25 years on, the Goons are back

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The Independent Online
Twenty five years after the last Goon Show was made, a new generation of listeners is being given the chance to familiarise itself with a comedy legend.

Spike Milligan, Sir Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers were last reunited in 1972 as part of the BBC's 50th anniversary celebrations. The trio got together for The Last Goon Show Of All, a live performance recorded for radio at the Camden Theatre in London.

Next month, Radio 2 is marking the occasion by broadcasting a new version of the Goon finale, which will include material cut from the original performance. Milligan's version of I Left My Heart In San Francisco, the publishers of which prevented its broadcast 25 years ago, will be heard for the first time.

The show will be preceded by a history of the programme entitled At Last The Go-On Show, featuring Milligan, Secombe, Eric Sykes and the late Michael Bentine. This will include some seldom-heard recordings and a feature on the first Goon show, Crazy People, made 46 years ago.

Yesterday at the project's launch, the two surviving Goons proved they had lost none of their touch. Milligan, close to his 80th birthday, looked frail but retained his mischievous twinkle. When told that his friend John Cleese was unable to make the event, he retorted: "John Cleese is a miserable bastard. He is never able to make it." And when presented with a framed tribute to the show, Sir Harry responded graciously: "Oh that'll fit in the loo nicely."

Speaking at the launch, Radio 2 controller James Moir said: "The Goon Show used to be the black sheep programme of the BBC. Now it is the golden fleece.

"It had a profound and lasting effect on me. As a schoolboy back in the Fifties I thought it quite simply the funniest thing I had ever heard. Forty years on it still bends me double with laughter."

Prince Charles, a well-known fan of Goonism, once said: "No matter how much `fashion' in humour changes, there will always be thousands of people whose minds are attuned to the kind of mental slapstick and imaginary cartoonery that typifies Goonery ... It has always been one of my profound regrets that I was not born 10 years earlier than 1948, since I would then have had the pure unbounded joy of listening avidly to the Goons each week."

At Last The Go-On Show and The Last Goon Show Of All will be broadcast as a double bill on BBC Radio 2 on 5 October. A special 25th anniversary edition video and audio cassette is also going on sale.