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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 13:52 GMT
Tributes roll in for 'genius' Spike
Spike Milligan
Milligan wrote throughout his life
Tributes are pouring in for comedian Spike Milligan, who has died aged 83, from his peers and admirers in the entertainment industry.

An overwhelming majority have used the word "genius" about Milligan, and said he was a comic pioneer who influenced successive generations of writers and performers.

Celebrity interviewer Michael Parkinson, who interviewed Milligan on TV and the radio more than 10 times, said he was the "presiding genius" behind the Goons.

"You could make the argument that modern British comedy started with Spike Milligan. He was the godfather of it all," Parkinson said.

"He was not easy to get on with. If he took against you - watch out," Parkinson added.

Michael Parkinson
Michael Parkinson interviewed Milligan 10 times

But the broadcaster noted that Milligan's struggle with mental illness lay behind his occasionally "obnoxious" behaviour.

"It was his condition that sometimes made him melancholic and awkward," Parkinson said.

He recalled an occasion when he had received a call mid-way through a live radio broadcast informing him: "Spike is here to see you."

"He just came into the studio, in his dressing gown, was brilliant for an hour, and then went back to his clinic," Parkinson said.

"He will be greatly missed."

Comedian and writer Stephen Fry paid tribute to Milligan the private individual as well as the public figure.

"He was a surprisingly wise and gentle man," Fry said. "He thought very hard about things, and always from another direction."


"He was able to cast light on things in the oddest ways.

"He was an entirely authentic person: he never did anything for any reason other than that it came from himself."

Fry added: "He was a very larky fellow. He spent a lot of time laughing as well as struggling."

Friend and fellow broadcaster Nicholas Parsons compared Milligan to the great comic writer Edward Lear.

"He was a writer-performer: a writer who could perform his own material," Parsons said.

Nicholas Parsons
Nicholas Parsons chairs BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute

"Spike basically moved the world of comedy forward in huge leaps and bounds.

"He was a very quiet, withdrawn person, and very unconfident, but also intellectually very secure: he knew he could stand his own ground with anyone."

Entertainer Des O'Connor said: "This is very sad news.

"Very few performers could be described as completely unique, but Spike was.

"He could improvise on the spot. He was a comic genius, a gifted and a wonderfully warm human being.

"I doubt we will see another like him again."


Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the former Goon's death.

"My family and I still find the Goon tapes hilarious, and they created an atmosphere that inspired generations of great comedy successes," he said.

The BBC's director of drama and entertainment, Alan Yentob, said: "Spike Milligan was a comic genius.

"His imagination knew no boundaries.

"He was the soul of The Goons and the inspiration for generations of writers and performers, from Monty Python to the League of Gentlemen.

"To the very end, he maintained his capacity to charm and fascinate and infuriate. Spike was unique."

Terry Wogan
Terry Wogan said he remembered Milligan's originality

Director of BBC Radio Jenny Abramsky also paid tribute to Milligan's "genius".

"He was unmatched anywhere," she said,

Radio and TV presenter Terry Wogan called Milligan "the father-figure of British comedy in the latter part of the last century".

"He was the most original comic writer and performer Britain has produced since the war.

He brought a whole new sense of humour to Britain. He was a comic genius."

And Brian Highley, director of the British Comedy Society, noted: "The term 'genius' is seriously overused in tributes but Spike was a true genius, a true original."

Fans pay respects

His comic art




Picture gallery
Spike's life in pictures

See also:

12 Apr 01 | Entertainment
Sir Harry Secombe dies
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