Suitably for a man whose life contained melancholy and laughter in equal measure, there was a gag for every solemn sentiment and a rib-tickler for every prayer of mourning.
More than 700 people packed a central London church yesterday to remember the irreverent genius of Spike Milligan. The former Goon, who died in February aged 83 and once said he wanted his epitaph to read "I told you I was ill", was honoured with a rehearsal of the surreal wit that became his trademark. For those who had asked whether a formal memorial service was appropriate, the comic tone was set before mourners had entered the church. The congregation, including Milligan's widow Shelagh and their three children, had seemed confused – some dressed in funereal black, others in bright summer dresses. And as stars, such as Peter O'Toole, the Beatles' producer Sir George Martin and comedian Eddie Izzard, arrived at St Martin-in-the-Fields, they were greeted by wedding bells.
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