by Darryn "Daz" Hall, posted to PythOnline
Thursday, 7 March 2002

On 27 February the world lost a comedy legend. Spike Milligan, the famed British comedian who founded the classic radio and television comedy troupe The Goons (along with Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, and Michael Bentine) died of liver failure at his home in Sussex at age 83. Here follows what Darryn posted on PythOnline the following week, including a short piece written by Terry Gilliam exclusively for PythOnlne.

This article originally appeared on Pythonline


"I never met Spike. I never really felt that I had to, though, because he was always 'there'. On my TV, on my radio, or on my book shelves; indeed, with most of his family living here in Australia, he was on my TV and in my Newspapers probably more than he was anywhere else; usually to do with some 'Environmental' issue he always seemed to get caught up in. I say Environment with a capital 'E' because nowadays, that is how we are taught to think of the world we live in. Back in the early 70's, though, to be a public face for Environmental causes was about the same as being the focus of the 'fluff' piece tacked onto the end of the Six O'clock News! But did Spike care? Not about beurocracy and the 'puffed-shirt' brigade, certainly. About his work, the people he presented it to, and the world in which he stood however, Spike was a tireless Champion, a Genius and a true Legend, and if he had to appear foolish to make a point, to bring something he believed important to the public eye, then so be it. His fights with his personal demons were reported ad nauseum, and one wonders if Spike's comedy would have been so very different without them!

I had three comedy hero groups when I was a kid in the seventies: Monty Python, The Goodies, and The Goons. And, of course, Python was my comedy group of choice; It wasn't until I was a little older that I realised that it was because of Spike Milligan that Python was the way it was, if it had even been at all! Spike and his Goons were using phrases like 'stream-of-Conciousness' long before the men-who-would-be-Python were erroneously credited with such a creation.

Rest now, Spike. Thanks for the laughs, and for the passion; say hi to Graham for us!'


Terry Gilliam

"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."

Terry Gilliam (Excusively for PythOnline)

Others on Spike...

  • “It is hard for people now to remember just how stuffy and correct and deferential English society was in the Fifties. But with The Goon Show there was the first flicker of rebelliousness that turned into the satire movement in 1962. He did what we (Monty Python) were going to do.

    He nudged us forward to be even crazier than we were intending to be.”- John Cleese

  • “Spike Milligan was a comic genius. As the writing brains behind The Goon Show, he was the founder of modern comedy.” - Greg Dyke, Director-General of the BBC

  • “To have a gift of that sort is truly life-enhancing. Personally, but along with so many others, I shall miss his irreverent and hysterical presence and can only say that the world really will be the poorer for his departure.” - Prince Charles

  • “The Godfather of modern Comedy” - Eddie Izzard

  • “It sounds like attention-seeking behaviour to me.” - Paul Whitehouse, the creator of The Fast Show

  • "I told you I was ill." - Spike Milligan, suggesting his own epithet