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Radio / The Goon Show

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The Goons. Clockwise from top: Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan.

Bluebottle: It's writted on this bit of paper, what is eight o'clock, is writted.
Eccles: I know that, my good fellow. That's right. When I asked the fella to write it down, it was eight o'clock.
Bluebottle: Well then, supposing when somebody asks you the time, it isn't eight o'clock?
Eccles: Then I don't show it to them.
Bluebottle: Well how do you know when it's eight o'clock?
Eccles: I've got it written down on a piece of paper!
— "The Mysterious Punch-up-the-Conker"

BBC Radio comedy show starring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan (who was also the main writer), and Harry Secombe, which ran from 1951 to 1960. A special, "The Last Goon Show of All", followed in 1972. The Goons also released numerous comic songs independent of the BBC. The most famous was "The Ying Tong Song", successfully re-released in the 1970s; the last time the trio worked together was on a 'comeback' single, "The Raspberry Song"/"Rhymes", in 1978.

The first series was titled "Crazy People - with Radio's Own Crazy Gang: The Goons". Michael Bentine is credited with being a co-inventor of the concept and in fact was a full Goon for the first two series, but left after artistic and personal differences with Milligan. According to one interview, Milligan overheard Bentine suggesting that he (Milligan) should be fired.

Beginning as a sketch comedy series, the show accumulated a cast of recurring characters and evolved into a surreal, continuity-free sitcom, with each episode dropping the characters into a different place, time, and situation, and leaving them to react to it in their characteristic fashion.

The plots, such as they were, often revolved around well-meaning fool Neddie Seagoon (Secombe) becoming the target of some plot by impoverished conmen Hercules Grytpype-Thynne and Count Jim "Knees" Moriarty (Sellers and Milligan respectively) Grytpype's influence drags Moriarty down from the competent schemer of series 5 to the cringing dustbin-dweller of series 9. Other major characters included Dirty Coward Major Bloodnok (Sellers), the aged Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister (Sellers and Milligan), happy-go-lucky Chew Toy boy adventurer Bluebottle (Sellers), and The Famous Eccles, the world's biggest idiot (Milligan).

Wallace Greenslade acted as the announcer (Andrew Timothy in the earlier series), but was often roped into the story, while Ray Ellington (jazz singer) and Max Geldray (harmonica) provided musical interludes. They also were called on occasionally to play small parts - often parts for which their voices were highly inappropriate. The Ellington Quartet's trombonist George Chisholm occasionally played mad Scotsmen.

The scripts were mostly written by Spike Milligan, with various persons note  helping him. During Milligan's absence while hospitalised, Dick Emery voiced his parts. A few episodes were written by these helpers while Milligan was unavailable. Considerable ad-libbing occurred, though much that seemed like ad-libbing was carefully scripted, and lampshades were regularly hung.

The show had several guests over the years, most often Valentine Dyall, "the Man in Black", who played various similar but distinct roles.

The Goon Show's style of humour was an influence on many later British comedians, notably Monty Python and The Goodies, and even The Beatles' humorous side has roots in this show. (John Lennon specifically credited the Goons as an influence.) It's fair to say that if you like any subsequent British comedy at all, somewhere along the line you have The Goon Show to thank. The Firesign Theater was also deeply influenced by the Goons. Of all things, Shrek mentions "Bloodnock the Flatulent" as one of ogre gods.

Not to be confused with The Goon, a comic series about a muscle-bound mob enforcer who fights monsters; nor with Alice the Goon or her relatives in Thimble Theater; nor should it be confused with any shows that happen to be made by goons, or The Gong Show, or The Goonies, or Go On, or Goon (2011).

This is the BBC Trope Service. (GRAMS: PENNY IN MUG) Thank you!

  • Abnormal Ammo: Frequently. Various episodes make use of hens, porridge, soup, Christmas puddings, and Sassenachs.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: In "The Whistling Spy Enigma", Henry Crun's front door is locked and the key is lost. But as long as you don't remember that it's locked, you can open it just fine.
  • Affectionate Parody: Among the stories that could qualify as this are "Shangri-La Again" (Lost Horizon), "1985" (Nineteen Eighty-Four), "The Scarlet Capsule" (Quatermass and the Pit), "The African Incident" (The Bridge on the River Kwai), "The Man who Never Was" (The Man Who Never Was), "The Fear of Wages" (The Wages of Fear), "Dishonoured" and "Dishonoured Again" (Dishonored), "Under Two Floorboards" (not Under Two Flags — actually it's their version of Beau Geste), "King Solomon's Mines" (King Solomon's Mines), "Six Charlies in Search of an Author" (Six Characters in Search of an Author) and the various takes on Robin Hood done as Christmas episodes.
  • Alternate Catchphrase Inflection: In The White Box of Great Bardfield, Seagoon is chained up and going through a series of increasingly unlikely contortions in order to escape. Grytpype, watching, delivers his usual catchphrase ("You silly twisted boy") but with an atypical emphasis on "twisted".
  • Ambiguous Syntax: In Six Charlies in Search of an Author, Seagoon is reading the instructions on a book of matches:
    Seagoon: "To ignite match, detatch it and strike sharply against bottom". [match struck] Oooh!
    • Deliberately averted in one episode involving the old "When I nod my head, you hit it" gag.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: In "The Dreaded Batter-Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea":
    Seagoon: I tell you, Major Bloodnok, I must ask you to parade your men.
    Bloodnok: Why?
    Seagoon: I'm looking for a criminal.
    Bloodnok: You find your own, it took me years to get this lot!
  • As You Know: Parodied in "The Macreekie Rising of '74":
    Bloodnok: Everybody knows the legend that if the ravens leave the tower, the tower will surely fall!
    Seagoon: If everybody knows, what did you say it for?
    Bloodnok: For me, I'd never heard of it, you see?
  • Aside Comment: Frequently made, which the characters mostly just treated as normal dialogue anyway.
    Seagoon: Little does he know that I heard him say that...
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Early on in "Scradje", Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty turn up to the British Medical Council and (after an incomprehensible sob story from Moriarty) start collecting money. After they (and Max Geldray) are finished...
    Seagoon: You didn't say what this collection was for.
    Grytpype: Money.
  • Audience Murmurs: Parodied. Crowd sounds would be made by the cast saying "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, custard."
    • Scottish crowds were identifiable by the characteristic cry of "McRhubarb, McRhubarb, McCustard, McRhubarb." With occasional mutterings about porridge.
  • Back for the Finale: For "The Last Goon Show Of All", Andrew Timothy, the show's original announcer, returned to the role.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Quite often, considering that most of the time Seagoon isn't savvy enough to mentally outwit Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.
  • Badass Boast: Well, Seagoon tries.
    Seagoon: Have a care, sir. I'm not a man to be laughed at.
    Grytpype: I know, I've seen your act.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Being on radio, it was especially easy to use this trope:
    Lo-Hing Ding: [Unintelligible Chinese-sounding rantings]
    Secombe: Inspector?
    Inspector: Yes?
    Secombe: This man is Chinese.
    Inspector: How do you know?
    Secombe: You can tell by his eyes.
    Inspector: His eyes?
    Secombe: Yes. Didn’t you hear the way he pronounced them?
  • Baldness Angst: The Phantom Head Shaver of Brighton leaves a trail of it in his wake.
    Seagoon: Look in this mirror.
    Bluebottle: Nooooooo, you rotten swine you - I've been balded - you've ruined my Tony Curtis type haircut! I told you I didn't like this rotten game!
  • Banana Republic: Literally, in The Affair of the Lone Banana and again in Foiled by President Fred.
  • Bathos: Willium usually delivers the deflation.
    • In "The Gold Plate Robbery", Seagoon is in Marrakesh:
    Seagoon: My information led me to a coffee-house, just off the main caravan route, where outside the sun purged the streets of shade. Inside, all was cool and jasmined. In an Alhambran tesselated forecourt, a fountain played on the purple water-lilies. Couched in lattice recesses, purdahed Tuareg beauties attended local sheiks. I was conducted to a low Moroccan coffee-table. My attendant wore the bleached robes of a nomad Arab. His burnoose was contained with a rope of black camel hair, at his waist a curved Hedjaz dagger protruded from his cummerbund. He bowed low, touched his forehead in time-honoured Islamic salute, and spoke.
    Willium: The boiled fish and rice puddin's orf, mate.
    • In "The Fear of Wages":
    Seagoon: Gad, what a day this has been! A triumph for British arms! Now I must inform the War Office that after 14 years of fighting, the Japanese army in that tree has finally surrendered! [Telephone dialling. "Land of Hope and Glory" plays, under:] Dial on, brave telephone! Send those triumphant, electric-type pulses athwart the sleeping continent to the automatic-type exchanges in London and list... [Ringing tone] Even now sounds the tintinnabulation of the phone bell that will arouse the helmsmen of England to whom I carry the victorious news!
