A Reboot of Comedy Classics

Host, Dave Schwensen, and his friends Kelly, Tom, and Logan have chosen some of their favorite comedians from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. They take a look at how these comedians got started, their most successful comedy albums, and their lasting influence today!


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The Six Degrees of The Goon Show

The Six Degrees of The Goon Show

This episode takes us all the way across the ocean to England where find a comedy trio that is so absurd and so hilarious that it could only be The Goon Show! Starring Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, and Harry Secombe these three created characters, made their own sound effects, and concocted elaborate stories on their British radio show named after a character on Popeye. The show went on for 10 seasons with many specials and influenced everyone from The Beatles to Monty Python before making its splash on America. Listen in as Dave, Kelly, and Logan tell us all about The Goon Show!

Watch The Last Goon Show Of All HERE

To learn more about The Goon Show be sure to visit The Goon Show Site at http://www.thegoonshow.net/

Listen to the famous Ying Tong Song and be prepared to be entertained HERE



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Logan Rishaw

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Kelly Thewlis

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Tom Megalis

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Dave Schwensen

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Dave Schwensen:
Hi, welcome back to What's So Funny! I'm your host, Dave Schwensen. And today I'm joined by, oh, I was going to say a couple of goons, but I'm not going to say that. We'll bring that up in a little bit. Two of my favorite co-hosts, Kelly Thewlis.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, hello! Hello, Dave.

Dave Schwensen:
Are you there, Kelly?

Kelly Thewlis:
I am. I'm here.

Dave Schwensen:
It sounds like all the way from England or something, it sounds like you're you're calling in. I'm not sure. We'll explore that. And Logan Rishaw.

Logan Rishaw:
Hello Dave.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, my God. You're in the room next to me.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. I've been listening to The Goons all week.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, there you go. We've been kind of hitting around a little bit about who's a goon, who isn't a goon, where are you in England. And well, let's come on. That's the topic of our show today. The Goon Show.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow. The Goon Show.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, this is going to be an interesting one. This is something that I didn't have any background with coming into this.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yup, I had zero.

Dave Schwensen:
I was relying on you, Logan. I don't know ... I was relying on you to carry this one.

Logan Rishaw:
I know comedy. I don't know British comedy as well.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Well, we're going to get into that.

Logan Rishaw:
I know the people they influenced, but we'll get into it.

Dave Schwensen:
We're going to get into that. Because I think this is going to be a fun show today. We are kind of goofing around here about The Goons, but we do know a little bit about them. And that's why we're focusing on them for this entire episode of What's So Funny!

Dave Schwensen:
The Goon Show, which was a huge, big comedy success in England, back in the 1950s. And like Logan, like you said, they went on to influence comedians that we are hearing today. Their influence was so great. So let's get into this, The Goon Show.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. Now this is like a British radio show. Like this isn't a TV show we're talking about.

Dave Schwensen:
Right.

Kelly Thewlis:
Mm-mmm (negative). This is radio.

Dave Schwensen:
It was on-

Logan Rishaw:
Radio plays.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. BBC Radio in England. And it's very interesting how they started. And I do want to get into the background along with their influences. But the main guy, Spike Milligan, I don't know how many of our listeners have heard of Spike Milligan. He's pretty much a legend in the comedy scene in England.

Logan Rishaw:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Schwensen:
But he and another guy who was a member of The Goons, Harry Secombe, were fighting for England in World War II. That's how far back these guys go. They were in the Royal Army, whatever they were. And here's the story. I mean, I don't know how true this is, but everyone swears it's true. Spike was with some kind of artillery company fighting, I think, in North Africa. And he had these great big guns, these big cannons they were shooting off. And he shot off one of the cannons. And the impact of the cannonball, tank, whatever, it knocked the cannon off a cliff.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, my God.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. This big cannon fell off a cliff, landed with a big thud. And there was a guy sitting in a truck underneath this, almost got squashed. Okay. He was sitting there working like with the telegraph or some wireless radio during the war. And his name was Harry Secombe. And he said, "What the heck is that?" And he said before he had a chance to really think about it. The curtain on the back of the truck opened up, Spike Milligan stuck his head in, says, "Anybody here see a cannon?"

Dave Schwensen:
And here, the story's not done. Harry looked at him. And this is brilliant. This is the brilliant comeback of the war right here. Okay. Spike said, "Anyone see a cannon?" Harry turned around, looked at him, says, "I don't know. What color was it?" And these two guys, that was the birth of The Goons.

