The Goon Show was a British radio comedy programme, originally produced and broadcast by the BBC Home Service from 1951 to 1960, with occasional repeats on the BBC Light Programme. The first series, broadcast between May and September 1951, was titled Crazy People; all subsequent series had the overall title The Goon Show. The show's chief creator and main writer was Spike Milligan.
The scripts mixed ludicrous plots with surreal humour, puns, catchphrases and an array of bizarre sound effects. Some of the later episodes feature electronic effects devised by the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop, many of which were reused by other shows for decades afterward. Many elements of the show satirised contemporary life in Britain, parodying aspects of show business, commerce, industry, art, politics, diplomacy, the police, the military, education, class structure, literature and film.
Peter Cook is described as a "humourist much influenced by the Goons". Whilst at boarding school, Peter Cook used to feign illness on Friday evenings, just so he could listen to the Goons on the radio in the sick bay. A happy moment from his childhood concerns when he sent a script to the BBC and they sent it back, saying it was a great Goon script but not original. Despite this knock-back, this script somehow landed on the desk of Spike Milligan and brought about a meeting between Peter Cook and his heroes. He and others from Beyond the Fringe were later to work with Milligan and Sellers on George Martin's LP production ''Bridge On The River Wye''. They also appeared in the film version of Milligan and John Antrobus' ''The Bed Sitting Room''. Both Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers appeared on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's TV show, Not Only... But Also.
Monty Python were heavily influenced by The Goons as well as Spike Milligan's Q Series. They have been described as "indebted to BBC radio comedy, and particularly to the Goon Show." The future members of Monty Python were fans, and on many occasions they expressed their collective debt to Milligan and The Goons. Scudamore (1985, p. 170) cites an interview for example, in which John Cleese stated "the Goon Show influenced us enormously". He reiterates this point in his contribution to Ventham's (2002, p. 151) book: "We all loved The Goon Show in the Monty Python Team: it ignited some energy in us. It was more a spirit that was passed on, rather than any particular technique. The point is that once somebody has crossed a barrier and done something that has never been done before, it is terribly easy for everybody else to cross it". Similarly, in the introduction to Graham Chapman's posthumous anthology (2006, p.xvii) Yoakum notes that while other radio comedies influenced Chapman, "the show that truly astounded Graham, and was a major influence on his comedy was The Goon Show." And on page 23 Chapman states: "from about the age of seven or eight I used to be an avid listener to a radio programme called The Goon Show. In fact, at that stage I wanted to be a Goon". American Python member Terry Gilliam recalled first hearing it broadcast on FM radio in New York City in the 1960s.
The Beatles shared this love of the Goons and ended up being produced by George Martin who had earlier produced records with The Goons. They made a considerable impact on the humour of The Beatles, and especially on John Lennon. On 30 September 1973, Lennon reviewed the book The Goon Show Scripts for The New York Times. He wrote: "I was 12 when The Goon Show first hit me, 16 when they finished with me. Their humour was the only proof that the world was insane. One of my earlier efforts at writing was a 'newspaper' called The Daily Howl. I would write it at night, then take it into school and read it aloud to my friends. Looking at it now, it seems strangely similar to The Goon Show." In a discussion of an accidentally Goonish nature, about introducing the next song during the 1963 BBC production of Pop Go The Beatles, Lennon is also recorded as quipping "Love these Goon shows". This was included in the four album LP and CD entitled Live at the BBC (side 4, track 10 of the LP; track 62 of CD).
Firesign Theatre showed how The Goons' influence spread well beyond the UK, as several members recall listening to The Goon Show at different times in their lives. Philip Proctor claims that it was after becoming enthused by the Goons' surrealist style of comedy that the members of the Firesign Theatre adopted that style into their performances. Peter Bergman also met and got to know Spike Milligan while Bergman was a television writer in England during the mid-1960s.
The Goon Show is still airing weekly on the BBC, it is available to stream on the BBC IPlayer
The on-line station GoonShowRadio broadcasts most of these 100 episodes continuously.
The ABC Radio National network in Australia has regularly broadcast The Goon Show since the 1960s. For many years, the series was broadcast every Saturday afternoon, just after the midday news bulletin. More recently, it was broadcast twice a week, on Friday mornings and Sunday afternoons. The network took the series off the air in January 2004, but following listener response to the cancellation, broadcasts of the show resumed in the Friday time slot in June. The ABC's broadcasts of the series have made The Goon Show one of the most repeated and longest-running of all radio programmes.
The programme has been broadcast in the United States. NBC broadcast The Goon Show as early as the mid-1950s. When Vermont Public Radio signed on the air in 1977 (as a single station which has since evolved into a statewide network), the first program ever to air was an episode of The Goon Show. The show was described as a "madcap radio comedy classic".