The Goon Show
Bluebottle: It's writted on this bit of paper, what is eight o'clock, is writted.
Eccles: I know that, my good fellow. That's right. When I asked the fella to write it down, it was eight o'clock.
Bluebottle: Well then, supposing when somebody asks you the time, it isn't eight o'clock?
Eccles: Then I don't show it to them.
Bluebottle: Well how do you know when it's eight o'clock?
Eccles: I've got it written down on a piece of paper!
—"The Mysterious Punch-up-the-Conker", roughly 25 minutes in
The Goon Show was a BBC Radio comedy show starring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan (who was also the main writer), and Harry Secombe, which ran from 1951 to 1960. The first series was titled Crazy People - with Radio's Own Crazy Gang: The Goons. Michael Bentine is credited with being a co-inventor of the concept and in fact was a full Goon for the first two series, but left after artistic and personal differences with Milligan.
Beginning as a sketch comedy series, the show accumulated a cast of recurring characters and evolved into a surreal, continuity-free sitcom, with each episode dropping the characters into a different place, time, and situation, and leaving them to react to it in their characteristic fashion.
The plots, such as they were, often revolved around well-meaning fool Neddy Seagoon (Secombe) becoming the target of some plot by impoverished conmen Hercules Grytpype-Thynne and Count Jim "Knees" Moriarty (Sellers and Milligan respectively). Other major characters included Dirty Coward Major Bloodnok (Sellers), the aged Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister (Sellers and Milligan), happy-go-lucky Chew Toy boy adventurer Bluebottle (Sellers), and The Famous Eccles, the world's biggest idiot (Milligan).
Wallace Greenslade acted as the announcer (Andrew Timothy in the earlier series), while Ray Ellington (jazz singer) and Max Geldray (harmonica) provided musical interludes. They also were called on occasionally to play small parts - often parts for which their voices were highly inappropriate.
The scripts were mostly written by Spike Milligan, with various persons helping him. A few episodes were written by these helpers while Milligan was unavailable. Considerable ad-libbing occurred, much ad-libbing was carefully scripted, and lampshades were regularly hung.
The show had several guests over the years, most often Valentine Dyall "the Man in Black" who played various similar but distinct roles.
The Goon Show's style of humour was an influence on many later British comedians, notably Monty Python and The Goodies, and even The Beatles' humorous side has roots in this show. (John Lennon specifically credited the Goons as an influence.) It's fair to say that if you like any subsequent British comedy at all, somewhere along the line you have The Goon Show to thank. The Firesign Theater was also deeply influenced by the Goons.
Not to be confused with The Goon, a noir/horror/comedic parody comic series about a muscle-bound mob enforcer who fights demons, monsters, and a rival gang led by a necromancer and composed of zombies; nor should it be confused with any shows that happen to be made by goons.
- Absurdity Ascendant: Every one of them.
- Achievements in Ignorance: Eccles was prone to them.
- A Day in the Limelight: The Greenslade Story, for two people. Wallace Greenslade the announcer gets this entire episode about him, and his rise to fame and fortune, while veteran newsreader John Snagge steps into the Goons studio for the first time to be the viewpoint character, playing himself. (His earlier cameos were pre-recorded)
- Affectionate Parody: Among the stories that could qualify as this are "Shangri-La Again" (Lost Horizon), "1985" (1984), "The Scarlet Capsule" (the Quatermass serials), and the various takes on Robin Hood done as Christmas episodes.
- And "The African Incident" (The Bridge on the River Kwai), and "The Man who Never Was" (The Man Who Never Was), and "The Fear of Wages" (The Wages of Fear)...
- And "Dishonoured" and "Dishonoured Again" (Dishonored), "Under Two Floorboards" (Under Two Flags), "King Solomon's Mines" (King Solomons Mines) ....
- Audience Murmurs: Parodied. Crowd sounds would be made by the cast saying "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, custard."
- Scottish crowds were identifiable by the characteristic cry of "McRhubarb, McRhubarb, McCustard, McRhubarb." With occasional mutterings about porridge.
- Banana Republic: Literally, in The Affair of the Lone Banana and again in Foiled by President Fred.
- Biting the Hand Humour: Everywhere. For example, when Bluebottle has turned out to have been impersonating Wallace Greenslade after complicated events that made no sense:
Bluebottle: I was using his large-type front and posh-type talking act to work my way to a position of importance in the BBC!
Seagoon: Silly lad! There are no positions of importance in the BBC!
