Spike Milligan

Spike Milligan

Date of birth: 16-04-1918

Terence Alan 'Spike' Milligan was born on April 16, 1918, in Ahmed Nagar, India - the son of an army Captain.

The family came back to England in 1933 when his father retired from the army, and Spike later studied at Lewisham Polytechnic, while playing the trumpet in local jazz bands.

He was conscripted at the outbreak of the Second World War, serving in the Royal Artillery in Italy and North Africa, where he met Harry Secombe. After the war, Secombe introduced Milligan to Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine and comedy history was made.

They performed as a quartet in the Grafton Arms pub in London's Victoria, which led to the radio show The Crazy People, which was renamed The Goon Show after the success of its first series led the BBC to drop its objection to the name.

The consistently groundbreaking show, the most influential in British radio comedy, ran for nine years from 1951.

After the team dissolved - save for the 1963 TV puppet show The Telegoons and a 1972 one-off reunion - Milligan continued to work in radio, creating the Omar Khayyam Show, before moving to television.

His most enduring small screen project was the freeform BBC2 show Q - which lurched uncomfortably from pure genius to offensive, poor-quality sketches- ran for six series from 1969 to 1982.

Less successful ventures included LWT's Curry and Chips - in which he controversially played a Pakistani.

Milligan has found more acclaim as a humorous novellist with semi-autobiograpical works such as Adolph Hitler: My Part In His Downfall, spoofs like Treasure Island: According to Spike Milligan and comic novels, most notably Puckoon.

Sadly, Spike's comic genius is seemingly driven from his the clinical depression he has suffered since 1956.

He has been married three times and has six children

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Released at last! Spike Milligan's Q

Every episode of groundbreaking sketch series out on DVD

Every surviving episode of Spike Milligan’s influential sketch series Q is to be released on DVD for the first time.

The first three series – confusingly titled Q5, Q6 and Q7 – are out next month, with the other three – Q8, Q9 and There’s A Lot Of It About – to be released next year.

Only three of the seven episodes from the first series remain as the tapes were wiped after they were broadcast in 1969. But all the other episodes are intact.

The series aired six months before Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which acknowledged the influence of Milligan’s surreal approach, wide scope and sketches without proper conclusion. Terry Jones once said: Watching Q5, we almost felt as if our guns had been Spiked. We had been writing quickies or sketches for some three years and they always had a beginning, a middle and a tag line. Suddenly, watching Spike Milligan, we realised that they didn't have to be like that".

However the Q series is rarely repeated, partly due to some racist and sexist jokes that have not aged well and partly because of the erratic genius, of brilliant scenes sitting next to painfully self-indulgent ones. Q has not even been released on VHS before, except for a 90-minute ‘best of’ from 1987.

Written by Milligan with Neil Shand, Q also feautred Peter Jones, satirists Richard Ingrams and John Wells, and John Bluthal – who would go on to play Frank Pickle in the Vicar of Dibley.

Q Volume 1 is released by Simply Media on November 21, with an rrp of £24.99. Click here to preorder.

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Published: 25 Oct 2016

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