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Erin Listens: The Goon Show (a rec post. with downloads!) March 28, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches, Recommendations.
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Still at the job with the long days, still spending a lot of hours on headphones. I’ve run out of Blondie, soured on Gildersleeve, SAYER has wrapped up, and you can only listen to so many Yo, Is This Racist? episodes in a row…it was high time to splice in a Goon Show re-listen.

And to make notes on which episodes I should use to sell it to new listeners.

The Goon Show is a British radio comedy from the ’50s, spiritual predecessor to Monty Python. Great wordplay. Amazing absurdist humor. There’s no single premise, just a regular cast of a dozen distinct characters (played by three actors, plus a guest star here and there) in a different AU each episode. Today they’re doing a police drama! Last week one of them was Robin Hood! Next week they’ll be in World War II!

Unfortunately, this being the 1950s, the occasional non-white characters tend to be skeevy racist caricatures. There’s refreshingly little on the sexism front — it probably helps that there aren’t many women in the first place — and the one regular female character is very much a character rather than a Token Chick archetype, which is nice.

Earlier episodes tend to have more coherent plots. In the later years, the episodes have a way of collapsing into a scramble of catchphrases and self-referential jokes in the final act. (“We’ve written ourselves into a corner here, haven’t we, ladies and gentlemen?…well, good night.”) Still funny, just probably less accessible to new listeners.

With all that in mind: episode recs to woo you in! Featuring snappy humor, ridiculous characters, the most listenable storylines, and the least racial skeeviness.

1953-10-02 The Dreaded Piano Clubber — A mysterious criminal is going around London hitting people with pianos. Inspector Seagoon is on the case! (“Did you get the number of the instrument?” “No, he had his lights out.”) No one is safe — not the police, not Parliament, not even the show announcer.

1954-11-09 Lurgi Strikes Britain — A terrible contagion is sweeping Britain, and a couple of unsavory characters convince Neddie Seagoon to lead the fight against it. (“We must move fast.” “What do you suggest?” “South America?”) Can Neddie find a cure before catching the disease? Will it help if he spends much of the episode hiding in a trash bin?

1955-11-20 The Pevensey Bay Disaster — A snowstorm blocks the Pevensey Bay rail lines (The snow rose up from inches three / To inches three-foot-four”), and, as if that weren’t bad enough, saboteurs decide to use the disaster to take over the signal station. Our heroes must race to clear the snow and save the trains. (“The sound you are hearing is Neddie and Eccles driving a wall at speed. We thought you ought to know.”)

1956-03-13 Scradge — This week’s epidemic is mysterious boot explosions, which Moriarty attributes to the loss of Britain’s natural deposits of scradje. Time to replenish the supply with an Arctic expedition. (“Have we got any cases of frozen feet?” “We didn’t order any cases of frozen feet.” “What? We’ve got to eat, Seagoon!” “Okay, I’ll put him in the oven.”)

1956-12-26 Six Charlies In Search Of An Author — So meta I don’t know how to describe it. (A lot more satisfyingly meta than the play its title is a riff on….) The cast scrambles to outwit the author, and each other. There’s a lot of panicky use of typewriters.

Want more, you’re in luck: Archive.org has a ton for download. They’re hard to search for because some modern-day sports show with the same title dominates the results — you’ll want to skip straight to The Goon Show compilation part 1 and The Goon Show compilation part 2.

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