As is the way with SPIKE MILLIGAN, the confirmation of an exclusive interview with him came in the strangest of ways — a telegram. ‘Do hurry. only they are screwing the lid on.‘ Ross Parsons tries to prise it off again.
V5 time to Spike a few Tumours abOUt admit to being a fan of Russ Abbot. Milligah- FITSI» he Will definitely be Did he think his sense of humour had changed appearing at this Year‘s Fringe despite over the years? ‘Not really. no.‘ Long pause. ‘It stories to the contrary which recently has got more abstract. I say to people. “I‘ve got to appeared In two Edinburgh heWSPaPeIS- go now.“ (assuming an Eccleslike voice) ‘I‘ve got seconds his four nights at the Assembly to have a game of nine-a-side porridge. Though.‘ Rooms WI” he” be What many are exPeehhg’ he admits in the world-weary tones of a vehicles for the inspired anarchic humour of The misunderstood genius‘ when they wonder what 000’” Of his infamous Q series 0“ TV~ as he I‘m talking about. If I want a laugh I put on stressed when he talked exclusively to The List. I vcedcos Quad“ Tamcs~ (Jacques Tam.
‘I‘m only going to be sitting on stage reading my poetry — don‘t expect too much of me.‘
People have been expecting too much of him since The Goon Show first opened up a rich new vein of neo-surrealism in British comedy. This year his forthcoming debut has been the talking point ofthe Fringe and tickets for it are rapidly becoming collector‘s items. Comics a mere fraction of his age. have waxed lyrical about his
‘I hate the way people talk in cliches all the time. I like to pick up the phone and say. “This is your friendly district visiting rapist. have you registered yet?“ Things like that. I‘tn sick of people picking up the phone and saying. “I Iallo. . . hallo. . .hallo. . A fat lot ofgood thatdoes.‘ Apart from the fact that it can act as a precursor to a normal conversation. Something he loathes. ‘Yes. it absolutely bores me rigid.‘
abilities, and preVievf’S have tOUted the . ‘ Depending on his mood then. the question UhPredletablhty of h'5 Show The fa‘thh'] 3W3” 3 session which he has reluctantly agreed to indulge the eomlhg (“their eemle meSSIah and Whatever 2 in after his poetry reading. may either inspire him
his eXITaOTdIharymihd .may tum UP- HeweVeh he on a flight of comic fantasy or lead to a string of '5 haVIhg “one Of It- dldh teYeh knew h was the terse monosyllabic replies. ‘If it‘s in the contract Fringe. somebOd)’ 531d 1‘ W35 JUSt Edlhhurgh and E that I‘ll do that. then I‘ll answer people‘s
COUId 1 d0 3 week in Edinburgh 1 said yes I’d do h- 3 questions. Like if someone asks me “What‘s the I‘m hardly Fringe material at 72 for Christ‘s sake.‘ i time?“ I‘ll answer them straight away.‘
At this ripe old age. Spike is haunted by the 1 He found it impossible to identify the appeal of epitaph he dreamed up for himself: ‘Wrote the his humour. ‘Well. it was all a bit different to start Goon Show and died‘. True. his collaboration with. People with my sense of humour weren‘t with Sellers and Secombe lasted nine years catered for. we broke the mould of old traditional (Bentine became an ex-Goon after the second comedy. that‘s what we did. We liberated it.‘ series) and the innovative radio show. largely Certainly the antics of The Goons prefigured scripted by Milligan, attracted a huge following most of the developments in British comedy since around the world. but he has hardly been idle the 50s. Did he think that anyone at the Fringe since. Over the last 30 years he has written a had performed a similar crusading role since? shelf-full ofbooks — 45 in all. ‘Not really. Monty Python did it. but they‘re
Unfortunately. he may find the reactions to his 3 really an echo ofwhat I did.‘ He won‘t. however.
forthcoming Fringe visit are symptomatic of the attitude that his ‘epitap'n‘ encompasses: punters
be patrolling the late night venues. casting an eye over the current crop ofentertainers. ‘No. I‘ll go
: have been attracted 10 it 011 the baSiS OfIhc i home to the cottage. eat spaghetti. drink wine and
i success of The Goon shows nearly 40 years ago. l go to bed .‘
: while all he will actually be doing is reciting some Despite this affectation of ittdolcnce. he
of his poetry. ‘I felt a bit guilty when I found out it maintains a prolific output. I Iis latest literary
- Was for the Fringe. I said yeah why not? They i creation —- And It Ends With Magic. ‘A x: 7 asked What I‘d do and I said. “Ooh I‘lljustsit l semi-fictionalised story of my family‘s life on my ‘ ; there and read poetry“. It might come as a nasty i parents‘ side‘. will come out in the autumn. i ahh'ShOCk ‘0 some OIIhem.‘ , Currently he is working on a play. the inspiration Certainly ‘predictable‘ is hardly a term you , for which stems once again from his years in the
would associate with the man who would delight army. ‘lt‘s about a halucinogenic experience I in ending his TV Sketehes byshufﬂingoffsct 2 wentthrough during World War II in Italy.‘ He grinning inanely and muttering. ‘What are we begins to explain it in a strangely quiet voice but going to do now?‘ Milligan is essentially two very after a while frustation sets in: '()h. its just too different people. All his adult life he has swung complex to go into.‘ from deep depression to bouts of near manic Spike at 72. reading his poetry on stage. will still infectious exuberance. For him there is no he one of the highlights of the Fringe. Whether halfway house. The latter mood can be found this reflects his enormous popularity as one of the crystalised in The Goon Show scripts and his true bastions of comedy or merely the paucity of subsequent comic novels and poetry. the former competition remains to be seen. Personally. he in a hatred of the mundanity of human existence. had no idea which works would feature at the In a way these combine to produce his anarchic. Assembly Rooms — ‘1‘” just read ‘em all. it‘ll be surreal-slapstick sense of humour. More like bulk buying at Tesco‘s.‘ defenceless than most humans against the onset Spike Milligan. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 22— 25 of depression, whatever inspires him to laughter Aug. 9.15pm, £7.5()(£()). Previews. 2()- 21/1144.
has to be out of the ordinary. Although he did 9.15pm. £6.
The List 17 -— 23 August 19907