Tributes to Spike Milligan - deaded at 83
Prince Charles has lined up with Britain's stage royalty to pay tribute to the "hysterical and irreverent" madcap comic Spike Milligan, who died on February 27.
Fans, including actors John Cleese and Robin Williams, agreed Milligan, who died from kidney failure at the age of 83, was a unique talent who teetered on the edge of insanity.
The comic's life had been plagued with mental illness and manic depression and he suffered no fewer than 10 breakdowns. He had also been in ill health for some time.
Together with Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe, the quartet, now all dead, helped redefine comedy programs for a generation post-1950.
British wit Stephen Fry, himself no stranger to breakdowns, called Milligan "the great grand-daddy of post-war British comedy. He allowed the British to be silly".
Prince Charles, whom Milligan once jokingly called "a grovelling little bastard", was his biggest fan. "It is hard to see Spike's parting as anything other than the end of a great era of British comedy, exemplified by Spike's extraordinary genius for the play on words and for the art of the nonsensical unexpected," he said.
Terence Alan Milligan was born in India on April 16, 1918 and moved with his family to Britain aged 16.
Of Irish descent, he refused to take the oath of allegiance which stood between him and a British passport.
That refusal meant an award of a knighthood from Prince Charles last year could only be honourary.
Monty Python star John Cleese says Milligan's Goon Show provided "the first flicker of rebelliousness that turned into the satire movement. He nudged us forward to be even crazier than we were intending to be".
Fellow Python Michael Palin says Milligan's Q sketch show was a great inspiration and Hollywood comic Robin Williams described the Goons as "pure madness".
"His unique style of writing made him an idolised character all over the world," said Beatles' producer George Martin, calling Milligan the "last and greatest of the Goons". "Who knows? Without him we may not have enjoyed the later genius of Peter Cook...or the Monty Pythons."
Milligan's craziness was as infectious as it was inspiring. "Everything he touched he made Milliganesque," Fry said.
His bizarre style was one of a kind and his speech was peppered with absurdist quips.
"I love breaking cliches. People hang on to cliches. The cliche is the handrail of the crippled mind," he told singer Van Morrison in 1989. A devout vegetarian, he liked to regard himself as a misanthrope and once said that most people bored him to death.
He was also a life-long campaigner against abortion, vivisection, factory farming, and even what he termed "needless noise".
In 1986, he was thrown out of London's prestigious Harrods department store when he tried to stuff 12.7 kilograms of spaghetti down the mouth of the food hall manager.
"I told him it might give him some idea of how a goose feels being force-fed maize to make pate de fois gras," he later said.
His home was littered with "No Smoking" signs, and a notice on the large front door read: "This door can be closed without slamming it. Try it and see how clever you are."
British chatshow host Michael Parkinson, who found it nerve-racking to interview the mercurial Milligan, said: "People assumed he was God's gift to talk shows, but he wasn't. He could veer from being absolutely obnoxious to being wonderful, depending on the mood you found him in. But he was a very gentle and nice man."
In a BBC poll he was voted funniest person of the last 1,000 years ahead of Cleese, Billy Connolly and Charlie Chaplin.
The baffling anarchy of his nonsense poetry endeared him to British readers, who picked his verse "On The Ning Nang Nong" as the nation's favourite poem.
He was also a prolific, highly respected comic author, bringing out titles such as "Adolf Hitler: My part in his downfall", about his war-time service.
And black humour abounded at every turn. Asked what epitaph he wanted on his grave, Milligan said: "I told you I was ill".
'Goon Show' Comedian Spike Milligan Dies
By Adam Bernstein
Spike Milligan, 83, the last surviving member and chief writer of the pioneering and abundantly absurdist British sketch comedy program "The Goon Show," whose cast included Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine, died of kidney failure Feb. 27 at his home in Rye, England.
Mr. Milligan, the force behind most of the "Goon" radio and television scripts in the 1950s, was often described as a comic genius whose work served as the prime model for later generations of comedy giants on both sides of the Atlantic. Robin Williams and members of the wacky Firesign Theatre and Monty Python troupes cited Mr. Milligan as a key influence.
John Cleese of "Monty Python" said "The Goon Show" provided "the first flicker of rebelliousness that turned into the satire movement. He nudged us forward to be even crazier than we were intending to be."
Though Sellers attained world fame in the "Pink Panther" film series and other comedies, there was no doubt Mr. Milligan was deeply responsible for the team's creative flair. Secombe once told a reporter than he and Sellers "rode on the thermal currents of [Mr. Milligan's] imagination."
