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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Number 141: Spike Milligan "On the Ning Nang Nong"

On The Ning Nang Nong

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There's a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

-- Spike Milligan

Hap Notes: I just don't think there is a way to over-estimate Spike Milligan's (1918-2002) contribution to popular culture. His uniquely British/Irish take on comedy strongly influenced most members of Monty Python, not to mention the shenanigans of Firesign Theater and from these two comedy troupes spring forth a good deal of what we take for granted now in the form of comedy shows like Saturday Night Live (yes, it's true- it used to be a comedy show- you mightn't believe it but it's true,) Second City, Kids in the Hall etc. You might not like or appreciate Milligan's comedic genius today but, most British school children (and Canadian and Australian) knew today's poem by heart in the 60s. No kidding.

I daresay most of the surreal humor currently in the culture is a direct outcropping from Milligan.

Milligan's output is not strictly in sketch comedy as he wrote light verse and books of humor and plays but, unfortunately, much of Milligan's genius was in the ad lib which really can't be written. He was a bright, quick thinker who suffered from (ready?) manic-depression. (It's not surprising at all, is it?)

Since it's Saturday and we read something fun and amusing in honor of cartoons, Milligan is a natural. Once again, remember that "light" verse, and often comedy, are things that have a darkly serious side and only a really intelligent mind can make them seem amusing. We will do more Milligan this year.

You can find more Milligan poetry here:

Here is a delightful example of Milligan's sketch comedy for the radio with great illustrations. Milligan wrote the bit and plays

And here's the famous "Ying Tong Song":

Added for your enjoyment––For some reason I always mix up Spike Milligan with musician Spike Jones. One look at this famous clip of "Cocktails for Two" will, at least, show I'm in the right ballpark with the wrong name:

And here's Spike Jones and his City Slickers version of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance", replete with his window-pane-check suit and his frenetic stage presence and energy:

Just a P.S. how can those percussionists chew gum and play so well? Jones is always chewing gum as he works. Didn't Gene Krupa chew gum, too?

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