Originally started as the "Crazy People" (featuring Radio's own Crazy Gang -- the Goons
) in 1951 on BBC
Radio. It starred Spike Milligan
, Peter Sellers
, Harry Secombe
, and also initially Michael Bentine
. Its name was quickly changed to "The Goon Show" (which had been the cast's original choice). The name was a cause of some confusion with one BBC executive
reported to have asked about "This Go On Show". After two seasons Michael Bentine left and that just left the core three players. The show finished at the start of 1960 after about 250 shows had been made.
The show was very surreal with extreme off the wall comedy where anything was possible:
- sailing away in Dartmoor Prison (leaving a cardboard replica behind)
- cutting the knot off a rope to stop it being untied
- searching for pieces of the lost International Christmas Pudding
Famous characters include Eccles
, Minnie Bannister, Henry Crun, Moriarty
, Grytpype-Thyne, Major Dennis Bloodnok, and Neddy Seagoon.
Spike Milligan was very particular about the sound effects for the show and pushed very hard for much more interesting items than just doors and footsteps. There was particular fun trying to get the sound of things like someone being hit with a sock full of custard.
Writing most of the scripts was very wearing for Milligan and he went through depression and at least one nervous breakdown during the lifetime of the show. He is quoted as saying "I gave my sanity to that show."
As well as the radio series they also released several records of comedy songs including the "Ying Tong Song", and "I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas (across the Irish Sea)".
Prince Charles is an avid fan of the series and there are picture of him as Bluebottle etc. In fact apparently when one of his brothers first heard the "Ying Tong Song" he thought it was Charles as he'd heard him sing it so much.
The cast got back together in 1972 to make "The Last Goon Show of All". This was transmitted on TV as well as radio. All the old characters were back. It was attended by Prince Philip and Princess Anne, but Prince Charles was on naval duty and sent an hilarious letter ("My knees dropped off with envy at the thought of my father and sister attending the show.").
Due to live nature of the program and chaos of the BBC Archives there are only some 150 episodes still extant (others still occasionally turn up from far and wide). The BBC has released about 60 episodes on tape and CD.
That leaves only one thing to say:
"Ying Tong Iddle I Po."