Spike Milligan

Spike Milligan

Date of birth: 16-04-1918
Date of death: 22-02-2002

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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Spike Milligan: Love, Light And Peace

Note: This review is from 2014

TV review by Steve Bennett

So much has been said and written about the tortured genius of Spike Milligan that his story might seem familiar. But Verity Maidlow’s evocative BBC Four documentary manages to find a fresh and nuanced perspective on this complicated, contradictory man.

A rich archive of personal footage, intimate interviews with Milligan and his family and rarely seen clips from his comedy work make Love, Light And Peace so much more that a talking heads’ tribute. Every biographical detail offers an insight into his psyche; from his early days in India (‘I grew up thinking white people were most superior to anybody else’) through the Goons, where he clashed artistically with Michael Bentine and in one psychotic incident threatened Peter Sellers with a potato peeler.

Milligan describes this in his own words, walking straight through a glass door in his murderous rage, part of public openness to his condition that helped to shake some taboos about mental health. Those around him, too, describe working around his rhythms of manic depression, from the speed of invention that emerged in his stream-of-consciousness during his highs to the awful funks of his lows.

This 90-minute film offers an insight into his fragile mental state without resorting to cliches about the tortured clown, but fittingly generates laughs and compassion in equal measure. There’s a slight tone of hagiography about his comedy, which in its wildness could flop as often as it hit genius, but there’s no such whitewashing his personal failings, whether caused by his illness or not.

Yet this is a tender, rounded, and sympathetic portrait that leaves the viewer feeling as if they knew this extraordinary figure and his chaotic mind just a little bit better.

Spike Milligan: Love, Light And Peace is on iPlayer for the next 29 days. Watch it here.

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Published: 11 Dec 2014



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