Mr. Milligan brought to the group a broad and bawdy music-hall sensibility mixed with a literate twisting of language and a skill for plumbing the surreal. He was a master at depicting the discrepancy between what is seen and heard.
"We all had this sort of lunatic sense of humor," he told an interviewer. "We turned everything into imbecility . . . doing things like climbing Mount Everest from the inside."
"The Goon Show," which first aired in 1951 on BBC radio as "Crazy People," was a high-pressure atmosphere where Mr. Milligan did not always thrive. He said deadline work was the root of more than 10 manic-depressive breakdowns, which physically debilitated him.
He was a prolific artist, appearing in dozens of films (among them Monty Python's "Life of Brian" and Mel Brooks's "History of the World: Part I"); writing more than 50 books (including the autobiographical "Adolph Hitler -- My Part in His Downfall"); and publishing countless poems about his illness.
He counted among his proudest achievements a rewritten version of the Old Testament, as if it had been drafted by trade unionists: "And God said, Let there be light; and there was light, but the Eastern Electricity Board said He would have to wait until Thursday to be connected."
Terence Alan Milligan was born in India to an Irish father in the British Army and an English mother. By age 15, he was out of school in England, and he soon found work in music halls.
A shy lad, he said he discovered that his talent for crooning led to a newfound popularity with adoring women. He also was an accomplished jazz trumpeter and began practicing comedy routines onstage.
He once wrote that he was heavily influenced by the Marx Brothers and their emphasis on extemporaneous comedy. "Sanity was out . . . creative lunacy was in," he wrote.
During World War II, as an Army gunner in Italy and North Africa, he was exposed to heavy fire and had to seek his first extended psychiatric treatment.
In the Army, he also met Secombe, a budding comedian and friend of entertainers Sellers and Bentine. After the war, the four performed in clubs and were hired by the BBC.
Some of their material was not to management's liking, notably scenes of the House of Commons napping. Often their material was axed.
After the group disbanded, Mr. Milligan hosted several comedy shows and over time became a grand old man of British humor.
"My comedy is not talking, it's ideas," he once told the Irish Times. "Like there's an empty stage and two men come on wheeling a door, wearing suits and collars. There's a knock. 'We're Jehovah's burglars,' they say, 'and we're being persecuted by police for our beliefs.' 'And what are your beliefs?' 'We believe you've got a lot of money.' "
In 1994, while appearing on a live comedy awards show, Mr. Milligan called Prince Charles a "little groveling bastard." He followed it by a fax to the prince saying, "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question now?"
It wasn't. The prince, a lifelong fan, bestowed an honorary knighthood upon Mr. Milligan last year -- honorary because Mr. Milligan was an Irish citizen.
He had taken his father's Irish nationality in 1960, when new regulations forced the comedian to reapply for British citizenship. He cursed the British authorities and never forgot the bureaucratic sleight.
His first marriage, to Ann Howe, ended in divorce. His second wife, Patricia Ridgeway, died in 1978.
Survivors include his wife, Shelagh Sinclair, whom he married in 1983; three children from his first marriage; a daughter from his second marriage; and a son and daughter from previous relationships.
Woy Woy remembers Spike
The Beeb Beeb Ceeb
Prince Charles, one of his ardent fans, said he was "deeply saddened" by his death.
Milligan was one of Britain's most respected performers and was known to millions as one of the founding members of The Goons.
"He was a great man - a crazy, wonderful genius": Comedian Eddie Izzard
Together with Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe, the quartet helped redefine comedy programmes for a generation.
Milligan had been the last surviving member of the quartet.
Prince Charles said: "It was an immense sadness to learn of Spike Milligan's death and my heart goes out to all his family.
"Personally, but along with so many others, I shall miss his irreverent and hysterical presence and can only say that the world really will be the poorer for his departure."
Milligan's agent said he died surrounded by his family. He is believed to have died from liver failure and had suffered ill-health for some time.
In recent months had been nursed by his third wife Shelagh.
Comedian Stephen Fry paid tribute to his talent: "Spike was entirely his own mad Irish self. He came out of nowhere.
"If there is a definition of genius it is that whatever province you are in, you leave it different. He left comedy different and it was never the same after him."
"He took comedy into the world of fantasy; it was surreal and different and amazing": Nicholas Parsons
Blessed with a sharp wit and sly comic tongue his later career encompassed television, films and novel writing, poetry and children's books.
