Unburied Nut from 28th November 2006

on Wednesday, July 18, 2007

From time to time, I decide to uncover a nut that I buried in the past. Such is the way of grey squirrels. These nuts sometime improve with time like well aged wine. Ah, 28th November 2006 was a very good day.

LGS Cultural Tour No: 3 The Funniest Man Ever

Most of the world today seems to remember Peter Sellers as the great and tortured comedian, thanks also to the wonderful film, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" but have overlooked his long-time colleague, Spike Milligan. However, Spike was voted by the British public in a BBC Poll in 1999 in which he was described as the "funniest person in 1000 years". His fellow comedians also voted him into the top 50 and a scientific study accredits him as the originator of the world's funniest joke which I have included at the end of this entry.

It gives me great pleasure to pay a little homage to this great man who exceled in comedic innovation, suffered mental illness and fought for the environment. He was a poet, an author, including children's books, actor, comedian and activist. I would like to share two of his poems, an extract from the scripts of the Goon Show (radio program) and ending with the world's funniest joke.

Doctor O'Dell
Dr. O'Dell fell down a well
and broke his collarbone.
Which proves that doctors should attend the sick,
and leave the well alone.

Indian Boyhood
What happened to the boy I was?
Why did he run away?
And leave me old and thinking, like
There'd been no yesterday?
What happened then?
Was I that boy?
Who laughed and swam in the bund*
Is there no going back?
No recompense?
Is there nothing?
No refund?

Excerpt from the Goon Show
Greenslade: The Affair of the Lone Banana, Chapter Two. With the banana secreted on his person, Neddie Seagoon arrived at the Port of Guatemala where he was accorded the typical Latin welcome to an Englishman.
Moriarty: Hands up, you pig swine. [Spits]
Seagoon: Have a care, Latin devil - I am an Englishman. Remember, this rolled umbrella has more uses than one.
Moriarty: Oooo!
Seagoon: Sorry. - Now, what's all this about?
Moriarty: It is the revolution señor - everywhere there is an armed rising.
Seagoon: Are you in it?
Moriarty: Right in it - you see, señor, the united anti-socialist neo-democratic pro-fascist communist party is fighting to overthrow the unilateral democratic united partisan bellicose pacifist cobelligerant tory labour liberal party!
Seagoon: Whose side are you on?
Moriarty: There are no sides - we are all in this together. Now señor, if you don't mind - we must search you.
Seagoon: What for?
Moriarty: Bananas. You see señor, we guatemalians are trying to overthrow the foreign-dominated banana plantations in this country. Any foreigner found with a banana on him will be shot by a firing squad and asked to leave the country.
Seagoon (aside):Curses - I must think quick. Little does he know I suspect him of foul play.
Moriarty (aside):Little does he know I've never played with a fowl in my life.
Seagoon (aside):Little does he know that he has misconstrued the meaning of the word foul. The word foul in my sentence was spelt F O U L not F O W L as he thought I had spelt it.
Moriarty (aside): Little does he know that I overheard his correction of my grammatical error and I am now about to rectify it - aloud. [Ahem] So, you suspect me of foul play spelt F O U L and not F O W L.

On 9 June 2006, it was reported that Professor Richard Wiseman had identified the world’s funniest joke as decided by the Laughlab project which involved people voting on-line. Professor Wiseman said the joke contained all three elements of what makes a good gag - anxiety, a feeling of superiority, and an element of surprise. It turns out to be a variation of a joke written by Spike for the Goon Show in 1951.

A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"

This bright light finally faded from this world on the 27th of February 2006. At the death of his long time friend, fellow Goon and famous tenor, Sir Harry Secombe, Spike quipped," I am glad he died before me because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral." So quite appropriately, a recording of Secombe singing was played at Spike's funeral. There is so much more to mention about his contributions to books, film and the environmental cause but "ying tong iddle i po" and "needle nar noo". Looks at the hairs on my wrist which were synchronised to the hairs on Big Ben and realise time has flown.