    Willium: Battersea Dogs' Home, mate.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In "The Giant Bombardon", Webster Smogpule begins to sing "Let Me Like a Soldier Fall" and is promptly shot.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Everywhere. For example, when Bluebottle has turned out to have been impersonating Wallace Greenslade after complicated events that made no sense:
    Bluebottle: I was using his large-type front and posh-type talking act to work my way to a position of importance in the BBC!
    Seagoon: Silly lad! There are no positions of importance in the BBC.
    • "1985", their parody of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, is wall-to-wall this. Britain is ruled by the despotic tyranny of the BBC, and 846 Winston Seagoon is tortured by being forced to listen to BBC Radio soap operas. In the end, the Independent Television Army takes over (a Take That! to the Independent Television Authority, which had been created to supervise the development of commercial TV in Britain)...and promptly starts broadcasting exactly the same shows, to Winston's horror.
    • It's great to be alive in 1985!
    • The show often lampshaded how chronically hard-up for cash the BBC was, starting one episode with: "This is the BBC." (sound of coin clanking in collection bucket) "Thank-you!"
    • In "The Missing Scroll":
    Grytpype: The director of the BBC Home Service is looking for new ideas.
    Seagoon: How about suicide?
  • Bomb Whistle:
    • Whenever Seagoon states his name in The Dreaded Lurgi.
    • Near the end of the Ying-Tong Song. (Followed by Helium Speech.)
    • The Sahara Desert Statue involves a nuclear weapon test in the Sahara. The sound of the bomb dropping is obvious to the audience, if not those standing at ground zero.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Usually used in conjunction Overly Long Gag and Comically Missing the Point. Fairly often joke would be told by one cast member, then the script would move on, only for the first character (usually Eccles) to be still giggling at the joke told five minutes previously.
    • In "The Telephone":
      Bluebottle (after much buildup and encouragement from Eccles): Why did the chicken.... cross the road?
      Eccles: (Comically Missing the Point) (giggles) Oh, you naughty boy (carries on giggling) you naughty fellow. It's a good job for you I'm a man of the world.
      Bluebottle: No, no, no Eccles, that was not the end. It finishes up 'to get to the other side'.
      Eccles: No no no Bottle, that's not as funny as the first one. Oh dear oh dear, that was funny Bottle. Funny funny, why did the chicken (giggles).
      Bluebottle: No no, you do not appreciate my modern style back of matchbox type joking.
      Script moves on as Bluebottle finds a crocodile crawling up his leg, then both characters go to sleep
      SFX: [Snoring]
      Eccles: (slow giggling to crescendo) Why did the chicken cross the road? (dissolves into proper laughter) Oh dear dear, oh dear, that's real stag funny stuff Bottle. You're man of the world Bottle.
    • In "The Curse of Frankenstein" we have the And/Or title 'My Heart is in the Highlands and my Feet are in Bombay' or 'I Was the Victim of a Terrible Explosion'. Later on in the episode a character comments that their heart is in Bombay and their feet are in the Highlands. Another character then responds 'So you too have been a victim of a Terrible Explosion!'
    • In a segment replacing Ray Ellington's usual slot in The Tuscan Salami Scandal (as he was participating in strike action), Secombe runs a faux radio request show, with one of the requests being a soldier asking for a record of his sergeant falling down a manhole. Several minutes later, Bluebottle falls down it because nobody put the cover back on.
  • Bringing Running Shoes to a Car Chase:
    • In "The Missing Number Ten Downing Street":
      Eccles: Inspector? I think I'm on to something. I’ve been tailing a car up der Great North Road for the last 30 miles, and it looks very suspicious.
      Seagoon: Overtake him at once!
      Eccles: But he’s doin’ a hundred miles an hour.
      Seagoon: Well, try and pass him.
      Eccles: Well, I’ll try, but he’s got the advantage over me.
      Seagoon: Why?
      Eccles: He’s in a car, I’m walkin’.
    • In "Ill Met By Goonlight":
      First Nazi: Ach Himmel! He's running alongside the car. Faster driver!
      Driver: Jawohl!
      Second Nazi: Gerblunden, he's still keeping up with us! Faster driver, faster.
      Driver: Jawohl!
      First Nazi: Great gerblunden, he's still alongside, and we're doing hundred miles an hour.
      Second Nazi: Lower the window. [Window lowered] Look, go away you, stop running after us.
      Eccles: I can't! I got my coat caught in the door!
  • British Brevity: Averted. Most series ran for six months.
  • Broken Echo:
    • In "World War One":
      Seagoon: Hello!
      Echo: Hello!
      Seagoon: Ahh, an echo!
      Echo: Ahh, an echo!
      Seagoon: Mi mi mi mi mi.
      Echo: Mi mi mi mi mi.
      Seagoon: Holla-loo!
      Echo: Holla-loo!
      Seagoon: I'm an idiot!
      Echo: You certainly are!
    • In "The Great Bank of England Robbery", Eccles gets in an argument with his echo, thinking it's a real person mocking him — "Who's that?" "Who's that?" "I'm Eccles." "I'm Eccles." "You can't be, I'm Eccles." and so on — even though it's just repeating what he says... until the end of the bit, when this happens:
      Eccles: Now then I've got to find Mr. Seagoon.
      Echo: Needing me anymore?
      Eccles: No!
      Echo: OK, goodbye!
  • The Bus Came Back: An American character, Captain Slokum (voiced by Sellers), frequently appeared in the early series, but then disappeared for several years before returning for a prominent role in "The Call of the West".
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": In "The Spon Plague", there's a running gag of characters saying a word, and following it with "pronounced" and then the word again in a silly voice. Until Grytpype asks a taxi driver for the fare, and gets the reply: "That's four and six, pronounced — ten bob."
  • Call-Back: There were several, especially when the cast ad-libbed. A notable example was in the episode immediately following "The Mysterious Punch up the Conker", when Seagoon made a ridiculous and long-winded joke, culminating in some awful singing, and Grytpype remarked "You'll get a punch up the conk for this."
  • Catchphrase: Tons (the main characters' are on the character sheet):
    • Jim Spriggs: "Hello Jim", and variants on the latter phrase as well as others wherein they would be repeated in a high-pitched singing voice, e.g. "Hello Jim! HEEEELLOOO JIIIM!"
    • Little Jim: "He's fallen in the water!" — which is almost the only thing he ever says.
    • Willium: "You can't park there, mate!"
    • "Ying tong iddle i po" and "Needle nardle noo", all-purpose catchphrases (most often Neddie's). "It's all in the mind, you know" was also used by everyone, most commonly Grytpype-Thynne. "I don't wish to know that" was also commonly used after someone gave a particularly bad or dirty pun.
    • Wallace Greenslade (usually about Seagoon): "He's very good, you know. Very good."
    • Milligan was known to comment that a catch phrase was simply a meaningless remark repeated until people were brainwashed into laughing at it.
  • Charge-into-Combat Cut: In the episode "Dishonoured" (remade as "Dishonoured Again") Neddie Seagoon goes off to fight, and we only learn what happens next from Bloodnok's narration.
    Bloodnok: How that battle raged - I watched it all on television, you know. Seagoon fought like a madman - how else? But alas... On that spot is now a little white stone. Once a year Min lays flowers on it. The stone bears a simple inscription in Hindi - I haven't the heart to tell her that roughly translated it says, "Bombay 49 miles".
  • Chinese Launderer: Seagoon poses as one in "The Macreekie Rising of '74".
  • Christmas Episode: Several specials. In the last season an episode spoofed A Christmas Carol.
  • Cliffhanger: "The Affair of the Lone Banana" sends up the sort of urgently narrated cliffhanger common in shows like Dick Barton - Special Agent:
    Greenslade: Will Seagoon get out in time?
    Greenslade: Oh, hard luck. Still, he tried.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Most characters veer into this, Eccles and Bluebottle especially.
  • Color Blind Confusion: In the episode "Foiled by President Fred", Eccles has a red sack of forged money and a blue sack of genuine money. Or maybe it's the other way around. Thanks to his colour blindness, he isn't able to tell which sack is which colour anyway...
  • Comically Small Bribe: Multiple variations, including successful attempts to bribe people with photographs of money.
    Seagoon: Wait...this five pound note in the's a forgery!
    • And Bluebottle would do nearly anything for a quarter-pound bag of sweets, though that's not wildly implausible for somebody his apparent age. Then again, when you hear what he wants to do with the sweets...
    Moriarty: Get Seagoon out of that laboratory, and a fortune in sherbet suckers ... is yours.
    Bluebottle: Ohh, ecstasy! For two sherbet suckers, Freda Niggs is mine tonight!
    • Hyperbole-level poverty was a running gag through the whole series. (After all, it was Britain in The '50s). For example, the day after a battleship steamed up the river Thames and announced via megaphone in the middle of London, "Hands Up, England!"...
    Alderman Spriggs: All in all, gentlemen, the thieves made off with England's entire cash assets of three pounds, eleven and sixpence!
    • And when John Snagge learns that Wallace Greenslade has been hired away from the BBC for a wage of five pounds a year:
    Snagge: Five pounds? There isn't that much!
  • Creepy Mortician: Gravely Headstone.