Fry described his writings as "absolutely immortal".
He was a major influence on British comedy, taking music hall ideas and weaving into them his own sketches.
His fascination with language and the surreal qualities of everyday life broke new ground in humour and was reflected in both his sketches and popular children's books.
Fantasy Friend and broadcaster Nicholas Parsons told BBC News 24: "There will never be another Spike. He broke the mould of comedy.
"He took comedy into the world of fantasy; it was surreal and different and amazing. He created a whole new attitude to humour."
Milligan appeared in the BBC drama Gormenghast
BBC director general Greg Dyke said: "Spike Milligan was a comic genius. As the writing brains behind the Goon Show he was the founder of modern comedy."
Comedian Eddie Izzard described him as the "godfather of alternative comedy".
He said: "He was a great man. He was a crazy, wonderful genius."
Broadcaster Michael Parkinson said Milligan was "indisputably the most important in British comedy over the last 50 years".
The BBC's head of comedy, Jon Plowman, added: "It is very sad. He was one of the true greats whose influence can be seen in a huge amount of comedy that we do today."
The Goon Show was first broadcast on 28 May 1951.
Milligan is said to have picked the word goon out of a Popeye comic and started using it as derogatory term for people he saw as idiots.
The Goons redefined British comedy
Milligan was credited with writing the majority of the Goon scripts but during series three he suffered a breakdown and had to miss 12 episodes.
He received an honorary knighthood from Prince Charles last year - Milligan held an Irish passport - despite making fun of him during a live television show in 1994 by calling him "grovelling".
He later sent a fax to the prince saying: "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question now?"
Plagued with mental illness and manic depression during his life, he suffered no fewer than ten breakdowns, linked to shell shock he endured during the war.
He went on to star in the Q series of television shows and also wrote several books, including Adolf Hitler, My Part In His Downfall.
A tribute programme will be shown on BBC One on Wednesday at 2235GMT 2002.
Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 15:17 GMT
The prince and the comic
It may seem like a unusual friendship, but the heir to the British throne and an anarchic comic enjoyed a lasting relationship over the decades.
Prince Charles led the tributes to Spike Milligan after the comedian's death at the age of 83 from liver failure, saying he was "deeply saddened" at the news.
I shall miss his irreverent and hysterical presence: Prince Charles
A statement from him read: "It is hard to see Spike's parting as anything other than the end of a great era of British comedy, exemplified by Spike's extraordinary genius for the play on words and for the art of the nonsensical unexpected.
"His particular form of hilarity and wit has provided countless millions with the kind of helpless mirth which adds unique value to life."
The Goons first appeared in 1951. Prince Charles had been a fan of the comic since Milligan's days on The Goon Show, an irreverent radio comedy show from the 1950s.
The two first met when Charles became the Prince of Wales in 1969 .
They enjoyed a close friendship over the years, despite Milligan's comical outbursts against the prince.
In 1994, after Charles had written a letter congratulating Milligan on winning a lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy awards, the comic labelled him a "grovelling little bastard". He later apologised to the prince, writing a fax to him saying: "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question."
Soon after Milligan told an interviewer: "He (Charles) wrote back saying, 'I'm sorry, all the New Year's knighthoods are full up, but try a little light grovelling and one might come your way'."
Last year Milligan, who was made a CBE in 1992, was given an honorary knighthood - he had an Irish passport so he could not be given a full knighthood.During the service the comedian joked: "Do you know there are no dry cleaners in Peru? I thought the statistic would interest you."
"Well, that is something," the prince replied.
The prince, who was named patron of the Goon Show Preservation Society in 1998, wrote the forward [sic] to some of the Goon Show's books of radio scripts.
The society's spokeswoman at the time said that he could mimic the show's characters "brilliantly".
But there were areas where the two men seriously disagreed - Milligan compared hunting and other bloodsports to murder, and Charles was unlikely to have appreciated the comedian's description of the Queen as uncharismatic, with a "cold voice".
In the end their friendship endured and the prince once said of Milligan: "He has made me laugh for more years than I can remember."
Comedian Stephen Fry shared his memories of Spike Milligan, who has died aged 83, with the BBC.
It's very sad - not entirely unexpected - he hadn't been well for some time and of course he does leave a legacy that will last.
I think the tapes of the Goon Show will always be listened to. I think some of his books, Puckoon, particularly and also his wonderful autobiographies, Rommel, My Part in his Downfall and his army reminiscences in the desert and some of his children's poetry and nonsense verse is absolutely immortal - greatly in the tradition of Lear.
