Sunday, 15 January 2017

LEIGH SPENCE’S STARTING POINTS: THE “Q” SERIES


19. “Put her in the curry!”



15/01/2017




To this day, Spike Milligan is still being talked about because we watch, listen to and read his shows and books. Sixty-year old episodes of “The Goon Show” are played out every Friday on BBC Radio 4 Extra, sounding fresher and more daring than many new shows attempt; his books, including his first war memoir, “Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall,” remain in print; and school children continue to recite his children’s poems like, “In The Ning Nang Nong.”

The surreal, almost Dada-esque comedy begun by Milligan, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine on “The Goon Show” can be seen in Monty Python and the Goodies, through to Reeves & Mortimer and The Mighty Boosh, while the success of Python in the United States ultimately influenced “Saturday Night Live” – and that is how you get from the “Ying Tong Song” to Alec Baldwin impersonating Donald Trump.

However, Milligan’s meta-sketch show, the “Q” series (1969-82, using the names “Q5,” “Q6” through to “Q9,” then, when told to knock it off, “There’s a Lot of It About”) has been unavailable on DVD or on-demand, and rarely ever seen on TV since it ended. I nearly wrote to the BBC to ask why they had missed out such a large section of someone’s work. They are now being released on DVD by Simply Media, but not before I found some episodes on YouTube, now removed, from when it was shown on Australian television in the 1980s.


The show is seldom seen is because its material is often sexist and racist, and would have been seen as such at the time. The 1970s were still a time when pointing out differences from the norm were, apparently, funny, and because it looks and feels lazy when watched back now, you do tend to think less of the person making the “joke.”

In comparison, Milligan’s use of this material is complicated. Every time Julia Breck, Milligan’s equivalent of Monty Python’s Carol Cleveland, appears on screen, you get the odd situation where she might be there to make the joke about “knockers,” but she is not the butt of the joke herself, but being there to illustrate the point doesn’t exactly help either. Milligan made copious jokes about the Irish people being dim-witted, but he had Irish citizenship – as a British Indian, born in Ahmednagar, he refused to take the Oath of Allegiance necessary for him to get a British passport. However, the use of blackface makes about as much sense as “The Black and White Minstrel Show” still being on BBC One until 1978, and having Lenny Henry as a guest on it.

This is not to say that the sketches can be very funny – Milligan used Daleks in a sketch where everything gets exterminated, even if it is still called “Pakistani Daleks,” and “The Idiot of the Year Show” and “The First Irish Rocket to the Moon” sketches, among and other things involving a British Rail lost property office, learning to drive a piano across the English Channel, and idiot scout groups, are all very funny indeed, but as much as that may be , you do learn to anticipate and “laugh past” more than a few things.

1 comment:

  1. A fine example of the whining "multicultural" (ie - devoid of talent, ability, originality, sense of humour etc etc ad nasuem) mentality abounding today in the brainwashed fools infesting society - still opnly a minority but a loud mouthed, massively CORRUPT, aggressive violent minority used as mindless tools by islamists and jihadis and ironically (politics and self-serving makes strange bedfellows) lesbians and gays and worst of all crossdressers. Contributing NOTHING to society and taking most from it.
    Was Milligan sexist racist etc ? No more than lesbians rabidly heterophobic - it all depends on the mind VIEWING the subject. To you, clearly YES. And to your feminazi brainwasher YES

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