- Catch Phrase: Tons.
- Bluebottle: "You dirty rotten swine you! You have deaded me again!", "I don't like this game", "I heard you call, my Capitan!", "Waits for audience applause ... [pauses, waiting; then:] Not a sausage."
- Eccles: "Shut up, Eccles!"
- Seagoon (while narrating): "And this is where the story really starts!" He would also frequently respond with "Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?". When in danger, would scream "HELLLP!". At times, would address the audience through a megaphone: "Hello folks! Calling folks"
- Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty: "April in Paris - we've found a Charlie!" Grytpype-Thynne also had "You silly, twisted boy" (referring to Neddie) in season 5. Moriarty has "Owwwwww" from season 7 onwards.
- Henry Crun: "You can't get the wood, you know..."
- Minnie Bannister: "We'll all be murdered in our beds!"
- Jim Spriggs: "Hello Jim", and variants on the latter phrase as well as others wherein they would be repeated in a high-pitched singing voice, e.g. "Hello Jim! HEEEELLOOO JIIIM!"
- Little Jim: "He's fallen in the water!" -- which is almost the only thing he ever says.
- Willium: "You can't park there, mate!"
- "Ying tong iddle i po" and "Needle nardle noo", all-purpose catchphrases (most often Neddie's). "It's all in the mind, you know" was also used by everyone, most commontly Grytpype-Thynne.
- Milligan was known to comment that a catch phrase was simply a meaningless remark repeated until people were brainwashed into laughing at it.
- Charge Into Combat Cut: In the episode "Dishonoured" (remade as "Dishonoured Again") Neddie Seagoon goes off to fight, and we only learn what happens next from Bloodnok's narration.
Bloodnok How that battle raged - I watched it all on television, you know. Seagoon fought like a madman - how else? But alas... On that spot is now a little white stone. Once a year Min lays flowers on it. The stone bears a simple inscription in Hindi - I haven't the heart to tell her that roughly translated it says "Bombay 49 miles".
- Christmas Episode: Several specials. In the last season an episode spoofed A Christmas Carol.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Most characters veer into this. Eccles and Bluebottle seem to live in Cloudcuckooland.
- Comically Small Bribe: Multiple variations, including successful attempts to bribe people with photographs of money.
Seagoon: Wait...this five pound note in the photo...it's a forgery!
- And Bluebottle would do nearly anything for a quarter-pound bag of sweets, though that's not wildly implausible for somebody his apparent age. Then again, when you hear what he wants to do with the sweets...
Moriarty: Get Seagoon out of that laboratory, and a fortune in sherbet suckers ... is yours.
Bluebottle: Ohh, ecstasy! For two sherbet suckers, Freda Niggs is mine tonight!
- Hyperbole-level poverty was a running gag through the whole series. (After all, it was Britain in The Fifties). For example, the day after a battleship steamed up the river Thames and announced via megaphone in the middle of London, "Hands Up, England!"...
Alderman Spriggs: All in all, gentlemen, the thieves made off with England's entire cash assets of three pounds, eleven and sixpence!
- And when John Snagge learns that Wallace Greenslade has been hired away from the BBC for a wage of five pounds a year:
Snagge: Five pounds? There isn't that much!
- Commedia Dell Arte Troupe: The core characters were cast in different stories each show.
- Compelling Voice: In "Six Charlies in Search of an Author", sort of...
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: Moriarty on several occasions.
Grytpype-Thynne: (sipping soup) Tell me, Moriarty... what is this foul but economical recipe?
Moriarty: It's a family secret... they died after the first mouthful. It was terrible! I had to do all the washing up myself!
- And again...
Moriarty: *humming to himself while alchemical bubbling goes on in background*
Grytpype-Thynne: What is that excruciating brew you're sipping from that boot?
Moriarty: Ohh, taste, taste!
Grytpype-Thynne: *long, slurping sip* *pause* *spitting/splashing sound* Gad, what is it?
Moriarty: Your laundry.
- And again:
Grytpype-Thynne: What's for breakfast this morning?
Moriarty: This steaming debris fracoule. Here, taste it!
[smacking of lips]
Moriarty: A dish fit for a king, yes?
Grytpype-Thynne: Only if he's abdicated.
- And once more, in Who Is Pink Oboe:
Valentine Dyall: By God, that smells good, Moriarty! What is it?
