Never trust a man in a black & white photograph without a moustache
Last Friday I decided to do something a little bit different, wanting to add a bit of order to the blog, so I came up with Funny Fridays, or Friday Funnies, whatever you want to call it. I’m fairly certain I’m not the first person to think of that particular alliteration, but no matter – people seemed to like it, and it was great to dust off the old Pete & Dud sketches. A nice way to round off a tough week. Pete & Dud worked with The Beatles, and I thought it would be nice today to look at a man who not only worked with them, but helped inspire them too: Peter Sellers.
Vocal talent, ladies man and all round funny guy, Peter Sellers managed to get a job at the BBC by ringing up a bigwig at the Entertainment division, impersonating that guy’s boss, and lauding the talents of a new, young chap called Peter Sellers. The bigwig was completely taken in by the impersonation, and when Sellers admitted to the deceit halfway through the phone call the man was so impressed that he invited him in. The rest is history. Peter Sellers first came to attention as part of the quartet-then-trio The Goons, arguably the most important comedy group ever. They recorded The Goon Show for BBC Radio, with most of the episodes written by Spike Milligan, starring Milligan, Sellers and Harry Secombe. Secombe usually played the protagonist, with a name like Neddy Seagoon, while Milligan, Sellers and, in the early years, Michael Bentine, played all the other recurring characters. Here are Milligan, as Eccles, and Sellers as Bluebottle in a classic Goon Show sketch (the video is a bit weird):
The drawings of Eccles and Bluebottle are what Spike Milligan always thought they looked like. And who are we to argue with Spike Milligan? On his tombstone it says “I told you I was ill”. Genius. Here’s some more Bluebottle. He was one of the first characters to read out his own stage instructions, which was part of his charm:
After The Goon Show ended, Sellers branched out into films, some as a leading man, some as support. In 1963 Blake Edwards created the series that will forever be associated with Peter Sellers – The Pink Panther. The first film actually featured David Niven in the lead role, with Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in a supporting role. Clouseau proved such a popular character that there were four more films starring Sellers as Clouseau made over the following two decades, including the fifth one which was finished after his death! The most famous, and funniest, clip of all of these films is featured here:
Sellers also had big success in the novelty record market, with some inspired Beatles covers, such as this one in the style of Laurence Olivier’s Richard III:
I think at about this juncture we should probably end with Sellers most famous film – Dr Strangelove, Or, How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Bomb. In this film, Sellers plays three characters – the President, Dr Strangelove, and an English RAF officer. Genius. I hope you enjoy this classic scene.