Radio listener by Jim Gilchrist

Life, the universe and everything gets a thorough airing as THE INFINITE MONKEY CAGE, fresh from winning a Sony Award, returns to Radio 4 on Monday, with infectiously enthusiastic broadcasting boffin Brian Cox and comedian and author Robin Ince once again hosting witty debate on science matters.

They're joined by another comedian, Paul Foot, geneticist and author Steve Jones and science writer Marcus Chown. Among other things, apparently, they'll be discussing what we don't know and whether we know that we don't know it ...

If that sounds like a throwaway line from an old Goons script, there are plenty more today (or catch them later on BBC iPlayer) as Radio 4 Extra celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first Goon Show.

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Listeners of a certain age and humorous bent will recall the collective anarchic lunacy of Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine, Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, which set a benchmark in surreal comedy, influencing such subsequent talents as the Beatles, Peter Cook and the Monty Python team (as well as developing innovative sound effects from the BBC's then embryonic Radiophonic Workshop).

Today's tribute kicks off at 9am with GOON AGAIN, a newly recorded version of a script written for the act's 50th anniversary, featuring Andrew Secombe (Harry's son), Jon Glover and Jeffrey Holland.

At 11am, THE LAST GOON SHOW OF ALL catches Secombe, Sellers and other veterans of the show in a 1972 reunion, and there's a classic episode, 1954's THE AFFAIR OF THE LONE BANANA, at 2pm.

And if a day of vintage Goonery doesn't appeal, how about a week playing the banjo? That's what bluegrass enthusiasts have been doing since 1996 at the splendidly named Sore Fingers Summer School, which takes over an Oxfordshire boarding school every summer.

SORE FINGERS eavesdrops as students play all day and for much of the night, under the guidance of such renowned bluegrass instrumentalists as banjo ace Tony Trischka and dobro specialist Mike Witcher.

The Infinite Monkey Cage

Monday, Radio 4, 4:30pm

The Goon Show: 60th Goon Anniversary

Today, Radio 4 Extra, from 9am

Sore Fingers

Thursday, Radio 4, 11:30am

This article was first published in The Scotsman, 28 May, 2011