  • Crossover: Colonel Chinstrap from It's That Man Again appeared in two episodes. There was also an episode called "Archie in Goonland", a crossover with the series Educating Archie, which is not known to exist.
  • Cutaway Gag: In "The Case of the Missing CD Plates":
    Greenslade: Meanwhile, in a teahouse in Saigon:
    (Brief interlude of cabaret music and incomprehensible singing)
    Greenslade: We just thought you'd be interested. We return you now to our story.
  • Cutting Back to Reality: "Forog" is a spoof Paranoid Thriller in which Neddie Seagoon plays the role of a scientist who believes he is being threatened by agents of a conspiracy that wants to suppress his latest discovery. Scenes in which he interacts with the conspirators (and the scene at the end in which he defeats them to cheers from a gathered crowd) end with an auditory equivalent to this trope, such as a sudden change in the background noise (in the last scene, the cheers abruptly cut off) and his assistant Eccles remarking to the audience, "I don't want to worry Neddie, but I can't see who he keeps talking to..."
  • Darkest Africa: Spoofed; quite a few episodes are set here and the conceit of the noble British colonial fighter is mocked with Major Bloodnok.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Greenslade Story, for two people. Wallace Greenslade the announcer gets this entire episode about him, and his rise to fame and fortune, while veteran newsreader John Snagge steps into the Goons studio for the first time to be the viewpoint character, playing himself. (His earlier cameos were pre-recorded)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rule of Funny being the only rule in the Goon Show, anyone could be this:
    Bloodnok: So, both of you have turned cowards, eh. That only leaves me. Two cowards, and me. You know what this means?
    Seagoon: Three cowards.
  • Demoted to Extra: Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty tend to get this for any episode where there's a guest star playing a unique villain instead.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Seagoon once conducted an investigation in Bexhill-on-Sea disguised as "a human man".
  • Depending on the Writer: Spike Milligan's mental health problems meant that he was sometimes unable to deliver scripts on time, so other writers would substitute for him, especially veteran comedy writer/performer Eric Sykes. Sykes' Goon Show scripts were in his attempt at Milligan's style, but not quite, because Sykes had his own voice as a writer. They're generally regarded as lacking the unique insanity of Milligan's scripts, but possibly more coherent and better as storytelling.
  • Deteriorates Into Gibberish: Frequently used.
    • For example, in "The Call of the West":
      Greenslade: It is 1867 and dead on time. The harbour of Boston is a hive of inactivity, as English immigrants bring their shattered bank accounts to the New World. Alongside is the Good Ship Venus: The pling plang toof, nobitty nibbitty noo, pleta omnivorous plethora, pletty plom plom tartity to to tooee, fit plor tong tang tit putt putt...
    • Multiple times in succession in "The Great Spon Plague":
      Moriarty: You mean [long string of gibberish]?
      Grytpype-Thynne: You have it in a nutshell.
      Moriarty: But how do you know people are going to start catching the Spon Plague, Grytpype?
      Grytpype-Thynne: Just leave that to me. I have certain arglers on the [more gibberish]...
      Greenslade: And on that beautifully enunicated rubbish...
  • Diplomatic Impunity: The steamroller and falling piano with diplomatic plates.
  • The Ditz: Eccles. Oh, so very much.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: "The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal" was recorded during a musicians' strike, so Greenslade sings the opening bars of the theme tune himself before reading the credits. After the credits, Sellers sings "We're Riding Along on the Crest of a Wave" to conclude the show.
  • Do Not Attempt:
    Greenslade: Ladies and gentlemen: The feat now being performed is extremely dangerous and should only be done on radio by experienced idiots.
  • Double Entendre:
    Seagoon: I just read your offer in the paper about the Marie Celeste.
    Grytpype: Little matelot! That was inserted in 1910, 44 years ago.
    Seagoon: My paper man has a big round.
    Grytpype: Your paper man has a big round what?
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Subverted in "King Solomon's Mines". Lord Seagoon, having lost all his money playing cards, takes the only honorable way out... the tradesman's entrance.
    • Technically subverted in "The Collapse of the British Railways Sandwich System", since it's Bluebottle only reading aloud his stage directions to shoot himself (several times, in various parts of the body) before leaving to draw his danger money.
    • In "The Secret Escritoire", Bloodnok runs into trouble with a Malayan customs officer after the officer finds Eccles in Bloodnok's case, and is told to pay the idiot's tax - $20 alive or $3 dead. Bloodnok hands Eccles a pistol and tells him to do the decent thing. Eccles takes it, quietly says goodbye... and shoots the customs officer.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: Invoked by Seagoon in "Six Charlies in Search of an Author":
    Seagoon: [typing] "Moriarty's finger squeezed the trigger, but there was only a hollow -"
    Grams: clank
    Moriarty: Sapristi! He's written in an empty gun for me!
  • Drop the Cow: One episode ("The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler") ended with the heroes on a raft, faced with a difficult decision - they could either eat some batter pudding and live, or preserve the pudding as evidence and die in the cause of justice. The Lemony Narrator then asked listeners to write in with the "classic ending" they wished to hear.
    • Suggestions to be written on a piece of batter pudding.
    • Talk about your lemony endings...
    Narrator: For you cretins who insist on a happy ending, here it is.
    (sappy violin music)
    Grytpype: Darling — darling, will you marry me?
    Bloodnok: Of course I will, darling!
    Narrator: Good night!
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The early series of The Goon Show had four people (the regular three plus Michael Bentine), and were written as multiple short sketches. Later, the show's typical structure crystallised: the Goons, as themselves, would give a rambling introduction, then the announcer would provide a transition into a single, extended (if often barely coherent) narrative, featuring a Universal-Adaptor Cast of madmen with Negative Continuity.
  • Either/Or Title: Many examples. The Goons mocked this trope mercilessly:
    • "The Greatest Mountain In The World!, Or: I Knew Fred Crute, Or: The Greatest Mountain In The World!"
    • "Round the World in 80 Days, or: Money Refunded". In this particular case, the announcement preceded a short violin solo after which Milligan, as Little Jim, could be heard doling out cash with a charitable "There's Money For You, There's Money For You!"
    • "The Fireball of Milton Street", or "What's become of that crispy bacon we had before the war, ey?"
    • "The Search for Rommel's Treasure, or..." (dramatic fanfare, lasting nearly 30 seconds) "...I've forgotten what I was going to say now."
    • The episode "The Curse of Frankenstein" was given two possible titles in the episode itself: "'My Heart's in the Highlands but My Feet Are in Bombay', or 'I Was the Victim of a Terrible Explosion'."
    • "Le Salarie de la peur, or "The Wages of Fear", or in English "The Fear of Wages".
    • One of the earliest episodes took this trope too far...
      Secombe: "The Collapse of the British Rail Sandwich System", or...
      Milligan: "I was General Woolfe's Chiropodist, by John Bunion", or...
      Secombe: "The Collapse of General Woolfe's Saxophone System on the Manitoba Sandwich Railway", or...
      SFX: Incomprehensible noises
      Milligan: ..."We Shall See".
    • '"The Giant Bombardon" or, "The Giant Bombardon", or...'
  • Evil Laugh: Valentine Dyall's gets a good work-out in "The Canal".
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: Some episodes, due to Negative Continuity, have endings where most, if not all of the characters die. If they don't all die, there's a chance Bluebottle is a survivor, as a reversal of the usual Once an Episode gag.
  • Exact Words: In "Napoleon's Piano" Grytpype-Thynne successfully cons people into signing a contract to move a piano from one room to another, before informing them that the piano is in the Louvre.
  • The '50s: The episodes set in the 'present day', as well as the general cultural references. Despite its surreal nature the show is a good introduction to British attitudes in The '50s, such as constant references to the government being broke and nostalgia about glory days (parodied with Bloodnok). There are also some jokes which require a little period knowledge to get, such as:
    Grytpype-Thynne: I've been in touch with one of the French governments...
  • Fantastic Drug: A common Running Gag was "Would you care for a picture of Queen Victoria?" "No thanks, I'm trying to give them up!"
  • Flamboyant Gay: Minor gag character Flowerdew.
  • Flock of Wolves: In "The White Neddie Trade", Seagoon mentions in an aside that he's a secret agent from Interpol, trying to infiltrate an illicit smuggling ring. The show ends with every other character revealing that they, too, are secret agents from Interpol.
  • Friendly Fire: In "The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea", Seagoon and Crun are fired upon by Nazi artillery across the Channel when they light a match, so Crun has the idea to light a German match ("Brilliant! They won't fire on their own matches!")...only for them to be fired upon by the British artillery.
    • The same episode contains the immortal line:
  • Funny Foreigner: In particular minor characters Mr. Banerjee and Mr. Lalkaka (Indians), Eidelberger (German — although in "The Great Bank Robbery" he denied it on the grounds that no self-respecting German would have such an atrocious phony accent), Yakamoto (Japanese), Lieutenant Hernhern (American, usually shows up in World War II stories) and others.
