Spike Milligan

Active - 1951 - 2020  |   Born - Apr 16, 1918 in Ahmednagar, Bombay Presidency, British India  |   Died - Feb 27, 2002   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of a highly mobile British military officer, actor/comedian/director/playwright Spike Milligan was born in India and raised throughout the "colonies" of the Far East. Milligan's earliest recorded stage appearance was in a grade-school production of The Nativity. His career proper began in 1936, when he hit the cabaret and music-hall circuit as a comic/musician. In 1950, Milligan launched the nonsensical BBC radio series Crazy People, which would evolve into the legendary Goon Shows. He appeared with fellow Goons Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe in such diverting film fare as Down Among the Z Men (1952) and The Case of the Mukkinese Battlehorn (1956). Equally balmy have been Milligan's stage shows and novels, many of which (The Bed Sitting Room, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall etc.) have been translated to the Big Screen. British telly viewers are familiar with Milligan's multitude of calculatedly short-lived comedy series, bearing such monikers as A Show Called Fred and Q5; Americans were treated to a tantalizingly brief sample of the Milligan insanity when he appeared on the 1970 summer-replacement series The Marty Feldman Comedy Series. Generally cast as a petty crook or ineffectual authority figure, Milligan has essayed dotty supporting roles in several all-star films, notably The Three Musketeers (1973), Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977), History of the World Part One (1981), and Yellowbeard (1983). He has also penned several children's books, bearing such titles as The Bald Twit Lion. With all this to his credit, it's little wonder that Spike Milligan once listed "sleeping" as his favorite pastime.

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  • Despite serving in the British Army for 6 years, he was never given British citizenship because he was born in India and refused to swear the Oath of Allegiance; he instead became an Irish citizen. 
  • While doing his military service he wrote and performed comedy sketches as part of concerts to entertain troops.
  • Was injured by a mortar in 1940 and suffered from shell shock.
  • As a staunch environmentalist, he attacked an art exhibition that was going to electrocute fish in 1971.
  • Was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1992.
  • Was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Comedy Awards in 1994.
  • Was made an honorary Knight of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 2000.
  • Wanted to have "I told you I was ill" on his gravestone but the local diocese would not allow it, so he had the Irish translation of it instead.