I’ve been a big fan of Spike Milligan since I was about ten and I read Adolf Hitler: my part in his downfall. There was a hilarious passage in it about he and his comrades had leapt into the sea while on R&R and played with their submarines. It took me about five years to work out there might be a subtext. I just rather liked the idea of loads of soldiers pretending to be marine attack vessels.
Born in India, and a jazz trumpeter and vocalist before the war, he was wounded at Monte Cassino and had a pretty tough time (I thoroughly recommend his books about the war).
After the war, he was one of the great comic characters around, with a wonderful sense of the absurd and surreal. As well as writing and performing on The Goon Show, he was a poet, artist, you name it. His healthy disregard for normalcy and rules in humour (and indeed life) a striking influence on me as a teen. Here are some of the things he has said.
All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.
Are you going to come quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?
Contraceptives should be used on every conceivable occasion.
For ten years Caesar ruled with an iron hand. Then with a wooden foot, and finally with a piece of string.
I have the body of an eighteen year old. I keep it in the fridge.
I spent many years laughing at Harry Secombe’s singing until somebody told me that it wasn’t a joke.
I thought I’d begin by reading a poem by Shakespeare, but then I thought, why should I? He never reads any of mine.
Is there anything worn under the kilt? No, it’s all in perfect working order.
It was a perfect marriage. She didn’t want to and he couldn’t.
It’s all in the mind, you know.
Money couldn’t buy friends, but you got a better class of enemy.
My Father had a profound influence on me, he was a lunatic.
A great interview. Very very very funny.
Stand-up. WAAAAAAAAY ahead of his time.