It is about the only thing of his that was in any tradition. I was saying to someone earlier - you could say of Les Dawson, if you like, who was a great comedian, that he was unique, yes, but you could also see in Les Dawson the tradition of Rob Wilton and great northern comedians.
In Spike you saw no tradition at all. He was entirely his own mad, Irish self - he came out of nowhere and if there is a definition of genius - one of the best ones is that it is whatever province you're in you leave it different. He left comedy different and it was never the same after him
Very often of course the Irish are more English than the English - you know it's only in Dublin that you really see people with monocles and felt tweed suites and extraordinary diamond-topped walking canes - you very rarely see it in London.
You often do in Dublin for some reason. And of course he was born in India, I believe, and I think he was of a generation that just began to start questioning and to make fun of the really grand imperial ideas.
We often think that that's something that was done in the 1960s. We associate it with Peter Cook and Private Eye and everything - the first rumblings against the Establishment.
But I think it was that generation of people who came out of the army. The Attlee landslide generation if you like, who kind of thought this world was not going to be the same again thank you very much.
It was as if they said, we remember the 30s, we've done our bit and now we're going to play according to our rules, and officers are not gods that we follow - they're often silly asses that we make fun of. That's principally what the Goon Show did - is that it was so brilliant at portraying the officer type.
That was quite a breakthrough - it doesn't seem it to us because we're so used to making fun of the officer types - I've done it myself and it is pretty easy - but it wasn't then.
He showed extraordinary freedom, surreality and anarchy, his style will live on, mind you it was individual to him so the things that were absolutely Milliganesque will never be replaced by anyone else. His influence is unquestionable and eternal.
He had a famous battle against very bad clinical depression and mental illness, it was very difficult for him for a very long time in his life.
He didn't relate easily, he related much more easily inside a silly character or indeed playing a trumpet or doing a mad dance. There was a very great shyness, he was a surprisingly wise and gentle man too.
He thought very hard about things and always from another direction, he was always able to cast light on things in the oddest ways.
His views on everything from politics to the treatment of animals were unique to himself and utterly real and utterly felt. He was an entirely authentic person and never did anything for any reason other than that it came from himself.
Goon Memories Go On
Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 11:59 GMT
The Goons reunited on rare occasions
Spike Milligan's death means the last of The Goons has died, but the show lives on in the hearts of millions.
From backstreet pub to worldwide entertainers, The Goons were visionary comedians.
Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe got together in Grafton's pub in Westminster in 1949.
The pub was run by scriptwriter Jimmy Grafton was given the moniker KOGVOS - Keeper of Goons and Voice of Sanity.
Their unique comedy style was first heard on the airwaves on 28 May 1951 on the programme Crazy People featuring The Goons.
Within a year the title had changed to The Goon Show.
Milligan is said to have picked the word goon out of a Popeye comic and started using it as derogatory term for people he saw as idiots.
The word baffled the aging establishment at the BBC, with one executive memorably demanding to know about the "Go On Show".
The Sunday night recordings were made all the more madcap by the addition of brandies all round.
To warm the audience up Secombe would whip away Sellers' braces, making his trousers fall down.
Unfortunately, on one occasion Sellers wasn't wearing any underpants.
The show continued to cause a headache for BBC bosses, who tried to edit them on at least 30 occasions.
Sellers' impersonations of Winston Churchill and scenes depicting MPs sleeping in the House of Commons were eventually banned.
Bentine left The Goons after just two series, deciding to concentrate on a solo career and his family. Announcer Andrew Timothy left in 1953, saying he feared for his "sanity". Wallace "Bill" Greenslade stepped into his shoes.
Milligan was credited with writing the majority of the scripts but during series three he suffered a breakdown and had to miss 12 episodes.
Sellers took over some of his characters while temporary replacements such as Dick Emery were called in to fill the void.
One of the most memorable sketches was in December 1953, when a spoof broadcast announced a UFO flying across London.
Anyone who spotted it was asked to ring a fictitious number. Thousands rang the line.
Secombe played Neddie Seagoon, a central figure in all the shows. He was a cheerful but gullible character who's greed regularly landed him in trouble.
Sellers took a variety of characters including posh Hercules Gryptype-Thynne - a suave cad-type; boy scout Bluebottle - who read his own stage directions aloud and Willium "Mate" Cobblers - an elderly cockney who calls everyone "mate".
