My Father Had a Profound Influence On Me—He Was a Lunatic!

Spike Milligan? Michael Parkinson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular comedian once asserted that his father had a major influence on him. Normally, this type of claim is followed by effusive praise of the father. But the comedian employed a gleeful paraprosdokian by saying that his father was a lunatic. Would you please help me to find out who crafted this jest?

Quote Investigator: The Irish-English comedian Spike Milligan appeared several times on the U.K talk show of Michael Parkinson. In 1982 the host published “The Best of Parkinson” containing extracts from the most memorable interviews of the show including Milligan’s remarks about his father. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

My father had a profound influence on me—he was a lunatic! He went bald when he was very young, about seventeen, and so he used to wear a wig which in those days looked like shredded GPO directories.

Below are two additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading My Father Had a Profound Influence On Me—He Was a Lunatic!

Notes:

  1. 1982, The Best of Parkinson by Michael Parkinson, Chapter: Spike Milligan, Quote Page 109, Pavilion Books Limited, London in Association with Michael Joseph Limited. (Verified with scans)

“Education Isn’t Everything” “You’re Right, For a Start It’s Not Elephants”

Spike Milligan? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Education is enormously important, but it is not a cure-all for the ailments of society. An absurdist quip highlights this limitation:

Education isn’t everything; for a start it isn’t an elephant.

The Irish-English comedian Spike Milligan has received credit for this line, but I haven’t been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1974 Spike Milligan published “Rommel? Gunner Who?: A Confrontation in the Desert”, the second volume of a seven-volume memoir recounting his experiences during World War 2. The book was set primarily in North Africa in 1943. Milligan described an episode communicating with a pilot and a fellow soldier. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

‘He must have had a good education’ Edgington remarked later, ‘I mean, controlling the plane and issuing fire orders at the same time.’
‘Education isn’t everything.’
‘You’re right, for a start it’s not elephants.’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “Education Isn’t Everything” “You’re Right, For a Start It’s Not Elephants”

Notes:

  1. 1975 (1974 Copyright), “Rommel?” “Gunner Who?”: A Confrontation in the Desert by Spike Milligan, Quote Page 166, Book Club Associates, London. (Verified with scans)

A Sure Cure for Seasickness Is To Sit Under a Tree

Spike Milligan? John MacGregor? William Gordon Stables? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The nausea of seasickness feels endless. An absurdist quip suggests that the only genuine remedy is a return to solid ground:

The best cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.

The Irish-English comedian Spike Milligan has received credit for this line, but I haven’t been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1971 Spike Milligan published “Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall”, the first volume of a seven-volume memoir recounting his experiences during World War 2. During one episode in 1943 the troopship Milligan was traveling on encountered turbulent weather. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The storm never let up. It was only this that prevented U-boat attacks, though I know many a sick-covered wreck who would rather have had calm seas and been torpedoed. A poor green-faced thing asked, “Isn’t there any bloody cure for seasickness?”

“Yes,” I said. “Sit under a tree.” I had to be quick.

Milligan presented the joke in a question-answer format. Yet, he did not create this jest which has a long history.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Sure Cure for Seasickness Is To Sit Under a Tree

Notes:

  1. 1972 (1971 Copyright), Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall by Spike Milligan, Part 3, Chapter: January 1943 — At Sea, Quote Page 135, Book Club Associates, London. (Verified with scans)