Surreal brand of humour which baffled the Beeb

Milligan’s death finally closes the book on the Goons – probably the most original and influential comedy group Britain has ever produced.

Milligan was the last surviving member of the inspiring team after Sir Harry Secombe’s death in April last year.

Many believe that without The Goon Show, acts from Monty Python through to Reeves and Mortimer would never have enjoyed the success they did.

The four Goons – Secombe, Milligan, Michael Bentine and Peter Sellers – first performed together as a team in the late 1940s at the Grafton Arms pub in Victoria, central London.

Their radio tenure began with a series called Crazy People in 1951, which featured the Ray Ellington Quartet, Max Geldray and the Stargazers singing group.

By the time their BBC Radio series came to an end in 1960 there had been a total of 243 programmes.

The surreal series struck a chord with the public, acquiring legions of fans, and to this day is fondly remembered.

The Prince of Wales is a long-standing fan – despite Milligan having called him a “grovelling little bastard” at a comedy awards ceremony in 1995.

Legendary characters from the surreal series included Major Denis Bloodnok, Hercules Gryptype-Thynne, Neddie Seagoon, Eccles and Bluebottle.

The Goons helped pave the way towards the emergence of “alternative” comedy and their antics were a constant worry to BBC chiefs, who failed to get the joke.

At one point a senior BBC figure misread the show’s title and referred to it as The Go-On Show.

There were more than 30 attempts to suppress the programme entirely.

In 1954, Sellers’ famous impersonations of Sir Winston Churchill were banned, as were scenes depicting the House of Commons asleep.

In 1956, the Goons recorded a parody of the hit Unchained Melody. It would have been their first single, but for objections from the music publisher Parlophone.

There were several reunions. Twice in the 1960s the Goons re-performed radio scripts for TV. And in 1972 they recorded The Last Goon Show, to mark the 50th anniversary of the BBC.