Milligan played, among many others, the extremely stupid Eccles, Miss Minnie Bannister and Count Moriarty.
All three took the roles of other characters when the script required.
Sellers and Milligan, who had both lived in India, regularly slipped into Hindi accents for a succession of roles.
The show also featured the Ray Ellington Quartet, harmonica player Max Geldray and house band the Wally Stott Orchestra.
The Goon Show eventually wound up in 1960 after a total of 243 programmes.
The cult show also spawned hit singles in I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas and the Ying Tong Song.
Peter Sellers died of a heart attack July 1980, following an illustrious movie career.
Michael Bentine, who enjoyed solo success, died in November 1996.
Spike Milligan was awarded a British Comedy Award for lifetime achievement in 1995, and the Prince of Wales gave him an honorary knighthood in 2001, a year before his death.
His Way with WordsMilligan's comic legacy
Prince Charles was a big fan of Milligan The influence of Spike Milligan, who has died at the age of 83, on a generation of comic writers will live on for many years to come.
As part of the cutting edge comedy that was The Goon Show in the 1950s, he helped establish wacky and original writing that was later copied by the likes of Monty Python.
To this day, his famous one-line quotes and poems can still be remembered by fans and fellow comedians.
Perhaps his most famous retort was aimed at one of his biggest fans, Prince Charles.
On accepting a lifetime achievement honour at the British Comedy Awards in 1994, Milligan called the prince a "grovelling little bastard" after the royal had sent his congratulations in a letter.
In 1998 his nonsense verse On The Ning Nang Nong was voted the UK's favourite comic poems.
At the time he said: "I believe my poem has been voted the favourite poem of children and adults - and I want to thank you very much for doing it. And that's about it."
On The Ning Nang Nong
On the Ning Nang Nong Where the cows go Bong!
(Reproduced by permission of Spike Milligan Productions Ltd)
Milligan's one-liners and quotes have gone into comedy history, many of which are still repeated today:
"I thought I'd begin by reading a poem by Shakespeare, but then I thought, why should I? He never reads any of mine."
"My father had a profound influence on me, he was a lunatic."
"Money couldn't buy you friends, but you get a better class of enemy."
"I spent many years laughing at Harry Secombe's singing until somebody told me that it wasn't a joke."
"A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree."
"Are you going to come quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?"
"Said Hamlet to Ophelia, 'I'll draw a sketch of thee; What kind of pencil shall I use? To be or not be?'"
"How long was I in the army? Five foot eleven."
"Well, we can't stand around here doing nothing, people will think we're workmen."
"When I look back, the fondest memory I have is not really of the Goons. It is of a girl called Julia with enormous breasts."
"I'd like to go there. But if Jeffrey Archer is there I want to go to Lewisham" - Milligan on whether he believed he would go to heaven.
"He sent me a fax. It said: 'I hope you go before me because I don't want you singing at my funeral'" - Sir Harry Secombe after receiving a message from Milligan.
Southern County MemoriesSpike Milligan was a well-known, if private face, in the Rye area of Sussex.He lived in the village of Udimore, where he died at home, surrounded by family, on Wednesday.
The 83-year-old comedian and actor was a key figure in local rugby circles.
There he was, in shorts, playing on the wing, at the age of 78 years old:
Spike Milligan put great effort into supporting Rye. The club say his efforts raised at least £10,000 for them. On one fund-raising event Spike even turned out for the team. "There he was, in shorts, playing on the wing, at the age of 78 years old." said Mr Bowen. It's for that kind of event that Spike Milligan will be remembered at the club. "On a personal level, he was a nice bloke. He was very genuine and not a man who wanted to be reminded of what he had done." said Mr Bowen.
British comedian Spike Milligan, last of The Goons, dead at age 83
By Audrey Woods Associated Press
February 28, 2002
LONDON -- Spike Milligan, the "Goon Show" star who kept Britain laughing even as he struggled with persistent depression, died yesterday, mourned by a generation of comedians he inspired. He was 83.
"He had a very strong sense of the absurdity of the world. And sometimes it produced wonderful comedy and marvelous invention and great insight, and other times just reduced him to misery and depression," said "Monty Python" star Michael Palin.
Among the millions who had laughed until they wept was Prince Charles, a lifelong fan and a friend of the erratic and irreverent Mr. Milligan, who died of kidney failure at his home in Rye on the southeast coast.