To know more about the man
To read more of his poems
To enjoy more about the highly esteemed Goon Show


Janice Thomson said...

I read this joke on the net last year and laughed for days and days after. It was just too good! I had no idea it was accredited to Spike Milligan though. I shall be checking out the links you provided because he does indeed sound like a wonderful comedian. What an enjoyable post Lgs!

Anonymous said...

He was a very funny guy. Anyone who could keep up with Peter Sellers had to be Great!

Claire said...

Well now see, I did not know from Spike, but I learned something here today. That's cool.

Josie said...

I used to love Spike Milligan. I loved all the goons.

I hadn't heard this joke before. It's too funny.

I read somewhere just yesterday that Spike Milligan was Prince Charles' favorite comedian as well.

jmb said...

Ah the Goon Show, this brings back memories of listening to it on the radio. Spike Milligan was amazing. I'm sure there would not have been a Monty Python's Flying Circus without the Goon Show.

leslie said...

I just love the way you "dig up the buried nuts". That is a great way to keep people looking throughout your blog. Smart guy, er, I mean Squirrel!

MedStudentWife said...

I only learned about the Goons in a round about way, in my teens.. all the comedy that spawned off it and the after careers of people like Peter Sellers..

I was such a junkie of Brit humour; especially as a teenager (I'm thinking of the British series - "The Goonies", as an example, and I think one of the actors either wrote for Monty Python, or the Goons).

I even had a book "Open Air University", which was a collection of Spike's poetry. Sadly it has disappeared.

Remember the one skit in Monty Python - the funniest joke in the world & it was used as a weapon.. I can still see the skit. Bet that was taken from this idea.

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

I'd never heard this joke, and I laughed out loud when I read it. Thanks for the amusing tribute to Spike, and I'm sure I'll be giggling over your post for the next few days.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

comedic geniuses are often just tottering at the edge of insanity. Hence, Spike Milligan also suffered a mental breakdown but he was truly innovative with his humor.

top cat,
spike was probably the greater comedian but was indeed always in the shadow of Peter Sellars. He once said that there was a brand new large parking lot at the BBC for Peter Sellar's new Rolls Royce. Next to that was Harry Secome's new parking spot for his Mercedes Benz. And the space between the two is where Spike was allowed to stand!

I am glad to have introduced you to a naughty litte man called Spike.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Prince Charles was indeed a big fan and appeared in one of the several Goon Show reunion specials. When Charlie got married to Diana, Spike was asked if he had met her. Spike replied, "Lady Diana has never met me and interestingly, I have never met her. It is a strange coincidence." Can't get a straight answer from the man.

I too used to listen to the Goon Show on the radio. I even bought a book of the scripts of some 8 shows.

You have unearthed my dastardly plan!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

A fan of the after Goons! Yes. They were all funny maniacs.

No charge for the giggling.

MedStudentWife said...

your reply to josie.. got me to thinking about a "word play" I've heard a few times around this neck of the woods.. think Catholic school system in Canukistan:

Its 2 Catholics talking to a 3rd, and the 3rd thinking trying to figure out the friendship of the first two....

"Yes - we went to separate schools together"

Its kind of funny in the right circumstances *lol*

eastcoastdweller said...

You know a comedian is a genius when even his old work, reprinted in a blog, still makes people laugh.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

that's funny and yet I can just imagine someone saying that!

Thanks for coming by and leaving comments. Like all artists, the really great ones are appreciated more after their deaths! Don't be a stranger in these parts. :)

http://www.creativewriting.ca said...

Strange historical twists.
As a teenager, Spike Milligan also knew Sgt. Eric Blair: George Orwell. Eric Blair was in Spike's father's regiment.


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

seems a lot of authors and poets served and met each other in the army. How many potential authors and poets did not make it out of the wars is the other sobering thought. Thanks for the info.

blackcrag said...

I know Spike Milligan, though I've never watched the Goon Show. I've ead some of his goofy poetry though... meaning of course the goofiness was deliberate on his part, and taking a lot of thought to come up with.

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