- Creator Breakdown: Milligan was manic-depressive and during the show's run personal and professional pressures, including Executive Meddling, caused him to snap occasionally. The resultant hospitalizations are a big reason he sometimes was absent, and the whole experience is dramatized in Roy Smiles' play Ying Tong: A Walk with the Goons.
- Additional experiences included Sellers locking Milligan in his car trunk in an experiment to find out what made the squeaking noise when it was driving (a policeman stopped Sellers, opened the boot and found Milligan drawing Xs with chalk and just responded "Oh, it's you")...
- ...And, while Sellers himself was in a black mood, Milligan knocking on his door, stark naked in broad daylight, and delivering a punchline - accounts vary as to whether this was "Do You Know The Address Of A Good Tailor?", or that Milligan was pretending to be selling matches, culminating in Sellers buying a pack and then closing the door.
- The "good tailor" joke was, according to Milligan's autobiography, a catchphrase of the eccentric in the battery (well, one of the battery eccentrics) during Milligan's service in the artillery... who also used "Gentlemen - I think there's a thief in the battery".
- ...they were right, this show was run by crazy people.
- The Creepy Undertaker: Gravely Headstone.
- Darkest Africa: Spoofed; quite a few episodes are set here and the conceit of the noble British colonial fighter is mocked with Major Bloodnok.
- Death Is Cheap: Bluebottle, following his deading, would usually get in touch to say "You rotten swine, you," and on one occasion encouraged Eccles to "be deaded, then you can go home for tea!"
- Possibly explained by the fact that they never erected a fourth wall, except on those occasions they planned on blowing it up.
- Defictionalized: (sort of) "I've got it written down on a piece of paper!"
- Delayed Reaction: Eccles in particular is the master of this, on one occasion taking an entire half-episode to suddenly realise and interject a (wrong) answer, to a throwaway joke question, that was asked during the pre-title sequence!
- Demoted to Extra: Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty tend to get this for any episode where there's a guest star playing a unique villain instead.
- Diplomatic Impunity: The steamroller and falling piano with diplomatic plates.
- Dirty Coward: Major Bloodnok is this trope.
- To wit, in The Stolen Battleship, after a case of exchanged identity:
Bloodnok: Here! Give me that money order!
Eccles: It's mine, I'm Major Bloodnok.
Bloodnok: Nonsense! You give it to me, you thieving coward!
Eccles: I'm not a thieving coward!
Bloodnok: Then that proves it, you're not Major Bloodnok!
- The Ditz: Eccles (although he's really more of a Cloudcuckoolander on his good days).
- Double Entendre
- Drop the Cow: One episode ("The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler") ended with the heroes on a raft, faced with a difficult decision - they could either eat some batter pudding and live, or preserve the pudding as evidence and die in the cause of justice. The Lemony Narrator then asked listeners to write in with the "classic ending" they wished to hear.
- Suggestions to be written on a piece of batter pudding.
- Talk about your lemony endings...
Narrator: For you cretins who insist on a happy ending, here it is.
(sappy violin music)
Grytpype: Darling -- darling, will you marry me?
Bloodnok: Of course I will, darling!
Narrator: Good night!
- Either or Title: Many examples, usually played with in some way, such as "The Greatest Mountain In The World!, Or: I Knew Fred Croot, Or: The Greatest Mountain In The World!", or "Round the World in 80 Days, or: Money Refunded". In this particular case, the announcement preceded a short violin solo after which Milligan, as Little Jim, could be heard doling out cash with a charitable "There's Money For You, There's Money For You!"
- Evil Laugh: Valentine Dyall's gets a good work-out in "The Canal".
- The Fifties: The episodes set in the 'present day', as well as the general cultural references. Despite its surreal nature the show is a good introduction to British attitudes in The Fifties, such as constant references to the government being broke and nostalgia about glory days (parodied with Bloodnok). There are also some jokes which require a little period knowledge to get, such as:
Grytpype-Thynne: I've been in touch with one of the French governments...
- Flamboyant Gay: Minor gag character Flowerdew.
- Milligan later admitted, when the show was over, that he had written Grytpype-Thynne as a closeted homosexual; this clarifies certain lines of dialogue, such as:
Eccles: If I close my eyes, I won't be able to see you!
Grytpype-Thynne: ...Will you miss me?
- Friendly Fire: In "The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea", Seagoon and Crun are fired upon by Nazi artillery across the Channel when they light a match, so Crun has the idea to light a German match ("Brilliant! They won't fire on their own matches!")...only for them to be fired upon by the British artillery.