"It is hard to see Spike's parting as anything other than the end of a great era of British comedy, exemplified by Spike's extraordinary genius for the play on words and for the art of the nonsensical unexpected," the prince said.
Along with millions of others, he had listened to Mr. Milligan and his three comic colleagues on BBC radio's "The Goon Show" -- and said that he wrote hundreds of fan letters to the comedy team in his youth. Charles is official patron of the Goon Show Preservation Society. Peter Sellers became the most internationally famous of the Goons. But Mr. Milligan, with his sly, dry one-liners, was recognized in Britain as the backbone of the show.
"Spike Milligan was a comic genius. As the writing brains behind 'The Goon Show,' he was the founder of modern comedy," said Greg Dyke, director-general of the BBC.
Admired as he was for his talent, Mr. Milligan was almost as famous for his struggles with manic depression and his rages against human folly, the British variety in particular.
A tall, thin, white-haired man with rather wistful blue eyes, Mr. Milligan was a vegetarian nonsmoker and an avid environmentalist.
"I support all the causes that are trying to increase the sensitivity of the human race to the odious things that they do," he once told an interviewer. "We're a pretty horrendous crowd."
Mr. Milligan, Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine launched the Goons on May 28, 1951.
The program set a comic style, ran for 243 programs and became a classic.
"We all had this sort of lunatic sense of humor. ... We turned everything into imbecility ... doing things like climbing Mount Everest from the inside," Mr. Milligan once said.
Sellers died in 1980, Bentine in 1996 and Secombe in 2001.
Secombe, who had a fine tenor voice, in later years sang on religious TV programs. He said he once got a fax from Mr. Milligan on the subject.
"It said: 'I hope you go before me because I don't want you singing at my funeral."'
Mr. Milligan played his own father in a 1972 adaptation of his war memoir "Adolf Hitler, My Part in His Downfall," and had numerous bit parts in films including "The Life of Brian," "The Three Musketeers" and "The Magic Christian."
"You could make the argument that modern British comedy started with Spike Milligan. He was the godfather of it all," said TV talk show host Michael Parkinson, who called him "the presiding genius behind the Goons."
As a guest, "he could veer from being absolutely obnoxious to being wonderful." "Once when I was live on a radio show, I received a call from someone who said: 'Spike is here to see you.'
"He just came into the studio, in his dressing gown, was brilliant for an hour, and then went back to his clinic. An extraordinary man," Parkinson said. Mr. Milligan was born Terence Alan Milligan on April 16, 1918, in Bombay, India, where his Irish father was a sergeant-major in the British army. His mother was English.
Mr. Milligan was an army gunner in World War II and had his first psychiatric treatment in 1944. After the war, he was in and out of hospitals due to mental illness.
His first marriage, to Ann Howe, fell apart under the strain, and she left him and their three children.
Mr. Milligan raised them and a daughter from his second marriage, in 1962, to Patricia Ridgeway. She died of cancer in 1978.
He married Shelagh Sinclair in 1983.
Mr. Milligan discovered in 1960 that because his father was not born in Britain, he would have to reapply for citizenship and take an oath of allegiance to the queen, despite his years of army service.
Outraged, he became an Irish citizen instead. Prince Charles once explained that even he had to swear the oath of allegiance.
"Yes, but it's your mother, isn't it?" Mr. Milligan replied. "You don't get board and lodging at Buckingham Palace if you don't swear an oath." Britain made amends in 2000 by making Mr. Milligan an honorary knight.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced. He is survived by his wife and his children.
The wit and wisdom of Spike Milligan
LONDON (Reuters) - Peering into the mind of Spike Milligan was like looking through the window of a lunatic asylum to watch the inmates having a ball. The wit and wisdom of the anarchic comedian, who died on Wednesday at the age of 83, abounded in one-liners:
"It was a perfect marriage: She didn't want to and he couldn't."
"I thought I'd begin by reading a poem by Shakespeare but then I thought -- Why should I? He never reads any of mine."
"My father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic."
"I speak Esperanto like a native."
"A man loses his dog, so he puts an ad in the paper. And the ad says: 'Here boy'."
"I have a three-legged dog, his name is Rover, but he keeps falling over."
Asked to finish the sentence "If I ruled the world..." he replied: "...I'd surrender."
When pressed to pick the best limerick he had written, he chose:
"There was a young girl from Bombay,
But perhaps the most poignant of all his quips was: "I don't mind dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens."
