- Spike Milligan The Biography
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2003.
First edition. Hardcover, octavo, (xi, 435pp)., monochrome plates. Minor wear; a few faint scattered spots on text block edges; mild rubbing and wear to dustwrapper edges. Very good to near fine and professionally protected by superior non-adhesive polypropylene film. 'Some years back, Humphrey Carpenter made merry with an account I provided of the Marx brothers, declaring that the Marx brothers "don't need a biography" - comedians should be left to speak for themselves. None more so, one might have thought, than Spike Milligan, who has committed seven volumes of his own reminiscences to print, as well as more than 50 other books. There have also been several previous biographies of Britain's chief Goon and master of misrule, so why another? Well, you can't get enough of a good thing. His appeal is, I am afraid, something of a male thing, though some women did "get it", most prominently, Spike's three wives, who had to balance the days of wit and laughter with the nights, and days, of dread melancholy, depressed silence and a locked door, with occasional telegrams emanating room to room, beseeching: "Please send up some tea." Milligan always fretted at the description of himself as a "tortured genius", but he was certainly tormented, throughout his creative life, by a manic-depressive condition, which took him in and out of treatment, though, as Carpenter attempts to follow the twisted skein, he ruefully concludes that some spells in Gestapo-like asylums might have been made up. Research, in this case, consists of following the paper trail of scripts and BBC arcana, and the oral trail of old mates, male and female, spiced up with an extended talk with mother and son of one of Spike's long-concealed extra-marital affairs. ...He was, in a way, the total comedian, the one who understands how deeply absurd his own endeavours are. As Carpenter writes: "He could make anyone laugh except himself." It was this, I think, that constituted his greatest strength, the fact that he knew no borders in comedy, and spewed out, in his manic moments - and they were as many and prolonged as his depressions - endless screeds of gags, jokes, mad characterisations and impossible plots. Perhaps this also explains the resistance of many women to his humour - do women tend to find the idea that the world is chaos and society full of insane maniacs threatening rather than funny, more so than men?...The American comics had the mighty machine of Hollywood to spread their message. Spike had John Snagge and the crazy guys who made bumps and squeaks with spoons and egg-beaters in BBC basements. But I would still like to see a rerun of the infamous "Q" series: Milligan as "Mrs Rita Goldberg of Golders Green playing a cash register while wearing a large plastic nose"...' - Simon Louvish
Click here to order