BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Entertainment: TV and Radio
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 16:16 GMT
Fry's Milligan memories
The Goons in 1972
The Goons typified the attitude of a post-war generation
Comedian Stephen Fry shared his memories of Spike Milligan, who has died aged 83, with the BBC.

It's very sad - not entirely unexpected - he hadn't been well for some time and of course he does leave a legacy that will last.

I think the tapes of the Goon Show will always be listened to. I think some of his books, Puckoon, particularly and also his wonderful autobiographies, Rommel, My Part in his Downfall and his army reminiscences in the desert and some of his children's poetry and nonsense verse is absolutely immortal - greatly in the tradition of Lear.

It is about the only thing of his that was in any tradition. I was saying to someone earlier - you could say of Les Dawson, if you like, who was a great comedian, that he was unique, yes, but you could also see in Les Dawson the tradition of Rob Wilton and great northern comedians.

It was never the same after him and that's as great a thing a comedian can ever do to his field is to alter it forever.

In Spike you saw no tradition at all. He was entirely his own mad, Irish self - he came out of nowhere and if there is a definition of genius - one of the best ones is that it is whatever province you're in you leave it different. He left comedy different and it was never the same after him

Very often of course the Irish are more English than the English - you know it's only in Dublin that you really see people with monocles and felt tweed suites and extraordinary diamond-topped walking canes - you very rarely see it in London.

Stephen Fry:
Stephen Fry: "His legacy will last"
Pushing boundaries

You often do in Dublin for some reason. And of course he was born in India, I believe, and I think he was of a generation that just began to start questioning and to make fun of the really grand imperial ideas.

We often think that that's something that was done in the 1960s. We associate it with Peter Cook and Private Eye and everything - the first rumblings against the Establishment.

But I think it was that generation of people who came out of the army. The Attlee landslide generation if you like, who kind of thought this world was not going to be the same again thank you very much.

He showed extraordinary freedom, surreality and anarchy

It was as if they said, we remember the 30s, we've done our bit and now we're going to play according to our rules, and officers are not gods that we follow - they're often silly asses that we make fun of. That's principally what the Goon Show did - is that it was so brilliant at portraying the officer type.

That was quite a breakthrough - it doesn't seem it to us because we're so used to making fun of the officer types - I've done it myself and it is pretty easy - but it wasn't then.


He showed extraordinary freedom, surreality and anarchy, his style will live on, mind you it was individual to him so the things that were absolutely Milliganesque will never be replaced by anyone else. His influence is unquestionable and eternal.

Spike Milligan in 1972
Milligan's depression was a factor in his career
He had a famous battle against very bad clinical depression and mental illness, it was very difficult for him for a very long time in his life.

He didn't relate easily, he related much more easily inside a silly character or indeed playing a trumpet or doing a mad dance. There was a very great shyness, he was a surprisingly wise and gentle man too.

He thought very hard about things and always from another direction, he was always able to cast light on things in the oddest ways.

His views on everything from politics to the treatment of animals were unique to himself and utterly real and utterly felt. He was an entirely authentic person and never did anything for any reason other than that it came from himself.

Fans pay respects

His comic art




Picture gallery
Spike's life in pictures

See also:

27 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Comedy legend Milligan dies
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more TV and Radio stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more TV and Radio stories