. In a BBC poll in August 1999, Spike Milligan was voted the "funniest person of the last 1000 years".

Table of contents

Radio Comedy shows

TV Comedy shows

  • A Show Called Fred
  • Son of Fred
  • The World of Beachcomber
  • Q5, Q6, Q7, Kuwait (Q8) and There's A Lot of It About

Theatre

  • Treasure Island (1961,1973-5)
  • The Bed-Sitting Room (1963,1967) written by Milligan and John Antrobus

Movies

Books

  • Silly Verse for Kids
  • Puckoon (1963)
  • The Looney: An Irish Fantasy (1987)
  • The Bedside Milligan
  • "The War (and Peace) Memoirs"
    • Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall (1971; Jim Dale played Milligan and Milligan played his own father in the film version of this book.)
    • Rommel? Gunner Who? A Confrontation in the Desert
    • Monty: His Part in My Victory
    • Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall
    • Where Have All the Bullets Gone? (1985)
    • Goodbye Soldier
    • Peace Work
  • Hidden Words: Collected Poems
  • Transport of Delight
  • Peace Work
  • Depression and How to Survive It (with Professor Anthony Clare[?]), medical biography.

Quotations

  • "When I look back, the fondest memory I have is not really of the Goons. It is of a girl called Julia with enormous breasts."
  • "I can't see the sense in it [his honorary CBE] really. It makes me a Commander of the British Empire. They might as well make me a Commander of Milton Keynes - at least that exists."
  • "I told you I was ill" - his epitaph.

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