Logan Rishaw:
Can you believe they won the war?

Dave Schwensen:
Well, yeah, that's what they ... They wound up entertaining some troops as a comedy team. They were doing entertainment and-

Logan Rishaw:
That's amazing. And then later they had another person join them, who people might be a little more familiar with.

Kelly Thewlis:
For sure. I think so.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
They had Peter Sellers join the group.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
And kind of really rounded out everything they were doing.

Kelly Thewlis:
If people aren't familiar with Peter Sellers ... If there are listeners here who aren't familiar with Peter Sellers, that's step one. Just go back and watch his material, his movies, and then take a step backwards.

Dave Schwensen:
He's Inspector Clouseau.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, of course. Take a step backwards and then listen in to The Goons.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes, The Pink Panther.

Kelly Thewlis:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I feel like everyone should know him.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, Peter Sellers now-

Kelly Thewlis:
But this was his start, to your point.

Dave Schwensen:
Peter Sellers was an entertainer his entire life.

Kelly Thewlis:
I didn't know that.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, he started as a child. You know his parents, yes, his parents were theater performers of vaudeville, whatever they would call it in England. And so from the time he was four years old or something, he was on the road, Peter Sellers.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
He was already a comedian and then an actor as a child. And constantly doing this. When Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe came back, were doing their show, and they were just starting to form. They weren't called The Goons yet. They were just a comedy team.

Dave Schwensen:
And one of them, I think Harry was friends with. Or he was performing in a theater where Peter Sellers was also performing. Spike Milligan went to see him. They met Peter Sellers backstage. And the three of them hit it off. It was just like, they had the same sense of humor, this absurdist, surreal, whatever you want to call it. And they just ... They were able to bounce off each other immediately. And that was the beginning of The Goons.

Logan Rishaw:
It's amazing when people find each other like that, too. Because what they were doing was so weird and different. It wasn't the norm for British comedy at the time.

Kelly Thewlis:
Not at all.

Dave Schwensen:
Right.

Kelly Thewlis:
And it is now, if you look back.

Logan Rishaw:
They all kind of ...

Kelly Thewlis:
I was going to say, if you look back now, it's like, that's what you would expect from British comedy. But at the time it was completely revolutionary.

Dave Schwensen:
And these three, along with ... I think there were two other goons in the beginning, Ian Carmichael and Michael Bentine. At one point there were, what would that be? Five goons?

Kelly Thewlis:
Five goons.

Dave Schwensen:
I don't recall the name of the pub where they went. I know I'd read about this before. But they used to go to this pub, I think, on Sunday nights or something. And they would start doing this comedy show. This was the key, too. This is just early 1950s. They had a reel to reel recorder and they started recording all their sets so they could listen back to it. Again, what comics do today. Always record your set, listen back. Where did they laugh, where did they not laugh?

Dave Schwensen:
They were doing this. And someone got a copy of it to the BBC Radio. And they proposed them to do a weekly radio show, comedy show. And yeah, that's how it all started for them. They started on the BBC. I think it was 1951.

Kelly Thewlis:
I had heard that they got their name, The Goons, from a Popeye episode. There was Popeye in Goonland. And they-

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Okay. You guys read that, too? That's how they came up with that name.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, yeah. Yeah. The character is actually called Alice the Goon.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, really?

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. Oh yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, they were like sort of tribal, like Neanderthals.

Dave Schwensen:
Right. And Popeye went to the Goon island and these ... Alice, the goon ... Again, I had to read about this. I don't remember. This is back in the '30s, back in 1940s. But I saw online, I mean, Popeye comic books with Alice the Goon on the cover with Popeye in a headlock and stuff. Yeah. The goon was like eight feet tall. And in the beginning they didn't know if it was a male or female. And they all look the same, all the goons. They had big, hairy arms, big, hairy legs. And that's what they decided to name their comedy troupe after, Alice the Goon.

Kelly Thewlis:
I think that's really interesting, too.

Logan Rishaw:
It's so fitting, though.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. It is. If you listen to ... I mean, if you compare Popeye, that character, with the sort of voices of the characters that they play ... We were joking before we started recording. It's very difficult to understand what they're saying.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. I guess this Alice the Goon in the comic book, they have like the comic book bubble over the character's head with the lines that they're saying, so you can read the comic books. The Goons only spoke in squibbles, if you want to call it that. It didn't make any sense. And so with Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers doing all these crazy voices and Harry Secombe. A lot of it was gibberish.