- The same episode contains the immortal line:
- Funny Foreigner: In particular minor characters Mr. Banerjee and Mr. Lalkaka (Indians), Eidelberger (German -- although in "The Great Bank Robbery" he denied it on the grounds that no self-respecting German would have such an atrocious phony accent), Yakamoto (Japanese), Lieutenant Hernhern (American, usually shows up in World War II stories) and others.
- Genre Savvy: Bluebottle's recognition of his function in the show... getting blown up.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Many Running Gags were the punchlines to dirty jokes, apparently meaningless out of context.
- If one hasn't read up on it going in, s/he might not realize many jokes about Bloodnok are fart gags, accomplished through odd sound effects (i.e. explosions) and suggestive phrases.
- Maybe it's just my filthy imagination, but I think the fact that one episode featured a character named Dr. Longdongle may count as an example.
- Then there was the referenced-but-never-seen character called Hugh Jampton (ie Huge Hampton, 'Hampton Wick' being rhyming slang for...well, work it out yourself!).
- "Bend over for the golden rivet!" The punchline to a very old Royal Navy joke which isn't about rum or the lash.
- The broadcasts of the show had to be edited for the BBC World Service broadcasts to India. In the dialogues between the two funny-Asian characters, Sellers and Milligan (both having lived in India) were fond of slipping in Hindu obscenities that would pass right by most British ears. But when re-broadcast to India and Pakistan...
- Milligan once responded to complaints about the dirty joke leftovers by saying, "if they know why it's dirty, they've got no business complaining about it."
- Gilligan Cut
- Glad I Thought of It:
- Seagoon in "The Greatest Mountain in the World" when he denounces the idea of building their own mountain as ridiculous, chucks the unlucky suggester out of the meeting, and then promptly claims the plan for himself.
- In "The Great Nadger Plague", the revelation of the villains' plot includes Grytpype-Thynne describing it to Moriarty as "a brilliant idea of mine that you thought of".
- Grand Finale: Not within the original run, but the 1972 special The Last Goon Show of All did live up to its name and brought back the key recurring characters for one last go-round, in a story that has No Ending.
- Great White Hunter: Major Bloodnok, sometimes.
- Hollywood Tone Deaf: Harry Secombe's signature character Neddie Seagoon -- a case of friendly mockery from Milligan, as Secombe was actually an excellent singer with a professional musical career.
- This becomes a small running gag of the episode entitled The Greenslade Story, broadcast just after Secombe had released a new record - John Snagge, a prominent BBC announcer, threatened to ban it on popular broadcast programme "Housewives' Choice".
- I Can Explain: Major Bloodnok, when interrupted with a woman. In one episode, he quickly introduces the woman he is with as his sister; when rebuffed, he reintroduces her as his mother.
- Impossible Insurance: In "Insurance, The White Man's Burden" Seagoon is talked into insuring the English Channel against catching fire.
- Then there's "The Canal", where Lord Valentine Seagoon keeps buying life insurance for his son Neddie using increasingly unlikely and specific death scenarios ("How much would it cost to insure Neddie against putting concrete blocks on his feet, blowing himself up with dynamite and then landing in the canal?") before, of course, engineering those exact scenarios.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: In "The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-On-Sea", the German artillery is capable of firing upon anyone who so much as lights a match!
Crun: It's much too dark to see, strike a light.
Seagoon: Not allowed during blackout. Only 28 miles across the channel, German guns are watching this coast!
Crun: Don't be silly, they can't see a little match being struck!
Seagoon: Oh, all right.
(FX: Match struck; low whine, then an explosion. Pause.)
Seagoon: Any questions?
- Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Often.
Eccles: Ooh, a big red cigar with a wick on the end!
(Inhales; sound of gigantic explosion that goes on for many seconds)
Eccles: Hmm. Strong.
- Inherently Funny Words: Milligan liked to use several words in different contexts, such as "Spon" and "Fred".
- Intelligible Unintelligible: The Gothic Horror spoof "The Canal" features a character who never speaks, only emits long eerie screams... which the other characters react to as if they were intelligible speech.
Mysterious character: (long eerie scream)
Lord Dyall: It's in the cabinet by the bed, dear.
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Exploding cucumbers that blast someone into orbit; someone driving a wall - this show did 'random weirdness' before TV did, never mind the Internet.
- From "The Booted Gorilla"...
Neddie: I have a message for you from Bloodnock, in the heart of Africa. *several seconds of jungle drums* Signed... *tom tom* Any reply?
