Welcome to the second instalment of The Goon Show Guide, my new weekly series devoted to Spike Milligan's finest achievement. Having set things up nicely in last week's introduction, this week we're going over a few basics about the characters before we dive into the series proper next week.
Catchphrases: "Hello folks", "needle nardle noo", "what-what-what-what-what?" (said very very fast), "I don't wish to know that" (a piss-take of a well-worn music hall routine of the time).
Catchphrases: "Nurse, the screens!", "It was hell in there"
Bluebottle (Peter Sellers)
A lusty boy scout with a squeaky voice who almost invariably gets killed in every episode. A regular companion to Eccles, Bluebottle will regularly help people out for sweets - particularly Dolly Mixtures or Jelly Babies - and often uses weapons made out of cardboard. He is known for reading the stage directions out loud, and will often talk over the announcer. The latter often happened when he emerged unscathed from an episode, for instance in The Case of the Fake Neddie Seagoons or The Six Ingots of Leadenhall Street.
Catchphrases: "Enter Bluebottle, waits for applause... Not a sausage", "You rotten swine, you deaded me", "I don't like this game".
Eccles (Spike Milligan)
A total idiot, the stupidest and most well-meaning of all the characters and a regular companion to Neddie. Eccles has a childlike understanding of the world, can barely read or write, and often falls foul of people in authority due to his lack of intelligence or self-preservation. When others tell him to shut up, he will often join in and carry on saying it until long after they have stopped. Despite this, he occasionally is lucky with the ladies, as in Yehti, much to the chagrin of Bluebottle.
Catchphrases: "Hello der", "Fine, fine, fine", "I'm the famous Eccles", "Shut up Eccles", "it's good to be alive!"
Hercules Grytpype-Thynne (Peter Sellers)
Catchphrases: "You silly twisted boy, you", "Have a gorilla".
Count Jim Moriarty (Spike Milligan)
An unscrupulous member of the French aristocracy who has turned to crime to support his lifestyle. Moriarty started the show on equal billing to Grytpype-Thynne, but gradually descended from a criminal mastermind into a snivelling stooge. Moriarty is often found scavenging for food in dustbins, and cursing in utterly meaningless words; in The Gold Plate Robbery, he rants for about 10 seconds while being led away from the microphones.
Catchphrases: "Oooowwwww", "Sapristi nabolis" (and various other permutations of the latter).
Henry Crun (Peter Sellers)
An extremely elderly inventor-cum-government official, and partner to Minnie Banister (see below). Decrepid, frail, doddery and forgetful, he struggles to keep pace with the world around him, and frequent takes an awfully long time to complete even the simplest of tasks. Whole sections of the show involve circular conversations between him and Minnie, such as in The Man Who Tried to Destroy London's Monuments: he keeps telling Seagoon to stop knocking at the door, so that Minnie can tell him someone's knocking - only for there not to be.
Minnie Banister (Spike Milligan)
A feeble yet immensely flirtatious old spinster who was once romantically linked to Bloodnok (in various ways). Minnie loves "modern-type" music - and all "modern" stuff for that matter - frequently getting on Henry's nerves by singing endlessly and calling him "corny". Minnie would occassionally take on a maternal attitude towards Bluebottle, such as in The Case of the Fake Neddle Seagoons. She is also terrified of strangers and being murdered.
Catchphrases: "Henrrryyyyy", "We'll all be murdered in our beds!".
Flowerdew (Peter Sellers) - An effeminate, very camp man, usually some kind of official.
Gladys (Ray Ellington) - A secretary or personal assistant whose gender is unclear.
Jim Spriggs (Spike Milligan) - A man with a falsetto voice who speaks as though he is singing, often repeats himself and calls everyone "Jim".
Lew (Peter Sellers) - A fast-talking Jewish showbiz agent with terrible acts. Based on Lew Grade, the TV impressario who amongst other things brought Thunderbirds to British TV.
Little Jim (Spike Milligan) - A timid child whose only line is "He's fallen in the water".
McGoonagall (Peter Sellers or Spike Milligan) - An awful Scottish poet, based on William McGonagall, who overemphasises and often convolutes the plot when trying to explain it.
Miss Throat (Spike Milligan) - A person (not a woman) with a gravelly voice, whose lines are usually one word or syllable long.
Tribal Chief (Ray Ellington) - One of the show's less PC characterisations (Ray Ellington was the only black cast member - we'll come onto that later).
William Cobblers, a.k.a. Mate (Peter Sellers) - A working-class jobsworth Cockney, who refers to everyone as "mate".
Next week we'll be diving into the episodes properly, cantering through the first three series for reasons which I shall explain next time. Join me on Wednesday 15th for the next (hopefully more insightful) episode of The Goon Show Guide!
NEXT WEEK: Series 1 to 3