Logan Rishaw:
Yes.

Dave Schwensen:
They were making up stuff.

Logan Rishaw:
Like there were songs they made that were just gibberish.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh yeah. Oh, yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
And then when you get to the actual show itself, I mean, Milligan's got his like thick Irish accent. So he's tough to hear and he's doing squeaky voices and things like that on top of it. And there's just so much going on that, I mean, I'm not used to listening to like radio plays. It's kind of tough to adapt, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it's really neat.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, that's it. I listened to on how many of their shows. They're half an hour shows. And they did from 1951, I think, to like 1960, maybe. I mean, we're talking hundreds of these weekly shows.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. I think I saw 238 episodes and 12 specials.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Yeah. I started listening to them. And like we said before, even Kelly said, it's like hard to understand. And I got through like three or four or five of them. I still don't know what's going on here. And then it just kind of clicked. And then you're like, "Oh, yeah, I kind of get this now. I can see the humor." And really, by the fifth or sixth one, I was laughing out loud. I'll be honest with you.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. With there being so much there, it was tough to find where to start. What I saw on YouTube was there was a track of them doing Robin Hood. It was like their characters thrown into the Robin Hood scenario.

Logan Rishaw:
And then from there, there was like, "Okay, I have the groundwork. Now I can learn the characters from that." Sort of like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. They always had an ongoing plot. Matter of fact, I think I would compare it ... Oh, no. I had someone once compare them as a soap opera, because there's always a storyline.

Logan Rishaw:
Right.

Dave Schwensen:
And they have the same characters that went into different episodes. Spike Milligan would play a certain character. Peter Sellers would play certain characters. But that's the only thing, as far as how they got their deal, though, with BBC. We're bringing up Peter Sellers. Because again, all comedy fans should know who Peter Sellers is.

Logan Rishaw:
Absolutely.

Dave Schwensen:
Because he has a movie star. He was Oscar nominated. He's just one of the top comedy stars of the 20th century.

Dave Schwensen:
However, when they pitched The Goon Show to BBC, the reason BBC picked it up is because Peter Sellers was part of it. He was already on some other show and they were worried about him going to a rival, like maybe television.

Logan Rishaw:
Right.

Dave Schwensen:
They wanted to hang on to his contract. They signed him with The Goons. And they weren't called The Goons in the beginning, by the way, they were called Crazy People. I don't know how many people realize that. They didn't think the name, The Goons, people would understand what that is and tune in. By the time they finished their first season, we're talking millions were tuning in. This was just a breakthrough. Nobody had done anything like this. This was, I don't know, Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was that kind of impact on the comedy scene in England.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. And it's just, when you hear it, you're going to immediately just be caught up in how wacky it is. And it's all just spitfire talking. It feels frantic, but it's really well done. They're nailing having all these different characters going on. It's just three of them, sometimes four or five, but tons of characters, tons of sound effects. They're just doing it all live.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, that's-

Logan Rishaw:
I think-

Dave Schwensen:
... that's the other thing, too. What they did, the sound effects. They took radio ... There were all kinds of radio shows back then, of course, because they didn't have television. Even the United States, all these radio shows. People listened to them every night, you sat around the radio.

Dave Schwensen:
But what The Goon Show did was so much with special effects. And they made it part of their act. Doors closing and slamming, and telephones and sound effects, explosions. And all this and out of nowhere. It didn't make sense half the time.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
I mean, somebody would open a door and walk out, but they wouldn't really walk out, they'd still be in the scene. Then someone else will show up and slam a door. And it was, if you listen to it, it's just absurd.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. They were like messing with the audience and playing on the fact that you can't actually see what's going on.

Dave Schwensen:
Right. Right.

Kelly Thewlis:
And they said that they would take things just like a step too far. To almost the point of uncomfortableness. Like you'd expect them to stop the audio at some point, but then they would go like a mile extra past that.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. And they made fun of everyone. Nobody was off limits as far as like politicians, even the Royal Family. And the show biz people and celebrities and politics and the police, they made fun of everybody. And the people loved it. The listeners loved it. Because no one was doing anything like that before.

Logan Rishaw:
They really changed British comedy. And you can see it in the people that they influenced, too.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. But it was such a phenomenon. And I want to bring this up, too, because Spike Milligan again, maybe a lot of our listeners haven't heard of him. He is very much a legend in English comedy. He's like the guy, they all say, that really kind of changed. He was like the big bang. Let's put it that way. Because he was the one who wrote most of these scripts. And he played different characters and I think he produced the show, a number of different things.

