Andy Secombe, son of Harry, Watto in Star Wars, Colin the Robot in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, etc, graciously agreed to answer some questions about his father and The Goon Show.
Andy Secombe. Photo: © Charlotte Knee (Knee, 2016)
When did you first become aware that your father was part of the phenomenon that was The Goon Show?
When I was about five years old, my schoolteachers started calling me Neddy Seagoon. I got very confused about this and used to correct them, but they insisted on doing it. When I told Mum about it, she explained 'it's something that Daddy does'. Intrigued now, I wanted to see what Daddy did - and so it was one Sunday, sometime in the late fifties, I was taken to see Daddy at work. I think it was at the Camden Theatre (now Koko) and on stage was my father, flanked by Spike and Peter, being silly; blowing raspberries, giggling and generally making a fool of himself. I think it was at that moment I decided to follow my father into show business - if you could make a living out of having that much fun, I wanted in.
What impact did this and your father's fame have on your childhood?
I suppose, apart from the Caribbean holidays, meeting famous people and counting the Palladium as a second home, I had a fairly normal childhood. My school chums treated me like anyone else, if anything it was the teachers who were the problem, making assumptions about my home life as a 'pampered brat'. But nothing could have been further from the truth. We were always taught to be polite, work hard and never take anything for granted. I suppose the main drawback was that Dad belonged to the world - trying to go out for a quiet meal was almost impossible - everyone would want a piece of him.
Your father was a fireball of energy and wit on stage. Was he like this off stage?
He was very funny, but the 'fireball' was his on-stage persona - he wouldn't have lived very long if he'd been like that off-stage. When he was working, he would conserve his energy, sleep late and read - he was a voracious reader, he'd read the sauce bottles on the table if there was nothing else. When he wasn't 'on' he was fairly relaxed.
Were the Goons close friends off stage?
Yes - they never saw as much of each other as they would have liked because of outside work commitments. Peter and Spike lived quite near each other in North London, but Dad lived in Cheam - South London, so improptu get-togethers were out of the question.
Did you see much of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine around that time?
Not really. We'd rarely get a glimpse of Peter, but Spike we would see occasionally, while Michael lived in Esher - not too far away from us and would occasionally drop around for tea.
More than fifty years after it finished, people are still enjoying The Goon Show.
I see a thread of Goon Show influence running from Monty Python right through to South Park.
Why, in your opinion, is the show still so popular?
It's wonderfully innocent. It doesn't have the hard-edged cynicism of later comedy programmes and it also has a lot of heart: Eccles and Bluebottle have a really tender relationship. But above all it's funny. The surreal mind-pictures Spike drew still have me laughing now, and believe me I've heard just about every show a hundred times.
John Glover, Jeffrey Holland, Andy Secombe and producer Dirk Maggs in Goon Again, The Goon Show reenacted in for the BBC in 2001. Photo: © Brian Ritchie (Ritchie, 2001)
What was it like to take your father's role in the wonderful Goon Again?
I didn't want to do it at first - I said no. But when I told Dad about it, he almost ordered me to do it - 'It was the best fun I ever had,' he said. ‘Going in to work with the lads on a Sunday and reading those brilliant scripts for the first time was a joy. Do it - you'll have a ball.' He was right. I did.
How did Goon Again come about?
I got a phone call out of the blue from Dirk Maggs - Dutch, drum-playing radio producer - asking me if I wanted to play my Dad in a 'cardboard replica Goon Show.' As I've already said, at first I said no, but I went to see my Dad - he was in hospital at the time, suffering from cancer and the after-effects of a stroke - and he said I had to do it. 'Other men have businesses they can pass on to their children. All I've got is this - think of it as "taking over the family business"'.
Will there be any more episodes Goon Again?
Watch this space… if I say any more I would have to kill you and your entire readership.
Interview conducted by Brin Coleman via email.
Knee, Charlotte, 2016. Andy Secombe portrait. [photo] Available at: http://www.unitedagents.co.uk/andy-secombe
Ritchie, Brian, 2001. Goon Again: Brandy & Milk. [photo] Available at: http://www.dswilliams.co.uk/dirk%20maggs/Goon%20show%2050th%20anniversary%20dirk%20maggs.htm