Grythpype: Jove, yes! This: *several seconds of modern full-kit drum solo* Signed yours sincerely, *congas*, PS, *triangle jingling*.
Neddie: What beautiful handwriting you have.
- "The Goon Show is now available in half-pint bottles. (switches to American accent) Yes, don't listen to the Goon Show, drink it, in the new economy-size serving! Drink: Goon Show!"
- All scotsmen, when speaking, are accompanied by bagpipes. And only when speaking. If they say just "Yes", there'll be a quick one-second burst on the bagpipes in the background.
- "And that, listeners, was the sound of Neddie and Eccles driving a wall at high speed".
- "Listeners may doubt the authenticity of that sound effect, a boa constrictor galloping. If the truth be known, a horse covered in a snakeskin was used to replicate the sound. As for the chicken noises, we can only apologize."
- Lampshaded after a quick series of very random sound effects, including a train accelerating, some battle trumpets, alchemical bubbling, and a chipmunk's scream of anguish; "I'm afraid you'll have to work that one out for yourselves, listeners."
- In one case this is even in the script - a Running Gag is that different brands of cigarettes are referred to as 'gorillas', 'baboons', 'monkeys' etc., and the script notes that the sound effect of Eccles and Seagoon smoking gorillas should be "SOUND OF TWO GORILLAS FIGHTING - IF CAN'T GET THAT, TRY TWO LIONS"
- "Ladies and gentlemen, as there is no audible sound for a piece of string we substitute this" *long stream of gibberish*
- "This is part of the BBC's new economy drive. They have found it is cheaper to travel by bagpipes..."
- At one point, they knock over a bottle containing the BBC.
- Kill'Em All: Some episodes, due to Negative Continuity, have endings where most, if not all of the characters die. If they don't all die, there's a chance Bluebottle is a survivor, as a reversal of the usual Once an Episode gag.
- Lampshade Hanging: Milligan owned a lampshade shop...
- One common example of this was deliberate tactics used to drag out short scripts; sound effects of people running up miles of staircase might end with someone commenting, "The scriptwriter paid me to waste time there."
Henry Crun (Sellers): You know Min, a script writer named Spike Milligan gave me two guineas to take a long time walking up these steps. He said it helps him in his work.
Minnie Bannister (Milligan): Yes, I know!
- Also, after something happened that was only possible because it was a radio show (such as Eccles standing on Neddie's shoulders, then pulling Neddie up so he could reach a high place), someone would often remark that they'd, "like to see them do this on television," or similar.
- Left the Background Music On
- Two whole episodes were based on this. In one, the characters would frequently remark upon the significance of the scene-link music or sound effects. In another, the musician's union was on strike, and so they brought in Adolphus Spriggs (played by Milligan) to a-capella the entire theme song, all the scene links, dramatic chords, and even a few sound effects.
- In "The Lost Gold Mine of Charlotte"...
Bloodknock: (narrating, a mourning violin playing in background) Alone, I was, there in the Arizona desert. Left alone to die... I don't want to die! I'm too old for that. But here I am, with naught but the sun, sands, a shovel to bury myself with, and that red indian over there who insists on playing that blasted violin!
- Leitmotif: Bloodnok's theme.
- Lemony Narrator: Greenslade
- Loads and Loads of Roles: Everyone played multiple roles, especially if someone was absent. Sellers sometimes filled in for absentees, but it took four people to fill in for him the day he was absent.
- For contrast, in certain episodes where Milligan was missing, Sellers filled in for him... and until the credits were announced, no-one listening at home noticed.
- This also happened to characters within the show, e.g.:
Brutus Moriartus: Why don't you stop him, Julius Caesar?
Bloodnok: How can I when I'm playing the part of Bloodnok?
Englishman: I am the Manager, the Proprietor, the Head Waiter, and the Chief Cashier of the Restaurant Fred.
Seagoon: Who's Fred?
Englishman: I am!
Englishman: Yes - Fred Gad!
- Loud of War: In the Nineteen Eighty-Four parody "Nineteen Eighty Five", the tortures in Room 101 all entailed listening to BBC Radio Soap Operas.
- Which is Fridge Brilliance, as Orwell originally named the room after a real conference room at BBC Broadcasting House in which tedious planning meetings for new programmes (possibly including soap operas) were held.
- Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Spoofed in the episode "The Gold Plate Robbery": Visiting Morocco, Neddie Seagoon meets an Arab nomad who went to college in Cambridge and speaks English like a native -- with a broad Cockney accent.
