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Milligan, Spike

Entry updated 13 October 2022. Tagged: Author, Radio, Theatre.

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Working name of Indian-born Irish author and comic Terence Alan Milligan (1918-2002), who first became famous for his central role as both principal author and one of the stars of the Radio comedy The Goon Show (initially Crazy People) broadcast on BBC Radio from 1951 to 1960. These episodes generally exhibit surreal rather than science-fictional humour; partial exceptions in the form of explicit sf/fantasy Parodies include "Her" (18 March 1952), spoofing H Rider Haggard's She: A History of Adventure (2 October 1886-8 January 1887 The Graphic; cut 1886; full text 1887) – this was also the first series show to have a single plot throughout, rather than a series of sketches and variety turns; "Nineteen-Eighty-Five" (4 January 1955), spoofing George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and its 1954 BBC television adaptation (see 1984); "Shangri-La Again" (8 November 1955), spoofing Lost Horizon (1937); and "The Scarlet Capsule" (2 February 1959), spoofing Quatermass and the Pit (1958-1959).

Many of Milligan's books, beginning with his first two collections Silly Verse for Kids (coll 1959 chap) and A Dustbin of Milligan (coll 1961), have fantastic content – the latter, for example, including a bizarre disease and a homicidal nuclear-powered Invention – as to some extent do his novels Puckoon (1963) and The Looney: An Irish Fantasy (1987). He played the front-man role of J B Morton's Beachcomber persona (plus other parts) in the BBC Television comedy The World of Beachcomber, which ran for 19 episodes in 1969. In March of the same year he launched his own anarchic-surreal BBC TV comedy series Q5 (1969); this anticipated several aspects of the more famous Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-1974), whose debut was in October 1969. Further Q series appeared to 1982, titled Q6 to Q9 but with the final series being There's a Lot of It About rather than Q10. In his late career, Milligan published a range of book-length Parodies of various classic works; of sf interest among these is Frankenstein According to Spike Milligan (1997) (see Frankenstein Monster; Mary Shelley).

Milligan is of greatest direct sf interest for a play, The Bedsitting Room (first performed 1962; 1970) with John Antrobus (1933-    ), which initially treats a nuclear Holocaust in terms of surreal spoof, though by the final act the few Post-Holocaust survivors are engaging in cannibalism. The original play was filmed as The Bed-Sitting Room (1969) directed by Richard Lester. [DRL/JC]

see also: BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Terence Alan Patrick Sean Milligan

born Ahmednagar, India: 16 April 1918

died Rye, East Sussex: 27 February 2002

works (highly selected)


The Goon Show

  • The Goon Show Scripts (London: The Woburn Press, 1972) [coll: illus/Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan: hb/Spike Milligan]
  • More Goon Show Scripts (London: The Woburn Press, 1973) [coll: includes "The Scarlet Capsule": illus/Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan: hb/Spike Milligan]

individual titles

  • A Dustbin of Milligan (London: Dennis Dobson, 1961) [coll: illus/hb/Spike Milligan]
  • The Bedsitting Room (Walton-on-Thames, Buckinghamshire: Margaret and Jack Hobbs, 1970) with John Antrobus [play: first performed 12 February 1962 Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, Kent; longer version performed 31 January 1963 Mermaid Theatre, London: hb/photographic collage]
  • Frankenstein According to Spike Milligan (London: Virgin, 1997) [hb/Slatter-Anderson]

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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