Spitting Image was well-known for taking no prisoners. And Harry Secombe was...well-known. As I've written, he started his career as a low-brow burlesque comic and came to fame as one of the outlandish members of The Goon Show with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on BBC radio. He's probably best known in the U.S. for playing 'Mr. Bumble' in the Oscar-winning Best Picture, Oliver!, as well as getting a Tony nomination for Pickwick on Broadway, but significantly better in England, for other musicals, some movies, TV series, many albums, variety shows and more, ultimately being knighted and becoming Sir Harry, yet at the heart of everything almost always that low-brow clown giggling and mugging underneath.
Not just well-known, though, but beloved. In an interview, the crustiest, most curmudgeonly Python, John Cleese, said that, "Harry Secombe is the nicest man I have ever met," and pointed out that Secombe brought gifts to everyone on the set. I've written here about my own wonderful experience with him as a young kid, meeting backstage literally minutes before the curtain went up for the musical he was in, The Four Musketeers -- an vaudevillian send-up of the Dumas novel -- yet not rushing me out, but insisting on a long chat . Add to this that Secombe (whose brother Fred was a minister) hosted a long-running BBC TV series, Highway, that aired on Sundays, which featured hymns and conversation about spiritual matters, filmed across England.
All of this made him perfect fodder for Spitting Image and a very funny sequence that ended the week's broadcast.