  • Genre Savvy: Bluebottle knows that his role is to be introduced at a later point in an episode and leave it by being deaded, usually by an explosion, so in some episodes he starts taking steps to ensure his own survival. In "Under Two Floorboards", he exploits Grytpype-Thynne's plot by staying home while everybody else (and the story) is elsewhere. It doesn't help, and eventually he's resigned to pulling the pin on a grenade that Eccles has just handed him because he knows it's his role.
    Bluebottle: Oh well. I had a good long run this week. Stands to one side and pulls pin out.
    • Then he survives anyway by landing on top of Greenslade.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The occasional appearance from bit-part soldier character Hugh Jampton.Explanation
  • Gilligan Cut: In "The Affair of the Lone Banana":
    Seagoon: Very well, I'll go ahead myself - they'll never recognise me. I'll disguise myself as a Mexican peon!
    Greenslade: The Affair of the Lone Banana Tree, Chapter Five.
    Moriarty: Señor, we found this idiot hiding in a dustbin, disguised as a Mexican peon.
  • Glad I Thought of It:
    • Seagoon in "The Greatest Mountain in the World" when he denounces the idea of building their own mountain as ridiculous, chucks the unlucky suggester out of the meeting, and then promptly claims the plan for himself.
    • In "The Great Nadger Plague", the revelation of the villains' plot includes Grytpype-Thynne describing it to Moriarty as "a brilliant idea of mine that you thought of".
  • Grand Finale: Not within the original run, but the 1972 special The Last Goon Show of All did live up to its name and brought back the key recurring characters for one last go-round, in a story that has No Ending.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: In "The White Box of Great Bardfield", Bluebottle demonstrates his rocket ship:
    Bluebottle: I stand on the deck and light the rocket fuse, so!
    [Explosion, whoosh of rocket]
    Bluebottle: There it goes.
    Seagoon: Why aren't you on it?
    Bluebottle: Because... Hmmm, the ship has gone. Thinks. Then what is Bluebottle standing on?
  • Hanging Judge: The Lord Chief Magistrate of Little Filthmuck in "The Rent Collectors":
    Magistrate: Right, now I declare that I will try the prisoner fairly, and that I am entirely unbiased, one way or the other, right?
    Bailiff: Right, sir!
    Magistrate: Good! [aside] Now, Tom. Just run across the road and get some good, strong rope.
  • Here We Go Again!: At the beginning of The Case of the Missing CD Plates, Seagoon gets run over by a steamroller driven by Moriarty, ambassador to the country of Titicaca, but can't sue him as Moriarty has diplomatic immunity. After the bulk of the story takes place and Seagoon is ordered to pay several thousand pounds in costs, he decides to take petty revenge by going to Titicaca, getting run over by a steamroller there, and sueing for it... unfortunately the steamroller he picks just happens to be driven by Bloodnok, the British ambassador to Titicaca, who also has diplomatic immunity.
  • Hey, That's My Line!: In "Rommel's Treasure", Grytpype calls for Moriarty, who replies "I heard you call, my capatain!" Bluebottle, who isn't even supposed to be in the scene, promptly protests that that's his line.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: "Confessions of a Secret Senna-Pod Drinker" has Seagoon shamefully addicted to illicit senna-pod tea.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The cast members would frequently dash backstage for brandy while the musical interludes were going on.
  • Idiot Hero: Neddie Seagoon, to the point that if the show were more famous, "The Seagoon" could be an alternative name for the trope. In one show, Neddie accepts a fee of £5000 to solve the mystery of the Marie Celeste, only to offer Bloodnok the entire sum in return for his documents on the case, thereby throwing away all profit he might make from the job. (This is played for laughs as successive characters offer other characters smaller and smaller portions of the fee in return for their assistance.)
  • Inner Monologue: Apart from talking to himself, Bluebottle would often voice his inner monologue appended with the word "Thinks:", a reference to a commonly-used device in comic strips in which the word would be added to thought balloons to spell out to younger readers their meaning.
    • A particularly weird incident of this occurs in The Mighty Wurlitzer:
    Bluebottle: Thinks: with these type sweets my prestige will increase at school, yes. Thinks Again: If I gave one of them to Winnie Hemp. it might act like a love philtre on her. And then...[Giggles Luridly]
    Seagoon: Thinks: You dirty little devil!
    Bluebottle: Thinks: Are you referring to me?
    Seagoon: Thinks: Yes, I am!
    Bluebottle: Thinks: You big fat steaming nit, you!
    Seagoon: Thinks: TAKE THAT!
    Bluebottle: Thinks: AIIIEEE!
    Seagoon: There, there, don't take it so hard, it was only in "Thinks".
    Bluebottle: Hmmm. Thinks. Doesn't say anything; just thinks.
  • Impossible Insurance: In "Insurance, The White Man's Burden" Seagoon is talked into insuring the English Channel against catching fire. Later on Henry Crun pours oil on the Channel to calm it, and then burns it off. Unfortunately Seagoon still doesn't get to collect because Grytpype and Moriarty have done a runner.
    • Then there's "The Canal", where Lord Valentine Seagoon keeps buying life insurance for his son Neddie using increasingly unlikely and specific death scenarios ("How much would it cost to insure Neddie against putting concrete blocks on his feet, blowing himself up with dynamite and then landing in the canal?") before, of course, engineering those exact scenarios. The episode ends with Henry calling to collect on the life insurance he put on Lord Valentine, Seagoon, Eccles and Bluebottle, the last of which was the insurance agent sent to pay out the above.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In "The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-On-Sea", the German artillery is capable of firing upon anyone who so much as lights a match!
    Crun: It's much too dark to see, strike a light.
    Seagoon: Not allowed during blackout. Only 28 miles across the channel, German guns are watching this coast!
    Crun: Don't be silly, they can't see a little match being struck!
    Seagoon: Oh, all right.
    (FX: Match struck; low whine, then an explosion. Pause.)
    Seagoon: Any questions?
    Crun: Yes, where are my legs?
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Played for laughs in "The Great International Christmas Pudding" when Seagoon meets Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty, who are so poor and desperate that they immediately attempt to cook and eat him.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Some episodes have a character saying something like "Only an idiot would do something like that!", immediately followed by a cheerful greeting from Eccles. This gag quite possiby had its apotheosis in "The String Robberies" when lighthouse keeper Bloodnok gets a knock on the door in the middle of a raging storm. He says "only an idiot would be out in this weather", and opens the door to find a sizeable choir of Eccles-es singing "Good King Wenceslas".
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Often.
    Eccles: Ooh, a big red cigar with a wick on the end!
    (Inhales; sound of gigantic explosion that goes on for many seconds)
    Eccles: Hmm. Strong.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Milligan liked to use several words in different contexts, such as "Spon" and "Fred".
  • Insane Troll Logic: It's rare to find any leap of logic in this show that doesn't count as this.
    Crun: But if you stand by a twenty foot easel it'll make you look even shorter.
    Toulouse: That's just it, I'm not going to stand by it. I'll stand somewhere else. Ha ha ha. I'm not a fool you know.
    Crun: If you're not going to stand near it, why buy it?
    Toulouse: I've got to buy it so as to have something tall to not stand by. It's no good not standing by something tall that's not there, is it?
    Crun: Supposing someone comes in unexpectedly when you're standing near it?
    Toulouse: Then I shall deny every word of it and stand on a ladder.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong:
    • In "The Affair of the Lone Banana":
    Seagoon: He appeared to be a man of breeding and intellect.
    Eccles: Hello dere.
    Seagoon: I was wrong.
    • Variants of the same gag are used in "Dishonoured" and "Foiled by President Fred":
    Seagoon: So cunning was my makeup not even my own grandmother would've recognised me.
    Throat: HELLO NEDDIE.
    Seagoon: Hello, granny.
  • Intelligible Unintelligible: The Gothic Horror spoof "The Canal" features a character who never speaks, only emits long eerie screams... which the other characters react to as if they were intelligible speech.
    Mysterious character: (long eerie scream)
    Lord Dyall: It's in the cabinet by the bed, dear.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Exploding cucumbers that blast someone into orbit; someone driving a wall - this show did 'random weirdness' before TV did, never mind the Internet.
    • From "The Booted Gorilla"...
    Neddie: I have a message for you from Bloodnock, in the heart of Africa. *several seconds of jungle drums* Signed... *tom tom* Any reply?
    Grytpype: Jove, yes! This: *several seconds of modern full-kit drum solo* Signed yours sincerely, *congas*, PS, *triangle jingling*.
    Neddie: What beautiful handwriting you have.
    • "The Goon Show is now available in half-pint bottles. (switches to American accent) Yes, don't listen to the Goon Show, drink it, in the new economy-size serving! Drink: Goon Show!"
    • All Scotsmen, when speaking, are accompanied by bagpipes. And only when speaking. If they say just "Yes", there'll be a quick one-second burst on the bagpipes in the background.
    • "And that, listeners, was the sound of Neddie and Eccles driving a wall at high speed".
    • "Listeners may doubt the authenticity of that sound effect, a boa constrictor galloping. If the truth be known, a horse covered in a snakeskin was used to replicate the sound. As for the chicken noises, we can only apologize."