His part in the nation's laughter
Tributes galore for the eccentric genius who gave birth to a new brand of comedy
Eccles, otherwise known as Spike Milligan, fell in the water for the last time yesterday; and the voice of Little Jim, whose jubilant cry "He's fallen in the water!" used to delight the schoolchildren and supper tables of a nation, was silenced.
So - with Milligan's death early yesterday from kidney failure at 83 - was the voice of Minnie Bannister - "a crazy sinful old woman" - and a multitude of other comic spirits created and perpetuated by the prime postwar genius of English comedy.
He was also acknowledged as a creative writer close in stature to Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear in his command of the profound art of nonsense in radio and television scripts, prose and verse.
Milligan - the driving eccentric force behind the 40-year-old radio Goon Show whose anarchy first became a school playground craze in 1953 and continues to influence generations of young comedians - died at his home in Rye, east Sussex, surrounded by his family.
He was the last of the Goons and his death marks the end of one of the most inventive periods in popular entertainment for 100 years. Asked what epitaph he wanted on his tomb, Milligan once said: "I told you I was ill."
Bedevilled, but also given insight and focus in his art, by mental illness and manic depression, he had suffered 10 nervous breakdowns. Yesterday genius was a word almost universally on the lips of his fellow comics, broadcasting peers and others in their tributes.
Though Milligan once called him "a grovelling little bastard", Prince Charles, a friend and fan since his schooldays, said: "It is hard to see Spike's parting as anything other than the end of a great era of British comedy, exemplified by Spike's extraordinary genius for the play on words and for the art of the nonsensical unexpected.
"His particular form of hilarity and wit, apart from helping to sustain the British spirit through the unmentionable horrors of war, has provided countless millions with the kind of helpless mirth which adds unique value to life. To have a gift of that sort is truly life-enhancing. "
In a tribute to him to be screened by Channel 4 on Saturday, the comedian John Cleese says: "It's hard for people now to recall just how stuffy, correct and deferential English society was in the '50s. But with The Goon Show there was the first flicker of rebelliousness that progressed into the satire movement. He moved us forward to be even crazier than we were intending to be."
Michael Palin describes Milligan's Q sketch show as a "great inspiration". The screen star Robin Williams calls The Goon Show "pure madness."
Alan Yentob, BBC director of drama and entertainment, said: "Spike Milligan was a comic genius. His imagination knew no boundaries. He was the soul of The Goons and the inspiration for generations of writers and performers, from Monty Python to The League of Gentlemen. To the very end he maintained his capacity to charm and fascinate and infuriate."
Jenny Abramsky, BBC director of radio, said: "He was a genius one of the critical people who put radio comedy on the map. He was unmatched anywhere."
The BBC's head of comedy, Jon Plowman, said: "It is very sad. He was one of the true greats whose influence can be seen in a huge amount of comedy that we do today."
Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, added: "Spike Milligan was a comic genius. As the writing brains behind The Goon Show, he was the founder of modern comedy."
The actor and novelist Stephen Fry called him "the great grand-daddy of post-war British comedy. He allowed the British to be silly. Everything he touched he made Milliganesque"
The veteran chat show host Michael Parkinson, who interviewed Milligan more than 10 times, said:"You could make the argument that modern British comedy started with Spike Milligan. He was the godfather of it all."
Parkinson called Milligan a "gentle and nice man" whose melancholy sometimes made him awkward to deal with. "If he took against, watch out".
But the comedian had once walked into one of Parkinson's radio shows while receiving psychiatric treatment in a clinic.
"I received a call from someone who said 'Spike is here to see you'," Parkinson said: "He just came into the studio, in his dressing gown, was brilliant for an hour, and then went back to his clinic. An extraordinary man."
The comedian and novelist Ben Elton said: "Spike Milligan was one of the last century's true originals. He was a comic genius, whose heart was as big as the laughter he provoked and the influence he has had." The comedian Victoria Wood said: "He was an original."
Milligan himself once said: "I love breaking cliches. People hang on to cliches. The cliche is the handrail of the crippled mind."
In a BBC poll, he was chosen as the funniest person of the last 1,000 years ahead of Cleese, Billy Connolly and Charlie Chaplin
Comic Spike Milligan dies
By Martin Evans and Chris Moncrieff, PA News
27 February 2002
Author and comedian Spike Milligan has died aged 83 at his Sussex home, his agent announced today. The last remaining Goon died of kidney failure surrounded by his family.
Milligan had suffered ill health for some time and had been nursed by his third wife Shelagh in recent months.