- Missing Episode: Very few episodes from the first four seasons weren't purged by the BBC, meaning that fourth Goon Michael Bentine, who left after season two, has been virtually forgotten.
- A handful of season 4 episodes have now been found and remastered, but that's still no consolation to Bentine fans.
- Motor Mouth: Seagoon, which is essentially just Harry Secombe As Himself.
- The Movie: The little-remembered Down Among the Z-Men was a rare Goon Show spinoff made in the early days with Michael Bentine in the cast. The script didn't really reflect the Goons' style of humour, but it does include a good Bentine solo routine.
- More successful was The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn, a half-hour short written by Milligan and starring Milligan and Sellers in their Goon Show roles with guest appearances from Dick Emery and Graham Stark.
- My Card: Parodied.
- "My card." "My card!" "My card." "Snap!"
- "It's blank!" "Times are bad."
- "It's blank!" "No, turn it over." "What a silly place to put it - on the other side!"
- "My card." "Mister Grythpype-Thynne - King of England?! 'Knighthoods Done While You Wait'?"
- "MacCard? A Scotsman, eh?"
- In another episode...
Neddie: Who are you hindu gentlemen?
Banagee: Here, sir.
Neddie: "Jim Jones and Tom Squatte, Printers"?
Banagee: They are the men who sold us the cards.
- And later in the same episode...
Bloodknock: We'll settle this by wager. Here, draw a card from this deck, don't show me what it is... now, what is your card?
Neddie: "Jim Jones and Tom Squatte, Printers".
- The Name Is Bond, James Bond: In "King Solomon's Mines":
Trader Horn: My name is Horn. Trader Horn. Born in Houndsditch. How do you like a name like that eh? Horn-Trader-Horn-born-in-Houndsditch. My father must have been mad.
- Also in "The Missing Scroll", later re-titled "The Lost Music of Purdom":
Seagoon: My name is Seagoon, Neddie Seagoon. You've possibly seen my name in the Mirror [Reference to British newspaper, the Mirror]. It reads: Noogeas Eidden, Noogeas.
- James Bond referenced directly in another episode...
Seagoon: (answering a phone) Who's this?
Caller: *whistles the James Bond theme*
Seagoon: James Bond!
Caller: Err, no sir. I'm agent double-oh, three one six, two eight seven four.
Seagoon: Ah, premium bond.
- Narrator: BBC announcer Andrew Timothy as himself; succeeded by Wallace Greenslade, ditto.
- Greenslade also became a character of his own - thanking his fan clubs, claiming to be among the listeners in their ignorance, frequently mentioning prominent BBC announcer John Snagge, and even once being the star of an entire show parodying his career as announcer, named "The Greenslade Story, or Winds Light To Variable".
- In the aforementioned story, they even got John Snagge into the studio to be the viewpoint character.
- In "What's My Line", Greenslade admitted he was thinking "Hooray for ITV" while saying "This is the BBC," and John Snagge marched in with the BBC firing squad and shot him.
- Greenslade also became a character of his own - thanking his fan clubs, claiming to be among the listeners in their ignorance, frequently mentioning prominent BBC announcer John Snagge, and even once being the star of an entire show parodying his career as announcer, named "The Greenslade Story, or Winds Light To Variable".
Secombe: That was only a recording of John Snagge and his merry huntsmen.
- Negative Continuity: Every show started with the full roster of characters, usually involved in a completely different story from last time.
- New Media Are Evil: Some cracks at television (well, it was new media back then...)
- Newscaster Cameo: John Snagge, in several episodes, provided fictional news reports commenting on the events of the episode.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Strongly averted, with the scripts casually throwing in anyone they felt like, even people who one might be expect were beyond the comedy pale - for example, in "The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea", Inspector Neddie is calling a list of phone numbers of possible suspects:
Winston Churchill: Ten Downing Street here.
Neddie: (gulps) I'm so sorry. (slams phone down) No - it couldn't be him - who'd he want to throw a batter pudding at? (phone rings, he answers)
Clement Attlee: Hello, this is Mr. Attlee. Someone's just thrown a batter pudding at me!
- Another one featuring Churchill:
The Phantom Head Shaver struck again and again. The tourist trade was threatened; that week only two gentlemen visited Brighton.
Winston Churchill: Come on Clem, what have we got to lose?
- The BBC eventually banned Sellers' Churchill impersonations after the man himself allegedly objected to a topical joke.
