As the twentieth century drew to a close, a number of programmes pontificated on its achievements. Not among them was 'Room 101', which offered celebrities the chance to sound off about their favourite pet hates. The early editions were the best, as they featured the likes of Peter Cook and Bob Monkhouse, but by the end it was struggling to find decent guests ( does anyone really care what Davina McCall thinks? ).
One of the very best editions was this one, featuring the late, great Spike Milligan. Though looking decidedly frail, Spike was in great form, tearing his victims to pieces with undisguised relish. Viewers were shocked at the level of anger he expressed. But this was not the voice of a senile old man with nothing to say, but a concerned humanitarian.
His choices included Portsmouth ( his stage act was not well received there ), football ( "I don't understand it!" ), Muzak ( "the man who invented it committed suicide. I sent a congratulatory telegram to his widow!"), soap operas ( "people are goggle boxed by these things!" ), disc jockey Chris Evans ( "the best thing I can wish him is an early death!" ), fox hunters ( "you are all a load of bastards!" ), and bizarrely his own house.
Paul Merton gave Spike good support, helping him to stay on topic when he looked to be in danger of straying off it. When Spike said that the most intelligent thing Chris Evans ever said in his life was "Good morning!", Merton jumped in with "he probably had that written for him!", a comment that caused Spike to double up.
The programme unsurprisingly drew complaints from Evans' fans, with one describing Spike on the letters pages of The Radio Times as an 'annoying, insulting man'. Many people would say the same about Chris.
As the world descends into a nightmarish hell, with the ever-present threat of terrorism, and anyone concerned about climate change vilified by the right-wing media ( not to mention the wrong politicians winning power, especially in the U.K. ), how badly we need someone like Spike Milligan now to act as a voice of sanity, and to make us all laugh.
I will leave the last word to the Great Man himself. Asked how he intended to celebrate the Millennium, he said: "I shall go to bed!".
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