Dave Schwensen:
But in the middle of the first or second season, he had a complete nervous breakdown, because it was too much pressure. And I think they had to commit him somewhere. And he missed like two months worth of shows. And so they had to bring in a couple other writers to kind of imitate what he was doing and the actors and stuff. Then he came back. Yeah, I think he ...

Dave Schwensen:
The thing is, too, when we talk about how they met during World War II, he was wounded somehow. He had shell shock or he was bipolar. He had all these things happening against him, but he was this brilliant comedy mind. But he had a nervous breakdown a number of times, from what I understand. It was just a lot of pressure. Wow, [crosstalk 00:13:45]

Kelly Thewlis:
I think that's sort of common. That must be sort of common. Because I mean, we've talked about that in the past with writers on these shows. With the Smothers Brothers and how they kind of went down. I mean, it takes a lot to put these kind of shows together. It really does.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. What the BBC had to do, almost like an insurance policy, when Spike Milligan came back, they also had two or three other writers with him. Even though he had the ideas and he was doing the dialogues, they could actually write it down. They were forming the scripts with him. He always co-writers after that.

Logan Rishaw:
Right. I'm sure that takes a lot of pressure off. That definitely helps.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. It's kind of like when I think back on Seinfeld over here, the TV show, Larry David was writing all those episodes in the beginning. And you're just after a while, you're going to get burned out. It's just too much. And the last few seasons he had to drop out and they brought in other writers to do this, other comedians. But yeah, the same thing with The Goons.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. They were the Crazy People in the beginning. And then I think the second year they started calling it The Goon Show, named after Popeye's nemesis, Alice the Goon.

Logan Rishaw:
What I just love is the format, too. We talked about the storyline with it, but it was kind of a variety show, too.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Like there was music, all kinds of things going on. And then what I saw was the first three seasons, they were all just done live to tape. And then after that, they started getting magnetic tape and they could start actually like, still recording in front of a live audience, but ad-libbing and cutting it and editing. And they kind of played with that and changed their format a little bit going on.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. And that's sad, too. I think the first couple of seasons of this are lost forever. They did it live in the studio. And I think that was it. They went out, there's no record. Except maybe some of the scripts they might've had left.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
I think this is an interesting ... Everything kind of comes back. And this was, as we said many times before, this was a radio show. And now here we are on a podcast.

Dave Schwensen:
Hey. [crosstalk 00:15:48].

Kelly Thewlis:
And it's just funny how everything does sort of come back. And I feel like narrative and sort of sketch podcasts are a thing now, too. That you don't see those as much, but they've certainly become popular.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, there's definitely a genre.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And so it's just sort of interesting where it's like, well, that's what The Goons were doing. Just they were doing it on broadcast. Everything comes back.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. And one thing, since you brought that up, Kelly, I want to let our listeners know this, too. If they want to go online, I found this before we started doing our show today. The 50th anniversary of the BBC in England was 1972. And The Goons had stopped performing in 1960. But they came back for a reunion for this 1972 special 50th anniversary of the BBC. And they did one of their shows, a new episode. But you got to see them do it. It was done ... They filmed it, it was done in front of a live audience. They were on stage. And I'm telling you, that just opened my eyes wide to what these guys were doing. Because they were having a blast.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, any video I've seen of them all together, they're just so in sync with each other.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I know. I would love ... I'm going to have to go back and listen to that, really. Because I listened to the album, but I didn't know about the recording of it.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
And I mean, from what I saw, like Logan had said, just some of the clips I had seen of them working together. I mean, they're so high energy and they're really playing off each other and moving around. And yes, I'm sure that's just wild to watch that album.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. And they have their three microphone stands in front of them and it's Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe. If I pronounce that correctly, just the three of the main ones.

Dave Schwensen:
But also, they brought back some of the music guys they had. And I don't know their names. I'm sorry. But like I said, every show had like three acts. And between the first and second act and the second and third act, they would have a musical interlude. And one of them was a classically trained harmonica player. I can't remember his name.

Logan Rishaw:
A what?

Dave Schwensen:
But he is on the video. He comes and they a whole orchestra behind him. He comes on, he plays something on harmonica. It's brilliant. I'm like, this is great. And then in the background, you've got Peter Sellers lurking around and Spike Milligan. They're doing all this crazy ... And they're cracking each other up.

