(“The Mysterious Punch-up-the-Conker” and other inscrutable funnies).
This little poem came about as I and my family were wandering around one the displays at the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield. There was an exhibition of comedy, with all sorts of exhibits from photographs of the good and the great, various props and an enticing pair of head phones. These enabled us to listen to one of the Goon Show recordings. Another exhibit in another display invited its viewers to put a comment in a bottle, so I wrote this verse.
It is a skit from the above show in which Eccles (Spike Milligan) and Bluebottle (Peter Sellers) are “in the ground floor attic” of a clock repairer’s, but, funny as it is, the question, “What time is it, Eccles?”, is clearly not as simple as it might be. A conversation ensues, along the following lines: –
” What time is it, Eccles?”
“Just a minute, I got it written on a piece of paper. A nice man wrote it down for me this morning”
“Oh, then why do you carry it around with you, Eccles?”
“Well, umm erh, if anbody asks me the time, I can show it to them”
“Wait a minute, Eccles, my good man…”
“What is it, fellow?”
“It’s writted on this bit of paper what is eight o’clock, it is writted”
“I know that, my good fellow, when I asked the fellow to write it down it was eight o’clock”
“Well then, suppose when somebody asks you the time, it isn’t eight o’clock?”
“Well, then I don’t show it to them!”
“Then, how do you know when it is eight o’clock?”
“I got it written down on a piece of paper!”
There is a recording from this show on YouTube.
It was not only the surreal story lines, absurd logic, puns, catchphrases and the sound effects that were groundbreaking (at least they were in the late 1950’s and early 60’s), bit it was the unique way in which each of the three of them delivered the lines (the third man was of course Harry Secombe). It appealed to me from the age of thirteen or fourteen, when many of their catchphrases as well as the voices would enter the language we spoke to each other at school, well at least those of us who had a slightly mad, goon-ish sense of humour.
The few lines of this poem sum up their appeal for me; I just wish all of them could have been there for us, at The Graves Art Gallery that day.
(Read the Poem)