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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 17:21 GMT
Charles leads Milligan tributes
Spike Milligan
Milligan: A household name since the 1950s
Prince Charles has joined showbusiness celebrities in paying tributes to actor and comic Spike Milligan, who has died at his home in Sussex, at the age of 83.

Prince Charles, one of his ardent fans, said he was "deeply saddened" by his death.

Milligan was one of Britain's most respected performers and was known to millions as one of the founding members of The Goons.


He was a great man - a crazy, wonderful genius

Comedian Eddie Izzard
Together with Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe, the quartet helped redefine comedy programmes for a generation.

Milligan had been the last surviving member of the quartet.

Prince Charles said: "It was an immense sadness to learn of Spike Milligan's death and my heart goes out to all his family.

"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
Prince Charles met the Goons in 1974
Milligan's agent said he died surrounded by his family.

He is believed to have died from liver failure and had suffered ill-health for sometime.

In recent months had been nursed by his third wife Shelagh.

Comedian Stephen Fry paid tribute to his talent: "Spike was entirely his own mad Irish self. He came out of nowhere.

"If there is a definition of genius it is that whatever province you are in, you leave it different. He left comedy different and it was never the same after him."


He took comedy into the world of fantasy; it was surreal and different and amazing

Nicholas Parsons
Blessed with a sharp wit and sly comic tongue his later career encompassed television, films and novel writing, poetry and children's books.

Fry described his writings as "absolutely immortal".

He was a major influence on British comedy, taking music hall ideas and weaving into them his own sketches.

His fascination with language and the surreal qualities of everyday life broke new ground in humour and was reflected in both his sketches and popular children's books.

Fantasy

Friend and broadcaster Nicholas Parsons told BBC News 24: "There will never be another Spike. He broke the mould of comedy.

"He took comedy into the world of fantasy; it was surreal and different and amazing. He created a whole new attitude to humour."

Milligan appeared in the BBC drama Gormenghast
Milligan appeared in the BBC drama Gormenghast
BBC director general Greg Dyke said: "Spike Milligan was a comic genius. As the writing brains behind the Goon Show he was the founder of modern comedy."

Comedian Eddie Izzard described him as the "godfather of alternative comedy".

He said: "He was a great man. He was a crazy, wonderful genius."

Broadcaster Michael Parkinson said Milligan was "indisputably the most important in British comedy over the last 50 years".

The BBC's head of comedy, Jon Plowman, added: "It is very sad. He was one of the true greats whose influence can be seen in a huge amount of comedy that we do today."

Breakdown

The Goon Show was first broadcast on 28 May 1951.

Milligan is said to have picked the word goon out of a Popeye comic and started using it as derogatory term for people he saw as idiots.

Spike Milligan (left), Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe
The Goons redefined British comedy
Milligan was credited with writing the majority of the Goon scripts but during series three he suffered a breakdown and had to miss 12 episodes.

He received an honorary knighthood from Prince Charles last year - Milligan held an Irish passport - despite making fun of him during a live television show in 1994 by calling him "grovelling".

Depression

He later sent a fax to the prince saying: "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question now?"

Plagued with mental illness and manic depression during his life, he suffered no fewer than ten breakdowns, linked to shell shock he endured during the war.

He went on to star in the Q series of television shows and also wrote several books, including Adolf Hitler, My Part In His Downfall.

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 ON THIS STORY
Michael Parkinson, broadcaster
"He has a unique place in the history of British entertainment"
The BBC's Richard Antony Baker
"Milligan did prove there was life after the Goon Show"
Actor Stephen Fry
"There was no-one like him"
Actor and comedian Michael Palin
"He had a very good awareness of the absurdity of human life"


Fans pay respects

His comic art

AUDIO/VIDEO

LOCAL MEMORIES

TALKING POINT

Picture gallery
Spike's life in pictures

See also:

26 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
Secombe the 'clown' remembered
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