Dave Schwensen:
They're doing their voices, these real squeaky high little voice. And you can see-

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
We do want to talk more about Peter Sellers, I think. You can see a lot of his influences that he did later in these movies. Dr. Strangelove and The Pink Panther with Inspector Clouseau. All these different characters and things. And they weren't exactly politically correct, by the way.

Kelly Thewlis:
No.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. No.

Dave Schwensen:
These guys were in World War II. They made fun of the Nazis and the Japanese and they were making fun of them. It was a big deal. So there's the heil Hitler and all that kind of stuff. But they're cutting them down. I mean, they were upset, that was their life, World War II. So they came out of that World War II. That generation had a whole different style of humor. And it really clicked when The Goons did this.

Kelly Thewlis:
For sure. And it's always really important to note, too, that not only was that their life, but that was everyone's life. Now, when you have people going off to war, it doesn't quite affect the daily lives of us. We have the soldiers right now off in war, but we don't really ... it doesn't affect our daily lives so much.

Logan Rishaw:
Right.

Kelly Thewlis:
Whereas, back then World War II was, yeah, it was everything for everyone.

Logan Rishaw:
It was happening in England.

Kelly Thewlis:
It was, yes.

Dave Schwensen:
In England. Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. It was their life. And so, these sort of jokes, it's not like a distant memory or a history lesson. It was their life.

Dave Schwensen:
Right. I mean, they were getting bombed, London and Liverpool. These places, the Nazis were dropping bombs on them. And it's a whole different thing that I don't think in America, we could understand that.

Kelly Thewlis:
No.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Because, again, we were always isolated over here. But I mean, they do talk about war, but they have different ... the Scottish are invading. The British are invading. There was one line I heard, they said, "Oh, what are we going to do? We're in England. We got them surrounded by water. Oh, my gosh, what are we going to do?" They're just insane. They're out there.

Dave Schwensen:
But yeah, they were such an influence. And when I do watch The Pink Panther with Inspector Clouseau and I see the things Peter Sellers was doing, it's directly out of The Goon Show.

Logan Rishaw:
Oh, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Matter of fact, one thing I remember reading about Peter Sellers, that those Inspector Clouseau movies, The Pink Panther, it wasn't about him. He was not the star, the first one. It was the trophy.

Logan Rishaw:
Right. He just like a supporting character.

Dave Schwensen:
Right. David Niven was supposed to be the next ... It was supposed to be a series. David Niven's going to star as this brilliant jewel thief. And Peter Sellers stole the movie from him. He stole every scene he was in. And it was just doing this goons stuff. His voices, his impressions, his comedy. Oh, yeah. Became a major star.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. There's The Pink Panther movies. And those are all fantastic. And then he was in Dr. Strangelove, which just a whole nother level for him.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Played different characters.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. That was great about him. And all these guys did, they were doing these different characters. And when I do listen to it without watching video, when you listen to it, like on the radio show, you cannot tell who's doing what voice.

Logan Rishaw:
Oh, yeah. You have no idea.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
No idea. And the thing is, it was done again, live. So they were cracking each other up. And I was thinking of, remember the old Carol Burnett variety show with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway?

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Logan Rishaw:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. I mean, they would just try to crack each other up all the time. And they would leave that in the air. And that's what we would all be laughing at. Well, these guys were doing the same thing.

Logan Rishaw:
And that's, yeah, that's probably the best part is when you hear it, you can hear it. But when you watch them, you can just definitely tell they're just having so much fun.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Even when I couldn't understand like the first episode I listened to, I was just like, these guys are having a great time and now I'm having a great time.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. And the thing is, I think they came up with a signal, Spike Milligan or one of them came up with a signal that if he was going to crack up, he would do what they call a raspberry. You know what I'm talking about?

Logan Rishaw:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Like ... like that.

Logan Rishaw:
Right.

Dave Schwensen:
That was a signal that he was cracking up. And next thing you know, they'd all be cracking up, but they're still doing the show. And as a matter of fact ... I've got to look through, I wrote down a note here. Oh, they had a hit song back in 1956, The Ying Tong song. It reached number three on the Hit Parade in England.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
I don't know if you guys listened to this. I listened to it.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah, I listened to it.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. And you know, Logan, it's just all their sound effects, their little squeaky voices with some kind of music thing going in the background.

Logan Rishaw:
Right. It's absolute gibberish.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. And I think they said Spike Milligan or whatever did the solo, the raspberry solo or something. But yeah, it is just gibberish, but it went to number three on the charts. That's how popular they were.

