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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Friends remember unique Milligan
Shelagh Milligan and Barry Humprhies
Milligan's wife Shelagh welcomed comic Barry Humphries
Comedians and actors have paid tribute to the life and nonsensical humour of Spike Milligan with songs and readings at a remembrance service.

Stephen Fry, Eddie Izzard and Joanna Lumley were among those to read works by Milligan, who died in February aged 83, at the service at St Martin-in-the-Fields, central London.

Spike Milligan (left), Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe
The Goons redefined British comedy
Milligan was described at the service, which was attended by 700 people, as a genius, a one-off and a courageous individual.

Comedian Eric Sykes began his tribute: "Spike and I shared an office for over 50 years. We were very close. It was a small office."

Izzard took to the podium to read the Milligan poem Have A Nice Day and caused much laughter when he introduced himself by saying: "Good morning. I am the Duke of Kent."

Barbara Dickson sang Here's That Rainy Day, one of Milligan's favourite songs while his daughter Jane sang Alice in Wonderland.

'Good laugh'

Broadcaster Terry Wogan, also there, said Milligan would have enjoyed the service.

"There is sadness that he has passed on but he had a good long life and this is a joyous occasion. He will be up there having a damn good laugh."

Fry, who read a Bible passage at the service, said: "Spike was one of those people you could never predict.

Milligan's nonsensical humour remains popular
"When you met him he either gave you a hug or told you to bugger off, it didn't matter whether you were someone he knew or a member of the Royal Family."

Lumley, who first met Milligan at an animal rights rally, said: "He should be remembered as a genius, as a one-off, and as an extremely gentle man who was strangely wise. He was an extraordinary man."

Singing

Milligan's Goon colleague, Sir Harry Secombe, had the last laugh, despite passing away last year.

Milligan had always joked he had wanted Sir Harry to die before him so that the Welshman would not be able to sing at his funeral.


He would have loved the fact that Harry got to sing for him after all.

Jane Milligan
But Sir Harry's son, David, brought a recording of him singing Guide me, O thou great Redeemer and it was played at the service.

Other well-known personalities to attend included Bill Wyman, June Whitfield, Paul Merton and Beatle producer George Martin.

Rolling Stone Wyman reminisced: "I saw him just before Christmas and he wasn't too well but he was still in great humour.

"The first thing he said when I turned up was `are you still alive?"'

The last Goon's best known fan - Prince Charles - was not able to attend, but sent a representative.

Surreal strand

Milligan's death was seen as the end of an era for British comedy as he had been the last surviving member of The Goons.

Along with Sir Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine, his zany comedy was in many ways a forerunner of Monty Python and the surreal strand in modern stand-up and television and radio comedy.

Milligan hit the headlines when he received a lifetime achievement comedy award at a ceremony in 1994.

Milligan was plagued by mental illness and depression throughout his life and suffered a number of breakdowns.

As well as his writing and performing for the Goons, Milligan's work included humorous war memoirs, poetry, and jazz trumpet.

In his later years he also suffered from ill health and was nursed through his last months by wife Shelagh, finally succumbing to liver failure at his home in Rye, East Sussex.

After the service Jane Milligan said: "It was absolutely wonderful to see so many of his good friends here and to see how much he was loved.

"And he would have loved the fact that Harry got to sing for him after all."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Razia Iqbal
"For this unique funnyman, jokes are the order of the day"


Fans pay respects

His comic art

AUDIO/VIDEO

LOCAL MEMORIES

TALKING POINT

Picture gallery
Spike's life in pictures

See also:

08 Mar 02 | Entertainment
26 Oct 01 | Entertainment
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