- No Ending: Just one example: "The Great String Robbery" ends with Seagoon being informed that the entire show has been "all in your mind, you know". In wild panic, he screams for help, demanding to know "Who Wrote This Script?".
- No Fourth Wall: Especially when the characters refer to the sound effects as being inappropriate or unconvincing. Also, Bluebottle has a tendency to read all his script directions aloud and to vocalize what he's thinking.
- This was in fact a reference to Peter Sellers' own habit of Talking to Himself (see below).
- Non-Fatal Explosions: At least Once an Episode (see below). Usually more.
- Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: In "The Canal", Henry Crun attempts to read helpful advice to Neddie after he falls in the canal, and gets halfway through a cake recipe before realising he's got hold of a cookbook instead of the Lifesaving Manual. It's typical of the series that the still-drowning Neddie's response to this realisation is to wonder what he should do with the cake batter he's just made.
- Once an Episode: Bluebottle being "deaded", usually in an explosion.
- Overly Long Gag: Several minutes of silence or footsteps was common, and then there's Minnie and Henry's dialogues, many of which boil down to talking in circles for minutes at a stretch.
- Or a good thirty seconds of various bits of metal jangling together as someone empties their pockets. Followed by:
Seagoon: Quit stalling - empty your pockets!
- They were fond of this gag, but they did seem to know when to cut it off:
Seagoon: Open my money chest and put on a gramophone record of seven thousand pounds in shillings.
Thirty seconds of coins clinking, one by one
Bloodnok: Wait a minute, that was only three thousand five hundred pounds!
Seagoon: I'll play you the other side.
Bloodnok: No, wait; I'll play the rest when I get home.
- Patriotic Fervour: Seagoon, often claiming things "For ENGLAAAAND!" (despite Harry Secombe being Welsh).
- The Pete Best: Michael Bentine, who left the show early in its run and is largely forgotten due to the early episodes mostly being lost.
- Politeness Judo
- Planet Eris
- Puns: Oh, dear heavens, the PUNS.
Seagoon: You can't bury me! I want to join the (Irish) Guard!
Headstone: No man under six feet can join the Guard.
- Pun-Based Title: Occasionally, as in The Siege of Fort (K)Night.
- Multiple Reference Pun: Incessantly. From Major Bloodnok journeying in Africa and having to deal with the "strange local customs" - who promptly charge him customs duties for carrying an oven over national boundaries, to Seagoon having the following conversation with Moriarty:
Seagoon: Do you think they suspect him?
Moriarty: That's difficult to say.
Seagoon: "Do you think they suspect him"? Yes, that is difficult to say, you try it.
Seagoon: Of course they suspect him! ...
- Visual Pun: I'm not sure if this counts, but this show had a lot of:
Seagoon: ... when suddenly, a brown hand fell on my shoulder.
Moriarty: Ah, excuse me! But did a brown hand just fall on your shoulder?
- Puff of Logic: Spoken words had significant power in The Goon Show. A good example is an episode in which Seagoon and co. are wandering in a desert. They spot a house, but are informed by Bloodnok that it's only a mirage. Refusing to believe him, Neddie staggers up to it, only to watch it vanish into nothingness ... and then Eccles falls out of the upper floor.
- Another good example occured when Greenslade drew attention to the fact that Eccles and Seagoon were attempting (and succeeding!) in climbing on each other's shoulders up the inside of a pillar box. Not one second after he says this, both fall to the ground.
- Rapid-Fire Comedy: and HOW!
- Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Bluebottle's trademark.
- Record Needle Scratch: In Bluebottle's own single, The Bluebottle Blues, he becomes so exasperated with Seagoon's attempts to murder him that he announces he will escape to the hole in the centre of the record. This he does, following it with the sound of the record slowing to a stop.
- Reveal Shot:
SFX: Knock knock knock!
Seagoon: Come in.
SFX: Knock knock knock!
Seagoon: Come in!
Bloodnok: It's YOU that's knocking!
Seagoon: Oh- then I'LL come in.
- This was also frequently used to imply something to the audience, when it actually didn't happen. For instance, a soldier would be asked to escort a spy out of the room. Footsteps are heard trailing off into the distance. The interrogator comments positively on the competence of the soldier. "Then why did he leave me behind?", asks the spy, evidently still in the room.
- Room 101: In "Nineteen Eighty-Five!", Ned Seagoon is locked in a room and forced to listen to a recording... of himself, singing.