    • Lampshaded after a quick series of very random sound effects, including a train accelerating, some battle trumpets, alchemical bubbling, and a chipmunk's scream of anguish; "I'm afraid you'll have to work that one out for yourselves, listeners."
    • In one case this is even in the script - a Running Gag is that different brands of cigarettes are referred to as 'gorillas', 'baboons', 'monkeys' etc., and the script notes that the sound effect of Eccles and Seagoon smoking gorillas should be "SOUND OF TWO GORILLAS FIGHTING - IF CAN'T GET THAT, TRY TWO LIONS"
    • "Ladies and gentlemen, as there is no audible sound for a piece of string we substitute this" *long stream of gibberish*
    • "This is part of the BBC's new economy drive. They have found it is cheaper to travel by bagpipes..."
    • At one point, they knock over a bottle containing the BBC.
    • In "The Siege of Fort Night", Seagoon and Crun found that the gas oven Crun invented could connect to the railway station. They use this as a shortcut to the fort and bring the oven with them through the oven door. Eccles, following their instructions, hands the front, back, left and right sides in before he realises that he can't close the door and then go through it to bring the inside with him. Solution? Send the door separately.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Spoofed in "Forog". When Neddie Seagoon brings the authorities to the building containing the proof of his wild story, the entire building is gone. The authorities subsequently inform him that they've been unable to find any evidence that the building was ever there, or that the people he claims to have been working for ever existed. When Neddie insists that his story is true "or my name isn't Neddie Seagoon", they add that they haven't been able to find any evidence that Neddie Seagoon exists, either...
  • Lame Pun Reaction: In "The Man Who Won The War":
    Grytpype: Well, that would certainly deter them.
    Seagoon: Yes, they'd have to make a detour! Get it? Ha ha ha ha! A detour! Ha ha ha!
    Grytpype: Have a grenade.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Milligan owned a lampshade shop...
    • One common example of this was deliberate tactics used to drag out short scripts; sound effects of people running up miles of staircase might end with someone commenting, "The scriptwriter paid me to waste time there."
    Henry Crun: [played by Sellers] You know Min, a script writer named Spike Milligan gave me two guineas to take a long time walking up these steps. He said it helps him in his work.
    Minnie Bannister: [played by Milligan] Yes, I know!
    • Also, after something happened that was only possible because it was a radio show (such as Eccles standing on Neddie's shoulders, then pulling Neddie up so he could reach a high place), someone would often remark that they'd, "like to see them do this on television," or similar.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Almost literally in "The Choking Horror"; during an attempt by Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty to collaborate with the Germans (marking targets in London for zeppelin bomb raids), thanks to Bluebottle being a klutz, the only building that ends up bombed is the one they're standing on.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes:
    • Seagoon often laughs hysterically after making some particularly weak pun, and then stops with an '...ahem.' when he realises no-one else joined in.
    • In "Six Charlies In Search Of An Author":
    Seagoon: Done!
    Crun: You certainly have been! [Cackling] Ha ha ha ha! Did you hear that joke, did you?
    Seagoon: Ten years ago.
  • Left the Background Music On
    • Two whole episodes were based on this. In one, the characters would frequently remark upon the significance of the scene-link music or sound effects. In another, the musician's union was on strike, and so they brought in Adolphus Spriggs (played by Milligan) to a-capella the entire theme song, all the scene links, dramatic chords, and even a few sound effects.
    • In "The Lost Gold Mine of Charlotte"...
    Bloodnok: [narrating, a mourning violin playing in background] Alone, I was, there in the Arizona desert. Left alone to die... I don't want to die! I'm too old for that. But here I am, with naught but the sun, sands, a shovel to bury myself with, and that red indian over there who insists on playing that blasted violin!
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: In "The Treasure of Loch Lomond", each section is introduced by the studio orchestra playing a few bars of simulated bagpipe music, including the pipes running down at the end.
  • Lemony Narrator: Greenslade was this trope:
    Greenslade: And now, part two, three weeks later. Or part three, two weeks later. Frankly, I couldn't care less.
    • Milligan himself is one in The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (Solved):
    Spike: While Max Geldray was playing that old English bollard, how many listeners noticed that Ned Seagoon had gone to a certain shipwright's in Deptford Creek? [pause] Hm? [pause; sounding unimpressed] You must watch these points.
  • Literal-Minded: Most usually Eccles and Bluebottle, but everyone and the narration was also prone to using jokes of this type.
    Seagoon: I could tell by his broken English that he was a broken Englishman.
  • Loud Gulp: Usually from Neddie. Unsurprising since it's radio and all.
  • Loud of War: In the Nineteen Eighty-Four parody "Nineteen Eighty Five", the tortures in Room 101 all entailed listening to BBC Radio Soap Operas.
    • Which is Fridge Brilliance, as Orwell originally named the room after a real conference room at BBC Broadcasting House in which tedious planning meetings for new programmes (possibly including soap operas) were held.
  • Low Count Gag: In "The Great Bank Robbery", Grytpype deposits a mattress at the bank:
    Grytpype: Good morning, cashier. We would like to open an account and pay [strains:] in this mattress.
    Greenslade: Certainly, sir. I'll just count it.
    Greenslade: One. Yes, it's all here, sir.
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: "(With) X(-o), the new wonder Y-Z'er". Based on a common advertising slogan format on radio in The '50s. Examples include "Lifo, the new wonder life-giver", "Leggo, the new wonder leg-regrower" and "Brains, the new wonder head-filler". A recurring example was "Footo, the new wonder boot exploder", which played a central role in "Scradje" and a bit character in another episode reportely owed his singing voice due to spraying it on his tonsils.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Spoofed in the episode "The Gold Plate Robbery": Visiting Morocco, Neddie Seagoon meets an Arab nomad who went to college in Cambridge and speaks English like a native — with a broad Cockney accent.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: In "The Treasure in the Tower", the action alternates between a ship sailing home to bury treasure in 1600 and an expedition to find the treasure in 1957. Much use of "Meanwhile in 1600" and "Meanwhile in 1957" ensues. Played with: when the ship reaches the place where they intend to bury the treasure, the crew of the ship start interacting with members of the expedition, and in the end the sailors bury the treasure in 1600 in the hole dug on the spot in 1957 in an unsuccessful attempt to find the treasure that hadn't yet been buried.
  • Me's a Crowd: Eccles did this at least three times:
    Neddie: Repeat after me, there is only one Eccles.
    Eccles: There is only one Eccles.
    Eccles 2 (distant): What about me over here?!
    • In "The Terrible Revenge of Fred Fu-Manchu", Seagoon orders Eccles to form into a squad of four, which he does. (Seagoon comments "Let's see them do that on television!". When the episode was later adapted for the Telegoons, it did indeed show Eccles becoming four identical Eccleses).
  • The Movie: The little-remembered Down Among the Z-Men was a rare Goon Show spinoff made in the early days with Michael Bentine in the cast. The script didn't really reflect the Goons' style of humour, but it does include a good Bentine solo routine.
    • More successful was The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn, a half-hour short written by Milligan and starring Milligan and Sellers in their Goon Show roles with guest appearances from Dick Emery and Graham Stark.
  • Multiple Reference Pun: Incessantly.
    Bloodnok: As we entered the jungle clearing, surrounded by the beat of tribal drums, I knew at once we were face-to-face with some strange African customs.
    Ellington: Anything to declare, white man?
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Used often. In "Foiled by President Fred", Seagoon is a gas inspector for South Balham Council who goes on a risky daredevil mission to South America solely in order to get the eponymous president to pay an overdue gas bill.
  • My Card: Parodied.
    • "My card." "My card!" "My card." "Snap!"
    • "It's blank!" "Times are bad."
    • "It's blank!" "No, turn it over." "What a silly place to put it - on the other side!"
    • "My card." "Mister Grytpype-Thynne - King of England?! 'Knighthoods Done While You Wait'?"
    • "MacCard? A Scotsman, eh?"
    • In another episode...
    Neddie: Who are you hindu gentlemen?
    Banerjee: Here, sir.
    Neddie: "Jim Jones and Tom Squatte, Printers"?
    Banerjee: They are the men who sold us the cards.
    • And later in the same episode...
    Bloodnok: We'll settle this by wager. Here, draw a card from this deck, don't show me what it is... now, what is your card?
    Neddie: "Jim Jones and Tom Squatte, Printers".
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond:
    • In "King Solomon's Mines":
    Trader Horn: My name is Horn. Trader Horn. Born in Houndsditch. How do you like a name like that eh? Horn-Trader-Horn-born-in-Houndsditch. My father must have been mad.
    • Also in "The Missing Scroll", later re-titled "The Lost Music of Purdom":
    Seagoon: My name is Seagoon, Neddie Seagoon. You've possibly seen my name in the Mirror. It reads: Noogeas Eidden, Noogeas.
    • James Bond is referenced directly in another episode...
    Seagoon: (answering a phone) Who's this?
    Caller: *whistles the James Bond theme*
    Seagoon: James Bond!
    Caller: Err, no sir. I'm agent double-oh, three one six, two eight seven four.
    Seagoon: Ah, premium bond.