Logan Rishaw:
People love them. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
It's so crazy. I mean, I definitely see their influence. I definitely see why they're important, especially for comedy. But that being said, I really struggled to get into it. I don't know how you guys-

Dave Schwensen:
Well, I'll tell you what. I'll tell you what.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Here's my theory about their influences. We, and I'm talking about the three of us and probably anyone that's listening to us right now, we have all been influenced by the goons. We may not realize it or you may not realize right now, but their style of humor crossed over the Atlantic. And has really affected our comedy scene here.

Dave Schwensen:
And I'll give you the perfect example. Okay. Here we go. Because you guys know I'm the classic rocker.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. I mean, I've written a couple books on the Beatles. I love that. That's my things I do on the side. The Beatles were The Goon Show in a way, as far as their humor went. And here's the connection. The Goons had a hit movie in England. I wrote it down. I think it's called The Running, Jumping, Standing Film. And it's just craziness.

Kelly Thewlis:
Okay.

Logan Rishaw:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Schwensen:
They're running and jumping and they're falling over.

Kelly Thewlis:
And standing.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, standing. And they're doing backwards. Running the film backwards. It was just this real silly film. It was a big hit. And the director was a guy by the name of Richard Lester. Okay. Richard Lester is the guy who directed the Beatles in A Hard Day's Night and Help.

Kelly Thewlis:
Okay.

Logan Rishaw:
Which famously have a lot of running and jumping.

Kelly Thewlis:
And jumping and standing.

Dave Schwensen:
And standing. Yes. There are scenes that they ...

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And the other thing, too, the Beatles' musical producer, George Martin, produced comedy albums by Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, wow.

Dave Schwensen:
That's why the Beatles were so psyched to work with George Martin. Not that he knew anything about pop music. He really didn't. He was making it up as he went along. But he had recorded their favorite comedians. And John Lennon had often said that he started listening to The Goons when he was 12 years old. And they didn't finish with him until he was 16. And he knew that there was other people out there who were insane. That's what made him know that. Other people like him out there.

Dave Schwensen:
If you watch these, go back to these old Beatles movies, watch A Hard Days Night. I'm sorry. It's a comedy film with great music.

Logan Rishaw:
Oh, yeah. No, those are-

Dave Schwensen:
Very influenced by The Goons.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. That's a connection that I'm glad you pointed that out, Dave. Because that's a connection I would not have put together. I mean, I knew the Beatles were inspired by them, just from quotes that I saw. But not the actual connection. I mean, because obviously, Monty Python is like a direct line. Like there it is. But Beatles and The Goons, I didn't quite see. Thank you for pointing that out, Dave.

Dave Schwensen:
There are direct lines in both A Hard Day's Night and Help that they took from The Goons. You're a swine.

Logan Rishaw:
Oh, my gosh.

Dave Schwensen:
There are other things. These are goon lines from their shows. I'd like to bring this up. Because I say how we are still influenced by it, because I mean, of course the Beatles came over here and they were huge in the '60s, right? But they changed everything. What came on TV after them. Excuse me, I'm going to get carried away.

Kelly Thewlis:
Go. Go, Dave, Go.

Logan Rishaw:
Go ahead.

Dave Schwensen:
But when I was watching The Goons, I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, no one's put this together yet?" The Beatles influenced the TV show called The Monkees on NBC.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. The Monkees came out with all this Richard Lester, they were imitating A Hard Day's Night the whole time. Okay. So what came after that? Batman. What came after that? Laugh-In. What came after that? The Smothers Brothers, Steve Martin. This was all, to me, a direct line from The Goons. And then you had The Firesign Theatre, which was a satire comedy group, I think in Los Angeles. And then Monty Python. And the Monty Python shows were aired here in America. Everybody watched those, too.

Kelly Thewlis:
I mean, huge. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. There you go. That's my comedy lesson for today. Thank you very much. It's been wonderful. I'll be here all week.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:26:29]

Kelly Thewlis:
Don't drop your mic. We, as comedians, all know how expensive mics are, but that was a mic drop moment, Dave.

Dave Schwensen:
Thank you very much. I'm very proud of myself. I'm going to have a sip of my iced coffee right now and just relax a little bit.

Kelly Thewlis:
Should we end this season with this? I mean, that was good. Where do we go from that?

Dave Schwensen:
I don't know. It's the way my mind works. I was sitting there watching these guys. I said, "That's it. That's it."

