A cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs chapter 17 verse 22)

I’m not entirely sure whether I should recommend ‘The Goon Show’ or not. The series was originally broadcast on the radio by the BBC in the 1950s with various repeats over the decades. It is essentially a surreal sort of sketch show with a loose plot involving unlikely characters such as Ned Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle, Henry Crun, Minnie Bannister, Comte Toulouse-Moriarty, Major Bloodnok and Grytpype-Thynne. The show was punctuated by the music of Ray Ellington and Max Geldray to name but two. The stars of the show were Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers all of whom went on to have notable and multi-talented careers in the entertainment world. The show has incredibly silly, school boy / national service humour and many of the jokes of are rather dated to put it mildly. It helps if you remember that World War II and rationing were still fresh in the minds of the audience and first listeners of the show.

However, the point is: I find it funny. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny but mostly smile-at-not-quite-innocent funny but the double entendres are sufficiently obscure that I don’t have any worries about the rest of the family listening in too.

You see, I recently bought a set of CDs of the show to replace the cassette tapes which had warped and stretched beyond use. I had started to listen to them instead of listening to or watching the late evening news. I haven’t given up paying attention to the news (there’s the early evening one if I want) but I was finding watching the 10 pm news was not helping me to sleep at night. Light entertainment (as these shows are) has helped. While there are other comedy shows on TV I’ve found that too many of the jokes rely on shock tactics, swearing and the like rather than on wit – and there is a fine line between biting satire and outright cruelty which too many comedians seem to cross too often for comfort.

The Goon Shows are not consistently funny and sometimes you realise that the 1950s were perhaps not as nice as some people nostalgically claim – there are one or two jokes that would not be out of place in a modern late-night comedy show but they are rare (you could listen to several episodes and not hear one).

Overall I would give four stars but that covers a range from five stars for some and a couple that just about rate two. For the record my favourite episodes are “The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea” and “The Histories of Pliny the Elder” (five stars).