- Rule of Funny: Saturated in it.
- Running Gag: Too many to note.
- Shaped Like Itself: "It was in the year 1656 that the dreaded nadger plague swept across Europe like the Dreaded Nadger Plague of 1656."
- A Simple Plan: Usually a Zany Scheme dreamt up by Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty. Occasionally involved a Batman Gambit with Seagoon as a willing but incompetent pawn, in which Seagoon's incompetence was harnessed to produce the required result.
- Sound to Screen Adaptation: The Telegoons, a 1963-64 BBC TV series that remade some of the stories with puppets providing the visuals.
- There were also a couple of TV adaptations which basically re-created the original radio productions, ie with the cast reading their scripts in front of microphones.
- Springtime for Hitler
- Steal the Surroundings: In "The Great Bank Robbery", the robbers steal the entire bank, airlifting it away with a zeppelin.
- Straight Man: Insofar as there was one, it tended to be Neddie Seagoon/Harry Secombe - when it wasn't Wallace Greenslade instead.
- Strongly Worded Letter: Threatening to write a letter to The Times was the usual response of many characters to any indignity heaped upon them.
*loud knocking on door*
Ray Ellington: Open up, or I'll write to the Times.
- Studio Audience: If not given applause when entering, Bluebottle would occasionally supply his own pre-recorded wild cheers. This was also utilized by Seagoon, and once used to thwart Greenslade.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Frequently used to off Bluebottle.
- Take That
- In "The Canal":
Neddie: And, dear listener, changed he had. He looked tired and weary. His eyes... his eyes were sunk back in his head. They were bloodshot, watery, and red-rimmed. What had caused this?
Neddie's father: Neddie, we've bought a television set.
- In "The Mummified Priest", Crun announces he is having an ancient Egyptian manuscript sent to his museum to be translated. Neddie isn't sure about his translation skills, but don't worry; Crun "knows two men who are experts at reading ancient scripts; Bob Hope and Steve Allen."
- Talking to Himself: Sellers did this on occasion, especially if he was filling in for absent cast members.
- He'd periodically find it impossible to remember which voice he was supposed to be using at any given moment, leading to conversations that made very little sense (even for the Goon Show). Hilarity ensued.
Bloodnok: "Sellers! How dare you change from my voice to his for one joke only!"
- They Killed Kenny: Bluebottle's deadings.
- This Banana Is Armed: "You fool, you can't shoot me with a banana, it's-" Bang! Bang! "... swine ... it was ... loaded!" *thump"
- Those Two Bad Guys: Grytpype and Moriarty
- Those Two Guys: Eccles and Bluebottle
- The Treachery of Images: Parodied--in the Goon Show's universe, having a photograph of something or a cardboard cutout replica of it is usually treated as being the same as actually having that thing.
- The Unintelligible: several occasions.
- Ellington, doing a Zulu Chief impersonation...
Ellington: (long string of african-esque gibberish)
Seagoon: Hm. Flowerdew, tell him I can't understand what he's saying.
Flowerdew: (short, very soft-spoken gibberish)
Ellington: (long string of very emphatic and gibberish)
Flowerdew: He says, sir, he doesn't understand what he's saying either.
- Little Jim, except when announcing someone had fallen in the wa-tah. In the final episode, only Eccles could understand Little Jim - including Little Jim.
- Unit Confusion: A very common gag.
- Unwitting Pawn: Seagoon, always. To take one example, in The Case of the Missing CD Plates, Moriarty runs him (and his bagpipes; It Makes Sense in Context) over with a steamroller but escapes prosecution due to the steamroller having Corps Diplomatique, or diplomatic immunity plates - Moriarty later drops a piano on his head - and then cons Seagoon into breaking into an evidence warehouse to screw a CD plate to the wreckage of the piano so he can get off that one as well.
- We ARE Struggling Together!: In The Affair of the Lone Banana -
Moriarty: You see señor, the united anti-socialist neo-democratic pro-fascist communist party is fighting to overthrow the unilateral democratic united partisan bellicose pacifist cobelligerent tory labour liberal party!
Seagoon: Whose side are you on?
Moriarty: There are no sides - we are all in this together.
- Who Would Be Stupid Enough...?: Used many times with Eccles.
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Almost every single character.
- Xylophone Gag: The piano version, when Moriarty and Gritpype-Thynne try to blow up the Chinese nationalist leader General Kashmychek.
- Zany Scheme
- Read a transcript of the entire scene here.