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
I mean, even though we didn't realize. I never heard the ... I mean, we weren't around in the 1950s to listen to The Goon Show.

Kelly Thewlis:
No. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Even though it did air here on NBC, it was ... The Goon Show was aired all around the British Empire, which was much larger in the '50s. You're talking about Africa and India, all these places, Canada. But NBC also aired it in the United States in the '50s. But I never heard this. I only read about The Goons again because of the influences they had on the Beatles and Monty Python and things like that.

Logan Rishaw:
And just think of what the Beatles would be if they weren't so funny and charming.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Logan Rishaw:
That's kind of the biggest part of their appeal after just the music itself. It's just each of them as their own character of a person was ... They were hilarious. They were fun interviews.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Yeah. It was so true. I mean, it was their music, it was their appearance. They didn't look like anyone else. But also when I was writing my two books on the Beatles, when I spoke with the promoters and the people who toured with them and their Beatles insiders, they were a comedy team.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
I've had promoters tell me, "I wish I'd had a tape recorder going in the hotel room where they were staying, because it was hysterical. They didn't stop."

Kelly Thewlis:
That is so crazy.

Dave Schwensen:
And it was all imitating The Goons, they were doing The Goons the whole time.

Kelly Thewlis:
And that's funny, too. Because, I mean, not to go too far away from The Goons, but when I think about comedy bands, I think of the Monkees. Like that's who I always think of.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
It's interesting. I didn't know this side of the Beatles. And I loved the Beatles. That's crazy.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Well, there you go in the ... I was going to say The Monkees were often compared to the Marx Brothers, also. But it was that style of humor with -

Kelly Thewlis:
With The Goons.

Dave Schwensen:
... the speed up the films, slow down the film, run and jump up and down. That all came out of The Goons and Richard Lester, the director. That's what was going on in England back in the 1950s. And it was coming over here in the '60s.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, wow. Well, that's it.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. We got a lot of silence after that one.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow. Okay. Well, now see, now I'm going to have to go back. You've given me homework. I have to go back and re-investigate The Goons. Because like I said, I really had ... And I loved Monty Python growing up. I loved the Beatles. I just didn't draw this line. And so, when I was listening to it, I kind of ... I really had a hard time getting into it. I had a hard time listening to the album, even the documentary. I was like, "Okay. Yeah, I get it. They're important." I hope our audiences are more impressed than I was.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, I watched a documentary on Monty Python. And I can't remember what Michael Palin, I don't know which one, said. They said The Goons was like the big bang. It's every once in a while, again, like I said, it's like Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles. And it changed everything. That's what The Goons did for comedy in the United Kingdom, in England. They said that was the big bang. Because everything before that had been the old vaudeville, "Take my wife, please," kind of jokes, sing and dance.

Dave Schwensen:
These guys came out and were completely absurd. I mean, it's just like ... I mean, one of the favorite things ... I was laughing today, because I watched ... it came out and said, "Hello, sir, what's your name?" And he goes, "Oh, you're starting with the hard questions. Aren't you?" Where did this come from? You know? They do all this stuff. And it's just so absurd.

Dave Schwensen:
But that just changed everything for all of them. And the ones who were hooked, they said they did not miss a show. They didn't miss an episode. And there were replays. They were memorizing everything. And again, you go through these early Beatles movies, they are quoting The Goon Show.

Logan Rishaw:
Well, and like you said, just it being so different, that's important for comedy or any art. But once that comes out and it breaks through and it's absurd, it breaks the format. It's different. Now you've opened the door for anyone who's just kind of nuts to go ahead and put something out there and try it.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Logan Rishaw:
Because they don't have to stick to the old vaudeville format. That's where we get Monty Python, which pretty clear lineage to The Goon Show.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. It's interesting. And I think when I think of British humor, I think of absurdist. It's so crazy that, yeah, this is the sort of starting point of all of this.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. We couldn't have had Monty Python without The Goons first. And they were just such an influence. And they just took it to another extreme.

Kelly Thewlis:
And Eddie Izzard, too. That's a huge-

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. Oh, yeah. Kelly, that's a good one. I'm glad you brought him up. Yeah. Eddie Izzard. He's out there. Absurdist, whatever. But yeah. I mean, that's what every ... You can trace everything back. I mean, The Goons didn't invent comedy. Just like-

Kelly Thewlis:
I don't know.

Logan Rishaw:
They just perfected it.