  • Napoleon Delusion: At the end of The Spectre of Tintagel, the police, believing Seagoon to be insane, drive him away in a van that "all our King Arthurs and three Napoleons have ridden in".
  • Narrator: BBC announcer Andrew Timothy as himself; succeeded by Wallace Greenslade, ditto.
    • Greenslade also became a character of his own - thanking his fan clubs, claiming to be among the listeners in their ignorance, frequently mentioning prominent BBC announcer John Snagge, and even once being the star of an entire show parodying his career as announcer, named "The Greenslade Story, or Winds Light To Variable".
      • In the aforementioned story, they even got John Snagge into the studio to be the viewpoint character.
      • In "What's My Line", Greenslade admitted he was thinking "Hooray for ITV" while saying "This is the BBC," and John Snagge marched in with the BBC firing squad and shot him.
    Secombe: That was only a recording of John Snagge and his merry huntsmen.
  • Negative Continuity: Every show started with the full roster of characters, usually involved in a completely different story from last time. Characters would frequently be killed off at the end of an episode (Seagoon in particular), only to be unharmed and alive the following week and with no memory of previous adventures. The only character who seems to be aware of them is Bluebottle who recalls not being cheered by the audience and his multiple deadings, to the point where he actually starts seeing the explosions coming and takes avoiding action. Not that it usually helps him survive.
  • New Media Are Evil: Some cracks at television (well, it was new media back then...)
    Seagoon: No, it's just that you've changed so much. [Aside] And, dear listener, changed he had — he looked tired and weary — his eyes, his eyes were sunk back in his head, they were were bloodshot, watery and red-rimmed — what had caused this?
    Lord Valentine Dyall: Neddie, we've bought a television set.
  • Newscaster Cameo: John Snagge, in several episodes, provided fictional news reports commenting on the events of the episode.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Strongly averted, with the scripts casually throwing in anyone they felt like, even people who one might be expect were beyond the comedy pale - for example, in "The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea", Inspector Neddie is calling a list of phone numbers of possible suspects:
    Neddie: Hello?
    Winston Churchill: Ten Downing Street here.
    Neddie: [gulps] I'm so sorry. [slams phone down] No - it couldn't be him - who'd he want to throw a batter pudding at? [phone rings, he answers]
    Clement Attlee:note  Hello, this is Mr. Attlee. Someone's just thrown a batter pudding at me!
    • Another one featuring Churchill:
    Narrator: The Phantom Head Shaver struck again and again. The tourist trade was threatened; that week only two gentlemen visited Brighton.
    Winston Churchill: Come on Clemnote , what have we got to lose?
    • The BBC eventually banned Sellers' Churchill impersonations after the man himself allegedly objected to a topical joke.
    • In The Starlings Sellers went one higher with the Duchess Boil de Spudswell, who sounds suspiciously like the Queen.
  • No Ending: Just one example: "The Great String Robbery" ends with Seagoon being informed that the entire show has been "all in your mind, you know". (In the course of pursuing justice, he, Bloodnok and Bluebottle have ended up in Henry and Minnie's nonexistent cellar.) In wild panic, he screams for help, demanding to know "Who Wrote This Script?".
  • No Fourth Wall: Especially when the characters refer to the sound effects as being inappropriate or unconvincing. Also, Bluebottle has a tendency to read all his script directions aloud and to vocalize what he's thinking.
    • This was in fact a reference to Peter Sellers' own habit of talking to himself (see below).
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: At least Once an Episode (see below). Usually more.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Greenslade sometimes gets to play a Scottish character — if so, he uses his usual BBC announcer accent to pronounce exaggerated Scots dialect.
  • Objectshifting: "The Great Nadger Plague" features Neddy Seagoon and Eccles taking a magical potion to transform themselves into inanimate objects - the latter to avoid the eponymous plague, the former to frighten Moriarty and Grytpype out of stealing his money. With Neddy having become a clock and Eccles having become a gas stove, the plan goes perfectly... up until the two of them realize that, being inanimate, they can't reach the potion that can return them to human form - and Neddy's brilliant plan has scared off anyone who could help them. According to the announcer, the two of them are still there three hundred years later, along with Neddy's money.
  • Offscreen Inertia: "The White Box of Great Bardfield" ends with Seagoon trying to escape from the chains that were put on him at the start of the episode. The following week's episode, "Confessions of a Secret Senna-Pod Drinker" opens with Seagoon still trying to free himself, with the same lack of success.
  • Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: In "The Canal", Henry Crun attempts to read helpful advice to Neddie after he falls in the canal, and gets halfway through a cake recipe before realising he's got hold of a cookbook instead of the Lifesaving Manual. It's typical of the series that the still-drowning Neddie's response to this realisation is to wonder what he should do with the cake batter he's just made.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • While talking to Seagoon in "Napoleon's Piano", Peter Sellers drops from Grytpype-Thynne into Flowerdew mid-sentence for no apparent reason.
    • Secombe usually only ever played Seagoon. When he plays other characters, well...
    Malayan Customs Officer: [played by Secombe with a very bad accent] Please. What have you got in this 80-ton case?
    Bloodnok: Nothing, little Malayan customs officer played very badly by Harry Secombe.
  • The Ophelia: Camp Gay character Flowerdew (Sellers) takes this role in "The Canal". His lines include "This is madness, do you hear me? Madness!" and "I'm a daisy, father's a plum, that's why we stoned him. I hear music and there's only Max Geldray there." The canal gives the water aspect to the Ophelia trope.
  • Overly Long Gag: Several minutes of silence or footsteps was common, and then there's Minnie and Henry's dialogues, many of which boil down to talking in circles for minutes at a stretch.
    • Or a good thirty seconds of various bits of metal jangling together as someone empties their pockets. Followed by:
    Seagoon: Quit stalling - empty your pockets!
    • They were fond of this gag, but they did seem to know when to cut it off, as shown in "The Great International Christmas Pudding":
    Seagoon: Open my money chest and put on a gramophone record of seven thousand pounds in shillings.
    [Thirty seconds of coins clinking, one by one]
    Bloodnok: Wait a minute, that was only three thousand five hundred pounds!
    Seagoon: I'll play you the other side.
    Bloodnok: No, wait; I'll play the rest when I get home.
    • "The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal" required more filler than usual owing to the musicians taking part in strike action, so one Minnie and Henry joke involved them wittering for almost five full minutes straight.
  • Parasol of Pain: In "The Affair of the Lone Banana":
    Seagoon: Have a care, Latin devil - I am an Englishman. Remember, this rolled umbrella has more uses than one.
    Moriarty: Oooh!
    Seagoon: Sorry.
  • Paying in Coins:
    • In the episode "The Canal", Bluebottle (as the accredited agent of Lloyds of London) arrives to pay out insurance of £40,000 — in pennies, counted one by one. He gets as far as 4,000,832 pennies (roughly £16,670) before Eccles drops the hat he's counting them out into, and has to start again.
    • In "Six Charlies In Search Of An Author", Crun pays Seagoon £10 in "crisp green farthings" (of which there would be 9,600).
  • Piano Drop: In multiple episodes. Seagoon spends a significant portion of "The Case of the Missing CD Plates" trapped underneath one.
  • Pocket Protector: In "The Six Ingots of Leadenhall Street", Moriarty insists that he isn't hiding a stolen gold ingot, even at gunpoint. Until Grytpype shoots him, and the missing ingot stops the bullet.
  • Politeness Judo: In "The Tay Bridge", Seagoon answers the telephone at the Scottish Labour Exchange. Afraid that the caller might offer him a job, he answers:
    Seagoon: 'Allo, Israeli Embassy Golders Green 'ere.
    Jim Spriggs: Hello. Hello. Is that the Scottish Labour Exchange?
    Seagoon: Yes. Oh, I've given it away!
  • Pre-emptive Declaration:
    Sellers: Private Schnertz, I have bad news.
    Secombe: Private? I'm a General.
    Sellers: Zat is ze bad news.
    Secombe: Zat is ze old joke.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: In "The Missing Scroll":
    Henry: Look, Min. I want you to send this to Mister Nay Master of Bond Street Art Galleries.
    Min: What is it?
    Henry: It's a rare Ur wine vase.
    Min: Oh.
    Henry: Be careful... With it... Min. It's worth... [SMASH] ...Nothing.
  • Puff of Logic:
    • Seagoon and co. are wandering in a desert. They spot a house, but are informed by Bloodnok that it's only a mirage. Refusing to believe him, Neddie staggers up to it, only to watch it vanish into nothingness ... and then Eccles falls out of the upper floor.
    • When Greenslade drew attention to the fact that Eccles and Seagoon were attempting (and succeeding!) in climbing on each other's shoulders up the inside of a pillar box. Not one second after he says this, both fall to the ground.
    • Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty enter a room. However, until it's pointed out to them, they're unaware that Seagoon and the others have just turned the room upside down so the water flooding it could drain out through the hole in the ceiling.
    Grytpype-Thynne: Curse this law of gravity! Who passed it?
    Seagoon: Sir Isaac Newton.
    Grytpype-Thynne: I'll get him for this!
  • Puns: Oh, dear heavens, the PUNS.
