Spike Milligan has died at his home in Sussex

Comedian Spike Milligan has died in his home in Sussex, aged 83.

Comedian Spike Milligan has died in his home in Sussex, aged 83.

Spike Milligan was the zaniest, wackiest comic genius of his generation.

The man who dominated the Goon Show had a unique and audacious sense of fun and could transform a mundane situation into a madcap absurdity, leaving his audience in gales of laughter.

But like the classic clown, his life was beset by manic depression, and he suffered at least 10 complete mental breakdowns.

He liked to regard himself as a misanthrope and once said that most people bored him to death.

But he was the complete performer, as irreverent as he was hilarious. And most of it was off-the-cuff.

Probably his most famous or notorious remark was in 1994 when, at the age of 76, he was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Comedy Award.

A letter praising him from the Prince of Wales, his number one fan, was read out and in front of a stuffed-shirt audience and millions of TV viewers, Milligan declared: ‘‘Little grovelling bastard ...’’

Charles, who was not present, saw the funny side, but many outraged viewers complained to ITV.

It was his ability to shock and startle, and yet have his audience in fits of virtually hysterical laughter, which made this bizarre individual the comic genius that he was.

But there was more to Spike Milligan than comedy - indeed that was probably the area of his life he cared for the least.

He was an accomplished poet, an author with several volumes of war memoirs which, though riotously funny, contained the bitter after-taste of brutal conflict.

He was also a better than average jazz cornet and trumpet player, with a penchant for Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong.

Then there were his intense campaigns against abortion, against vivisection, against factory farming, and, finally his fight against needless noise.

It was the noise of London which drove him from his home to live quietly in Rye, Sussex, from where he still regularly wrote letters to newspapers complaining about how inconsiderate people were with car horns, radios, lawnmowers and the like.

His home was littered with ‘‘No Smoking’’ signs, and a notice on the large front door said: ‘‘This door can be closed without slamming it. Try it and see how clever you are.’’

Sometimes Milligan took his crusades to almost unbelievable lengths. In 1986, he was thrown out of Harrods when he tried to stuff 28lb 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. Everyone looked stunned and their faces fell.’’

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