Alex Mitchell Died Laughing at an Episode of ‘The Goodies’
Few outside of Britain are probably familiar with The Goodies, a TV series that combined situation comedy with surreal sketches, and that originally aired 76 episodes on BBC from 1970 to 1980. The series is probably not the cup of tea of most Americans today, but it was pretty funny for its intended British audience, as evidenced by its decade-long run. Also, by the fact that at least one of its viewers found a Goodies skit to be so hilarious that he laughed himself to death.
The evening of March 24th, 1975, started off like many others for Alex Mitchell, a bricklayer from King’s Lynn, Norfolk. He sat down after dinner to watch an episode of The Goodies, his favorite TV show and one that he watched religiously every week. He knew to expect the show’s typical raw and physical humor, but he was not prepared for that evening’s “Kung Fu Capers” episode.
The episode featured a black belt in “Ecky Thump” – a little known martial art from Lancaster, that revolved around pelting opponents with black pudding. Something about that struck Mitchell as over the top hilarious, and he started guffawing as his wife complained that he must be the only person who found The Goodies even remotely funny.
Mitchell, who enjoyed having a good laugh, waved his killjoy missus away, but on that particular evening, he might have been better off had he gotten off the couch and romanced her instead of continuing to watch TV. When the episode’s star attacked a kilt-wearing Scotsman with a stick of black pudding, and the Scotsman defended himself with a bagpipe, Mitchell lost it. He started guffawing uncontrollably, and after 25 minutes of nonstop laughter, he slid off the sofa, having suffered a fatal heart attack. Mitchell’s death became quite famous at the time, and his widow eventually wrote The Goodies a letter, thanking them for making her deceased husband’s final moments in life so pleasant.
In 2012, it was discovered that Mitchell had probably suffered from Long QT Syndrome when his granddaughter was rushed to the emergency room after a heart attack and was diagnosed with LQTS. The disease, which is hereditary, causes the heart beat to become irregular if the afflicted person undergoes continuous exertion or stress – such as laughing nonstop for 25 minutes. The irregular heartbeat can trigger a cardiac arrest, and that is probably what did in Alex Mitchell.