It’s All In The Mind by Julie Warren

by stephenpalmersf

It’s All In The Mind: the Life & Legacy of Larry Stephens by Julie Warren

As a fan of the highly esteemed Goon Show, I was delighted to see that a biography of Larry Stephens – a name I only knew from the Goons, and whom I’d assumed to be a minor player in the Grafton Arm scene – had been written and published. I bought it with some anticipation. But it turns out that Larry Stephens was far from being a bit part in the Goon Show story.

This biography – published by Unbound after a crowdfunding scheme – and written by Julie Warren, a family relative, is in two parts, the first of which covers Stephens’ childhood and WW2 experiences, the second of which covers his life as a comedy scriptwriter.

The first part is quite interesting: vivid, well researched and well written. But for me the book really comes into its own after the war, when Stephens, a talented pianist, discovers his aptitude for writing comedy. And he was in with the Goon crowd right from the beginning, along with Tony Hancock, Graham Stark and many other notables. In fact, the main message of this book is that Stephens’ contribution to post-war comedy has been greatly undervalued, mostly through lack of representation. Julie Warren’s final line is a paean to that: ‘He deserves to be remembered.’

In my novel Hairy London I exploited my own silly sense of humour, so similar to that of Spike and the Pythons, and until now I’d assumed that Spike was the main “crazy” of that crazy gang. But he was not. Yes, there was a difference in writing style – Spike chaotic but inspired, Stephens’ inspired and ordered – but Stephens’ imagination was almost as feverish as the man who gave us Eccles & co.

This biography is highly recommended to any Goon Show fan, but also to anybody interested in the history of British post-war comedy. Congratulations to the author for her excellent work!