The Prince of Wales, once famously described by the comic as a "little grovelling bastard", was "deeply saddened to hear the news".
His spokesman said: "He knew Spike Milligan over many years and had a great affection for him."
The Prince, who was a fan of the Goon Show in his youth, was once described as the royal goon.
Ms Farnes, Milligan's agent and manager, said: "For 35years he has been the dynamo in my life and he was my dearest friend and I will miss him terribly."
His death marks the end of an era for one of the greatest comedy teams of all time.
Milligan's madcap and absurd sense of humour dominated the Goons, whose other members, Sir Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine, have all passed away.
When Sir Harry died last April, Milligan, paid tribute to his friend in his usual wry style saying: "I grieve for an unbelievable friend."
The comedian received an honorary knighthood from the Prince of Wales last year despite making fun of him during a live television show.
During a comedy awards ceremony in 1994 he described Prince Charles as a "little grovelling bastard".
He later sent a fax to the Prince saying: "I suppose a Knighthood is out of the question now?"
In March last year the pair met at St James's Palace to receive the knighthood, which could only be honorary because he had adopted his father's Irish nationality.Milligan had been plagued with mental illness and manic depression during his life suffering no fewer than ten breakdowns.
In latter years he also suffered failing physical health and eventually suffered liver failure.
Tributes were paid by the BBC, which produced the Goon Show.
Jenny Abramsky, Director of Radio, said: "He was a genius, one of the critical people who put radio comedy on the map. He was unmatched anywhere."
The BBC's Head of Comedy, Jon Plowman, said: "It is very sad. He was one of the true greats whose influence can be seen in a huge amount of comedy that we do today."
"Goon" star Spike Milligan dies at 83
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Spike Milligan, a founding father of 20th century comedy and zany genius behind the ground-breaking "Goon Show", has died aged 83.
Milligan, pioneer of the meandering joke without a punchline, turned surreal comedy into an art form, influencing a whole generation of comedians from the "Beyond the Fringe" team to "Monty Python's Flying Circus".
"He died this morning. I believe it was from kidney failure," his agent, Norma Farnes, told Reuters on Wednesday.
Fellow comedian Eddie Izzard hailed Milligan as "the godfather of alternative comedy." Heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, one of the Goons' greatest fans, said he had "a great affection" for Milligan.
Broadcaster Michael Parkinson said: "You could make the argument that modern British comedy started with Spike Milligan. He was the godfather of it all."
Along with Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers, Milligan's inconsequential nonsense and silly voices reigned supreme. He took zany humour to new heights of absurdity -- but at a cost.
Secombe admitted that he and Sellers "rode on the thermal currents of (Spike's) imagination" and it was Milligan who wrote all the scripts for The Goon Show - 26 a year from 1951 to 1960.
Michael Bentine was also one of the early members of the Goons but he left in 1952 to pursue a solo career.
For Milligan, the gruelling task of writing the show sparked one of a dozen nervous breakdowns, making him the nation's most celebrated manic-depressive, a comic always on the edge of rage.
"I laugh that I may not weep," was his most likely motto, said Pauline Scudamore, his biographer and a close friend.
Milligan was renowned for his sharp tongue, once calling Prince Charles "a grovelling little bastard" on live television.
Milligan made it up with Charles after that remark by sending him a telegram saying, "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question now?" But it wasn't -- Milligan was given an honorary knighthood two years ago.
ANIMALS AND HUMANS
He campaigned for animal rights and conservationist issues -- but he was far less patient with humans.
In 1974 Milligan shot a boy of 15 with an airgun for being in his garden, and he was said to have once threatened to kill Sellers with a potato peeler during a Goons rehearsal.
Terence Alan (Spike) Milligan was born in India on April 16, 1918, to an over-possessive mother and a sergeant-major.
As a soldier, Milligan ended World War Two in a psychiatric hospital after being shelled in Tunisia. His experiences were a rich vein of inspiration later for hugely popular war memoirs.
His first marriage to June Marlowe collapsed under the strain of writing Goon scripts. The couple had three children. Second wife Paddy Ridgeway died of cancer in 1978, he married Shelagh Sinclair in 1983 and he also had an illegitimate son.
An Irishman, he was angered by the attitude of the British authorities to his citizenship.
He once said: "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.'"
Asked what words of advice he could offer to the younger generation, he once replied: "Run for it!"
Nurse! For the last time, please draw the screens.
Eccles has left the building.