Kelly Thewlis:
They might've now. I think they might have.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. They might have.

Kelly Thewlis:
I'm really questioning everything after all the lines [inaudible 00:31:35]. I need one of those conspiracy theory boards with all the strings and the lines. "It all goes back to The Goons."

Dave Schwensen:
I mean, to think back in comedy, even the standup comedians, like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, they did not invent standup comedy. They just took it someplace it hadn't gone before. The Goons, like I said, they had the old ... I mean, Peter Sellers was touring the dance hall circuits with his mom and dad doing comedy child stuff in England, in the 1930s. And that's the kind of stuff it was. Then he became a member of The Goons and it just changed it all.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, I'm very impressed with The Goons. And I had been until we started talking about doing this show, I thought, "Oh, my gosh, I've heard of these guys. I've heard of their individual names. I really don't know what they did." So I started listening and like, wow. You know?

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. For me, I love seeing where some of these bigger names started. Seeing Peter Sellers before he was the movie star.

Kelly Thewlis:
Peter Sellers, yeah.

Logan Rishaw:
Like that was crazy. And then all of these guys ended up becoming huge stars.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, yeah. In 1972, that BBC 50 years special, they came out and did a Goon Show live. I think it's Goon Show number ... And they numbered them all. I think it was like number 161. And by the time they were halfway through, I said, "Oh, we're in number 162 by now." And at the end they go, "Hey, welcome to number 163." It was just insane.

Dave Schwensen:
But in the audience, there was the Queen's husband. Who is that? Prince Philip? And Prince Charles' sister.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, wow.

Dave Schwensen:
They were all fans.

Kelly Thewlis:
They were fans.

Dave Schwensen:
And they read this telegram. They read this telegram on stage from Prince Charles that said something just very goon-ish. Like, "My hair turned green and my knees have been evaporated. I'm so full of jealousy that my sister's there for your final show and I'm not. Charles." What?

Dave Schwensen:
And then you got them to sitting in the audience watching. And they said they'd make fun of the Royal Family.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, wow.

Dave Schwensen:
So they said, "Well, we were going to have Queen Elizabeth come out. She couldn't make it. So in her place we brought," and then it's Harry Secombe doing a woman's voice.

Kelly Thewlis:
Of course. Of course.

Dave Schwensen:
Pretending he's your Majesty. And it's just like, "Oh, my gosh. Off with his head."

Kelly Thewlis:
I've got it. I'm with you.

Logan Rishaw:
I got you.

Dave Schwensen:
All right. Anything else we need to talk about with The Goons? I think we got into this.

Kelly Thewlis:
We did.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm very pleased with how much we found out about The Goons.

Kelly Thewlis:
The next time you see me, I'm going to have a Goons tee shirt on. I'm going to have all their merch. You've changed my mind about them today.

Dave Schwensen:
Wow. In other words, Logan, that means she's going to have a tee shirt with yours and my face on it.

Kelly Thewlis:
And Tom, too.

Dave Schwensen:
And Tom.

Logan Rishaw:
Yeah. Can't leave Tom out.

Dave Schwensen:
He was The Goons.

Logan Rishaw:
I will say, unlike a-

Dave Schwensen:
U.S. version of The Goons.

Logan Rishaw:
I will say, unlike a lot of the other people we kind of look at, at this show, there's so much material here that you can dive into if you want to see The Goons. Which is kind of exciting. Because there's hundreds of episodes. Some you won't be able to find, but a lot of them are available to listen to pretty easily.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. And they're just so absurd. I mean, the stuff they come up with, it's like, "Why couldn't I think of that?" Because it's just right in your face. Like, oh, my gosh, that's funny. But they were just churning this stuff out every week, every week. A three act play for a 30-minute radio show every week. And it's just crazy. They were Crazy People. And then they became The Goons. Just like we're crazy people and we became What's So funny!

Dave Schwensen:
All right, listen, I'm going to end this Goon Show right now. I had a blast. Thank you so much, Kelly Thewlis. Thank you.

Kelly Thewlis:
No, thank you. Thank you so much, Dave. Thank you, Logan.

Dave Schwensen:
And yeah, Logan Rishaw, thank you very much.

Logan Rishaw:
Thanks. It was a lot of fun.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. We're all absurdists and crazy people and that's why we're hosting What's So Funny! And anyway, on that note, I'll just tell you I'm Dave Schwensen. And thank you for listening to What's So Funny! We'll see you next time. And until then, keep laughing.

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