You ask the questions: Spike Milligan

(Such as: Has your relationship with Prince Charles soured since you called him a `grovelling bastard'?)
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The Independent Culture
Spike Milligan, 81, was born in India, where his father was a corporal with the Royal Artillery. Spike (born Terence Alan) joined the army at the beginning of the Second World War, and recorded his war in various autobiographies.

Milligan met Harry Secombe while he was recovering from shell shock, and together with Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine, created The Goon Show, a ground-breaking and influential radio series that ran from 1951 to 1960.

He then went on to write the surreal TV sketch-show Q, that ran for five series between 1969 and 1980.

Milligan has also written novels, poetry and a book on surviving depression, and was awarded the CBE in 1992.

He now lives in Rye, East Sussex. He has four children from three marriages.

What is your favourite limerick of all time?

Richard Joyce (by e-mail)

`There was a young girl from Bombay,

Who was trapped in a tiller one day,

She was trapped in a tiller,

By a sex-crazed gorilla,

Bombay is a bloody long way.'

That's one of mine... or any by Lear.

What makes you happy?

Sam Marsden, Bristol

Swing bands and blondes with big boobs.

Was your brilliant absurdist TV series, Q, shelved because the BBC's lack of imagination made it difficult for them to accept a programme that failed to be safely pigeonholed in a bland viewer friendly category, and that they only (mis)understood it in terms of a politically correct agenda?

Hermant Solanki, Handsworth, Birmingham.

I've no idea why they shelved it. It was very funny. It was a bit heart- breaking, you know.

Has your relationship with Prince Charles soured since you called him a "grovelling little bastard"?

Catharine Brown (by e-mail)

No - it's still very good.

At the front of one of your books you say, "Why is a mouse when it spins? Because the higher the fewer". But what does it mean?

Tim Noble, Heworth, York

Because it is.

Your novel The Looney is littered with words like `spade' and `Paki'. Would you call yourself a racist?

James Pringle, Coulsdon

Definitely, no.

Has your sense of humour changed - if so, how?

Adrian Webber, Cirencester,

No. It's always been abstract. I'm Irish - we think sideways.

Who are the greatest comedians in history?

Ian Hickton, Stoke-on-Trent.

Groucho Marks, WC Fields and Monsieur Hulot, a Frenchman who was the funniest man in the world.

What do you think of contemporary comedians, such as Hale & Pace, Harry Enfield et al?

Jake Tyber, Stoke Newington

Harry Enfield - he's a very funny man - and I think Eddie Izzard's very funny. Hale and Pace are bloody terrible, they really are.

What are your thoughts on electro-convulsive therapy?

Sandra Little, Birmingham

I've had it and it didn't hurt. I don't know what it did.

Why are you called Spike?

Davina James, Fulham

I was dubbed "Spike" in the army. There's no reason, psychological or physical.

I read the published correspondence between you and Robert Graves with tremendous interest. How did you most admire him? As a poet, a novelist, a mythologist-philosopher-theologist, a critic or simply as a person?

Andrew Holdcroft (by e-mail)

Most of those.

On Parkinson, you once said we had to safeguard our children and the planet. Are these still your main worries?

Avril Taylor, Hull


What do you consider to be the crowning achievement of your career?

Ian Hickton, Stoke-on-Trent.

The Goon Show. I didn't know I was changing the face of world humour, but I was.

You carry an Irish passport. Do you see yourself as Irish?

John O'Byrne, Dublin

I never see myself as Irish, but I am. My father and mother were both Irish and had Irish passports. I had a British passport, but when I went to get it renewed, and said my father was born in Ireland before 1900, they said I couldn't have a British passport - some bloody law.

So I said, fuck you. I went to the Irish Embassy and I said: "My name's Spike Milligan, can I have a passport?" And they said, "Oh yes! We're short of people."

What words of advice can you offer to the younger generation?

Sarah Jones, Hammersmith

Run for it!