    Seagoon: You can't bury me! I want to join the (Irish) Guard!
    Headstone: No man under six feet can join the Guard.
    Seagoon: But I'm not dead! It's impossible!
    Headstone: Not impossible, but one should have to box exceeding clever.
  • Pun-Based Title: Occasionally, as in The Siege of Fort (K)Night.
  • Quack Doctor: In "The Call of the West", Bloodnok appears as a seller of 'thunder pills' in Dodge City. Having seen what they do to an unfortunate volunteer, the townspeople are quick to declare him a quack and chase him out of town.
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: and HOW!
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: The other characters may do this on rare occasions, but it's one of Bluebottle's signature quirks.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Songs written and recorded by the Goons themselves such as "I'm Walking Backwards For Christmas" started out because their usual musicians, Max Geldray and Ray Ellington, were unable to participate in a recording due to taking part in a Musicians' Union strike.
  • Record Needle Scratch: In Bluebottle's own single, The Bluebottle Blues, he becomes so exasperated with Seagoon's attempts to murder him that he announces he will escape to the hole in the centre of the record. This he does, following it with the sound of the record slowing to a stop.
  • Reveal Shot:
    SFX: Knock knock knock!
    Seagoon: Come in.
    SFX: Knock knock knock!
    Seagoon: Come in!
    Bloodnok: It's YOU that's knocking!
    Seagoon: Oh- then I'LL come in.
    • This was also frequently used to imply something to the audience, when it actually didn't happen. For instance, a soldier would be asked to escort a spy out of the room. Footsteps are heard trailing off into the distance. The interrogator comments positively on the competence of the soldier. "Then why did he leave me behind?", asks the spy, evidently still in the room.
    • Combined with Overly Long Gag to lethal effect in one gag where Henry Crun is trying to take down Seagoon's personal information. See the Quotes page.
    • Another Overly Long Gag combination occurred in "The Whistling Spy Enigma", when Seagoon loads Henry onto a horse and they start galloping off, with the intent being to go all the way to Hungary.
    [30 seconds of horse galloping FX, interspersed with unintelligible remarks from Seagoon and vague yelping from Henry]
    Henry: Captain— Captain Seagoon!
    Seagoon: What? Whatwhatwhat?
    Henry: Tell me, is it very far to Hungary?
    Seagoon: Yes.
    Henry: Then why do we keep galloping round and round this blasted room?!
    Seagon: I'm waiting for someone to open the door!
  • Rewriting Reality: In "Six Charlies in Search of an Author," the Framing Device is that the episode is a novel written by Jim Spriggs*. We hear Jim use a typewriter to initiate the story. Then the characters get their hands on the typewriter. Surreal Hilarity Ensues.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The best-known example was "The Sinking of Westminster Pier", which was written by Milligan and substituted for "The Six Ingots of Leadenhall Street" at the last minute after the real Westminster Pier sank. Other examples include "The Treasure of Loch Lomond" (inspired by the Duke of Argyll's attempts to salvage treasure from a sunken Spanish galleon) and "The Case of the Missing CD Plates" (a Peruvian diplomat threw a piano out of a window, damaging a parked car, and claimed diplomatic immunity when asked to pay for the damage).
  • Room 101: In "Nineteen Eighty-Five!", Ned Seagoon is locked in a room and forced to listen to a recording... of himself, singing.
  • Rule of Funny: This was the only rule the show observed. Everything — logic, consistency, continuity, storytelling, characterisation and the fourth wall itself — could be sacrificed in the name of a gag. WW2-era radio comedy shows such as It's That Man Again had been as loose with storytelling and continuity, but The Goon Show conveyed a kind of freewheeling insanity which held absolutely nothing sacred.
  • Running Gag: Many. There's usually at least one that is exclusive to a particular episode.
    Seagoon: [while trying to seize control of a train from a hostile Grytpype-Thynne] Eccles, cover me with this photograph of a gun!
    • Saying "And this is where the story really starts!" multiple times during an episode, including a few minutes from the end.
    • The show got a lot of mileage out of a stock record of a donkey with massive flatulence, usually applied to Bloodnok.
    • Nobody can ever pronounce 'in the name of the law' correctly on their first go.
  • Same Character, But Different: In The Movie Down Among The "Z" Men, Colonel Bloodnok is a much more professional soldier than his cowardly, womanising radio counterpart.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "It was in the year 1656 that the dreaded nadger plague swept across Europe like the Dreaded Nadger Plague of 1656."
  • A Simple Plan: Usually a Zany Scheme dreamt up by Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty. Occasionally involved a Batman Gambit with Seagoon as a willing but incompetent pawn, in which Seagoon's incompetence was harnessed to produce the required result.
  • Shout-Out: A few scripts have had someone see "something nasty in the woodshed."
    • The very name of the show is a shout-out to Popeye: Milligan was fascinated with the huge lumbering not-burdened-with-brains Goons of the cartoon and visualised his characters as looking and acting like them.
    • Major Bloodnok's line "I have enough decency, sir, not to move when I'm naked" was a reference to the shows at the Windmill Theatre, where nude women could appear on stage provided that they stood still (if they didn't move, it was art).
  • Sky Heist: In "The Great Bank Robbery", the robbers steal the entire bank, airlifting it away with a zeppelin.
  • Snap Back: You wouldn't think this would be possible with a show that has Negative Continuity, but in the beginning of 'The Tuscan Salami Scandal' Greenslade rides out of the episode on a horse after someone played some music (It was during a musicians strike, and was legal for other unions to declare 'sympathy strikes'). When they find a solution (a non-playing musician) there's a sound of script pages being turned back to the start, and somehow Greenslade is back.
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: The Telegoons, a 1963-64 BBC TV series that remade some of the stories with puppets providing the visuals.
    • There were also a couple of TV adaptations which basically re-created the original radio productions, ie with the cast reading their scripts in front of microphones.
  • Special Guest: "The Evils of Bushey Spon" ended with an appearance as himself by the actor A E Matthews, who had been in the news for protesting about a streetlight outside his house in Bushey Heath.
  • Spit Take: Done with loose change in The Fear Of Wages (Grytpype and Moriarty are Stealing from the Till at their job in the Army pay corps, and Moriarty has the money hidden in his mouth).
  • Springtime for Hitler: In "The Man Who Won the War", Seagoon comes up with a set of increasingly ridiculous schemes to win WW2 in the hope that he will be declared mad and discharged from the army. The title of the episode should indicate how well this goes.
  • Start My Own: In "The Greatest Mountain in the World", Neddie's plans to become the first man to climb the highest mountain in the world are foiled when he learns that Mount Everest has already been climbed. So he instead plans to construct a higher mountain in Hyde Park and climb that.
  • Steal the Surroundings: In "The Great Bank Robbery", the robbers steal the entire bank, airlifting it away with a zeppelin.
  • Strongly Worded Letter: Threatening to write a letter to The Times was the usual response of many characters to any indignity heaped upon them.
    [loud knocking on door]
    Ray Ellington: Open up, or I'll write to the Times.
  • Studio Audience: If not given applause when entering, Bluebottle would occasionally supply his own pre-recorded wild cheers. This was also utilized by Seagoon, and once used to thwart Greenslade.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Frequently used to off Bluebottle.
  • Subverted Trope: The Goons were known for subverting the punchlines of some well-known jokes, mostly puns.
    • From The Mighty Wurlitzer:
      Grytpype-Thynne: I thought I saw a Greek urn buried in the sand.
      Moriarty: What's a Greek earn?
      Grytpype-Thynne: It's a vase made by Greeks for carrying liquids.
      Moriarty: I wasn't expecting that answer.
      Grytpype-Thynne: Neither were quite a few smart alec listeners.
    • From The Childe Harolde Rewarde:
      Seagoon: Could you help me to get this sword loose?
      Ellington: Well I'll hold it, and when I nod my head, you hit it.
      Seagoon: Let's get this right... You'll hold it, and when you nod your head, I hit it?
      Ellington: Yeah!
      Seagoon: Okay.
      Ellington: Right.
      FX: Hammer on anvil
      Seagoon: Hurrah, that got it out. [laughs] Hands up all those who thought I was going to hit him on the nut?
  • Sudden Name Change: In their first appearance, the two Indian characters are Mr Lalkaka and Mr Lakajee. Subsequently, Lakajee is renamed to Banerjee, because the original names were similar enough to confuse even the actors playing them.
  • Surreal Humor: Oh so very much. It's practically the Trope Codifier!
  • Take That!
    • In "The Canal":
    Neddie: And, dear listener, changed he had. He looked tired and weary. His eyes... his eyes were sunk back in his head. They were bloodshot, watery, and red-rimmed. What had caused this?
    Neddie's father: Neddie, we've bought a television set.
    • In "The Mummified Priest", Crun announces he is having an ancient Egyptian manuscript sent to his museum to be translated. Neddie isn't sure about his translation skills, but don't worry; Crun "knows two men who are experts at reading ancient scripts: Bob Hope and Steve Allen."
    • In "Ten Snowballs That Shook the World", the scene is suddenly interrupted by a ringing telephone.
