We all listened to "The Goon Show", Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe, at various times in our
lives. We heard a lot of those shows. They impressed us when we started doing radio ourselves, because they sustained characters
in a really surreal and weird kind of situation for a long period of time.
They were doing that show for 10 years, all the way through the 50s. So we were just listening to them at the end. It
was that madness and the ability to go anywhere and do anything and yet sustain those funny characters. So when we first did
written radio, where we would sit down and write half hour skits and do them once a week, which we did in the fall of 1967,
we did things that were very imitative of "The Goon Show" and learned a lot of voices from them and such.
I'm just a fan. I was introduced to them through the group and I loved them and that's just it. We loved the surrealism
that was in the group so much that we got enthusiastic about it and did our performances in that style. It was just a part
of our live performance from a "Goon Show" point of view.
Only then did I parody some of those approaches, like in "Tile It As It Is". We did a lot of English type characters
so I would take inspiration from the kind of wild, fast high voiced approach to things. Some homage work.
When I was in England in 1965, I was writing for "Not So Much a Program, More a Way of Life", which was the
antecedent to "That Was The Week That Was".
I went to see Spike Milligan who was performing in a play called "Oh Blow Off". He was improvising it so that
basically it became his one-man show. I went backstage to say hello. I didn't know who these people were. I had no idea who
the Goons were, I just thought Spike Milligan was marvelous. We made a great contact and decided to write together.
We started to put together an article for Queen Magazine. I don't know if the magazine still exists. So we spent some
time together in London and it was really quite wonderful.
I have two Spike Milligan stories. One is that we were walking down the street once and we went by an undertaker's establishment.
He walked in, there was nobody there in the front. He laid down on the counter, put his hands over his chest, hit the bell
and yelled, "Front".
The other time we went into a restaurant and we ordered a bottle of wine. And as it came to the table he picked it up
and yelled, "Waiter, waiter! There's no ship in this bottle!" So it was wonderful working with him. He was a great
I really didn't know the Goons material until I got together with the Firesign in Los Angeles and Austin and Ossman were
very much Goons fans. Since then I've gotten a collection of the Goons Comedy songs. They are certainly the peers of, to my
idea, funnier than Spike Jones. But certainly Spike Jones and the Goons were the only ones that were able to turn out what
I think were truly, truly funny comedy songs.
I've been a devotee of the Goons since I first heard them, in Fresno, in the 50s, when they were played as part of an
NBC Radio weekend program called Monitor.
When I went to work at KPFK, working my way up to Drama and Literature Director, one of my jobs was to program the "Goon
Shows" from a huge library of transcription discs that KPFK had received from the BBC. I've heard all of them hundreds
of times. I could do all the voices and still have to be told firmly to stop doing them all the time.
When we started out doing kind of multi-voiced things, the only, I wouldn't call it rivalry at all, the only example that
we had to follow was really "Stan Freberg's History of America" album, and our knowledge of "The Goon Show".
Actually the Firesign Theatre, granted, has a deeper sort of more intellectual cast to it, but there is nothing for sure
abstract humor like Spike Milligan's writing. That's it. And of course he had the cast of doom with Harry Secombe and Peter
Sellers, and himself.
You can't talk about the Goons, I feel, without pointing out that Spike Milligan is the greatest genius of the kind of
humor that so neatly enfolds the Firesign Theatre. You either like to loon around or you don't. The Python loons, for instance
and so does Firesign Theatre.
We are so in debt to the Goons, all of us, that I years ago just resigned myself to the fact that Milligan is my master
and I'm really just following behind him. Perhaps I'm walking backwards for Christmas, across the Irish Sea, but that's Spike
up ahead of me and I'll never catch him.
This was borrowed from the Firesign Theatre website - Thanks