    Seagoon: Hello?
    Seagoon: Right! [Hangs up] So that's commercial television.
    • In "1985", there's a Running Gag about Wilfred Pickles and the age and infirmity of the guests on his shows Ask Pickles and Have a Go. The latter is even one of the tortures in Room 101.
    • Whenever a scene is set in parliament or amongst some other official body, expect this in spades. In particular for the former, there's usually a lot of dithering about not getting anything done, along with various members chiming in 'Well done!' and 'Hear hear!' at inappropriate spots indicating that they aren't actually listening to what's being said.
      • A sharper jab occurs in "The Man Who Never Was", when a German spy declares that he's seeking political asylum and Bloodnok directs him to get on a bus to the House of Commons, the finest political asylum he knows.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Pretty much any time there's a recorded message.
    • Willium: Hello hello hello, who's this kipping on the floor? What's this label round his neck say? [reads] "I am the new tenant 'ere". Oh, are you, mate? What's this second label say? [reads] "Yes I am."
    • In "The Burning Embassy":
      Radio: This is the BBC Spon Service, and here is the news. On reaching the Middle East, parcels of British water intended for the blazing embassy in China have completely evaporated.
      Neddie: Evaporated? Are you sure?
      Radio: Positive.
    • In "The Mystery of the Marie Celeste[sic], Solved!":
      Seagoon: I sat down with my newspaper, turned to the Financials section, and helped myself to some fish. It was at that moment I spotted an advertisement. It read:
      Grytpype, narrating: Author of Sea Sagas will pay anyone 5,000 pounds for conclusive proof as to the fate of the crew of the Mary Celeste.
      Seagoon: I read no further.
      Grytpype, narrating: But you don't know my address.
      Seagoon: ... I read on.
  • Temporary Substitute: Colonel Chinstrap replaces Major Bloodnok in "Who is Pink Oboe?", as Sellers was ill. Sellers' other characters were also replaced or played by guest actors.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Twice in "The Dreaded Piano Clubber":
      Greenslade: Make sure you are never on the streets alone. It is known that he never makes his attacks inside a building, so if like myself you work indoors, you are— [CRASH]
      Prime Minister: Wait a minute. I think it's all a load of rubbish the whole thing. How in heaven's name can a man hide a piano on himself? How can he? Look, anybody who's struck down by the dreadful piano clubber must be blind. I tell you, a full sized piano! I ask you! Is it not possible to see a man coming towards you with a— [CRASH]
    • In "Scradje":
      Scotsman: [Bagpipes under] Scradje? Did you say Scradje the noo?
      Moriarty: Certainment-ment. Scradje is a substance found beneath the Earth's surface. This Scradje radiates upwards, keeping level with the Gulf-stream and keeps the pressure on the Earth's surface at an even level. Thus preventing boots from exploding. Unfortunately, Britain's Scradje deposits are rapidly losing their potency. With the results that have now become apparent.
      Scotsman: [Bagpipes under] I've heard nae such a lot o' rubbish since I left the House of Commons. Scradje indeed! If you think I'd believe one word of that... [He explodes.] Aaargh! [Bagpipes run down and stop]
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: In "Robin Hood and his Mirry Mon":
    Sheriff: Listen, scum...
    Friar Balsam: Mister Scum to you!
  • Theme Naming: A Running Gag is that different kinds of cigarettes or cigars are named after different types of primate.
    Seagoon: Have a gorilla.
    Eidelburger: No thankyou, I only smoke baboons.
  • This Banana is Armed: "You fool, you can't shoot me with a banana, it's-" Bang! Bang! "... swine ... it was ... loaded!" *thump"
  • Those Two Guys: Happens quite a bit - which is unsurprising considering that this was a three-man show and Secombe mostly stayed in one character.
    • Eccles and Bluebottle.
    • Moriarty and Grytpype-Thynne.
    • Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister.
    • Lalkaka and Banerjee were the most prominent example from among the minor characters.
  • Threat Backfire: In "The Terrible Revenge of Fred Fu-Manchu":
    Bloodnok: Now where's that saxophone, eh? I intend to destroy it with my explodable finger!
    Eccles: Over my dead body!
    Bloodnok: That's that settled.
  • Thrifty Scot: Laird McGoole in "The Treasure of Loch Lomond", who despite his wealth uses a candle rather than a fire for heat.
  • Time Travel: Invoked in a sense for the ending gag of "World War One", in which Seagoon - desperate to make his shares in the German army worth something - has 1904 calendars dropped on Britain so they think the war hasn't started yet. While this does appear to work (Bluebottle in particular supposes he'd better hurry off to his mum, because he hasn't been born yet) the Allies had already dropped 1918 calendars on Germany, advancing time to their surrender.
  • Traumatic Haircut: "The Phantom Head Shaver of Brighton"; This is the tale of QC Hairy Seagoon, in order to prove the innocence of his client Nugent Dirt, tries to track down the mysterious criminal who shaves the heads of the Brighton populace while they sleep. This turns out to be Wallace Greenslade, who's then selling the hair on as tobacco.
  • The Treachery of Images: Parodied—in the Goon Show's universe, having a photograph of something or a cardboard cutout replica of it is usually treated as being the same as actually having that thing.
  • The Unintelligible: several occasions.
    • Ellington, doing a Zulu Chief impersonation...
    Ellington: [long string of african-esque gibberish]
    Seagoon: Hm. Flowerdew, tell him I can't understand what he's saying.
    Flowerdew: [short, very soft-spoken gibberish]
    Ellington: [long string of very emphatic gibberish]
    Flowerdew: He says, sir, he doesn't understand what he's saying either.
    • Little Jim, except when announcing someone had fallen in the wa-tah. In the final episode, only Eccles could understand Little Jim - including Little Jim. Bluebottle concludes that he must be one of Mrs. Thatcher's incomprehensivesnote .
  • Tricked into Signing: In "The Policy", Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty ask Neddie to give them his autograph on a piece of paper that's actually a will leaving them all his money. When he asks why the piece of paper has "Will" written at the top, Grytpype-Thynne explains that that's its name.
  • Two Halves Make a Plot: Parodied in "The Lost Gold Mine of Charlotte", in which the map to the mine gets torn into smaller and smaller pieces as more and more people get involved in the deal to find the mine and its treasure. Not that there actually is any treasure.
  • Unit Confusion: A very common gag.
  • Universal-Adaptor Cast: The core characters were cast in different stories each show.
  • Unsound Effect:
    Bloodnok: Tell him to wait in the hiding room while I paste these photographs in my hat. Paste, paste — well, there's no sound effect for paste, is there?
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    Grytpype: Ahoy! Pull up a bollard.
    Seagoon: Pardon?
  • Upper-Class Twit: Seagoon, in those episodes where he plays an upper-class character. Also the sole purpose of the occasionally-appearing characters Basil and Bowser.
  • The Voice: In The Case of the Mukkinese Battlehorn, we see characters who are recognisably Eccles, Grytpype, Crun and Willium — but Minnie is only ever heard, not seen.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: In The Affair of the Lone Banana -
    Moriarty: You see señor, the united anti-socialist neo-democratic pro-fascist communist party is fighting to overthrow the unilateral democratic united partisan bellicose pacifist cobelligerent tory labour liberal party!
    Seagoon: Whose side are you on?
    Moriarty: There are no sides - we are all in this together.
  • "Where? Where?": Crossed with Cloudcuckoolander usually...
    Henry Crun: [hangs up a phone call which we only heard his side of]
    Minnie: Who was that on the phone, Henry?
    Henry Crun: It was me, Minnie.
    Minnie: Oh! I thought I recognized the voice.
  • Why Are We Whispering?: In the episode "The Case of the Vanishing Room", Inspector Seagoon arrives at a house where a murder has been committed. The door is answered by Grytpype, who speaks in a whisper, and Seagoon lowers his voice to match. After they've exchanged half-a-dozen lines, another character shouts at them not to leave the door open.
    Seagoon: Here, why isn't he whispering?
    Grytpype: He hasn't got laryngitis.
  • Will Talk for a Price: Several instances.
  • Word Purée Title: "World War One" is never given that title in-episode, where the title is only described as an incomprehensible wheeze.
  • Xylophone Gag: The piano version, when Moriarty and Grytpype-Thynne try to blow up the Chinese nationalist leader General Kashmychek.
  • Worse with Context: A common style of joke. One example:
    Neddie: How did you know he was dead?
    Grytpype-Thynne: He's been lying on his back for three days.
    Neddie: That doesn't mean a man's dead.
    Grytpype-Thynne: In this case it did. <Beat> He was on the bottom of the lake.
  • Your Mime Makes It Real: In "The Moriarty Murder Mystery", Seagoon is told that Moriarty killed himself by pointing his finger at his head, and saying "bang".
    Seagoon: That’s ridiculous. [Laughs] How can a man shoot himself by pointing his finger at his head like this and going -
    [Gunshot, body falls]
    Undertaker: Mine, I think.
  • Zany Scheme: A recurring episode "plot" revolved around Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty coming up with one of these in order to obtain money.