Thursday, 4 June 2009

Things What Are Great #13 - I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue

In a nutshell:- Silly jokes and stupid innuendo in one of Radio 4's finest institutions.

The Basics:- It's a simple format and yet it has worked so well since 1972. Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor (of Goodies fame) alongside Barry Cryer and, since 1996, a guest comedian (replacing Willie Rushton who was part of the line-up until his death in 1996) are given silly things to do by chairman Humphrey Littelton. The show has running gags, such as the scorer Samantha whose innocent activities could possibly be seen in a slightly dirtier light and games such as Mornington Crescent, for which the rules have never been explained, and the flipside to that, One Song To The Tune Of Another, for which the rules are lengthily and tortuously explained every time.

Why's It So Great Then?:- It's a lovable, cuddly British institution which exudes a sense of joy all the way through. As most of the panel have worked together for so many years, there's a sense of ease and genuine enjoyment amongst them. It can be proper laugh-out-loud funny at times, too, and surprisingly rude for a Sunday lunchtime radio show. It also has a fine comic creation in that of Humph, the chairman persona that Littelton adopts for the show. As he aged with the show, in recent years, he morphed into a weary and slightly curmudgeonly deadpan character but without ever coming across as nasty or mean-spirited. Sadly, Humph passed away last year at the grand old age of 86 and the show was put on hold.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- Oh yeah, some of the jokes are real duds - proper stinkers. But most of the time, that's precisely the shows charm. It revels in the bad jokes, the awful puns, the dodgy innuendo and makes a virtue out of it. People line up to be guest stars - Stephen Fry, Bill Bailey, Paul Merton, Harry Hill, they've all taken turns in the guest chair (in fact, Stephen Fry, Jack Dee and Rob Brydon are all lined up to rotate as guest hosts for the next series in place of the dear departed Humph).

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- If you're in the mood for old-fashioned silliness with a healthy dose of good, clean smut then yes, go find some old episodes. I'd say the episodes from 1996 to date tend to be the funnier stuff, to be honest 9no offence to Willie Rushton). It does remain to be seen, however, whether it can carry on without Humph - his contribution to the overall show can't be overlooked and isn't something that can be replaced (and definitely shouldn't be imitated).


TishTash said...

The phrase "good, clean smut" hurt my head a little.

However, must check this out.

kapgaf said...

You are a man of impeccable taste - this show is wonderful. However, I am disappointed that in an inglorious outbreak of misogyny you left out the few comediennes who have made it onto the show - Sandy Toksvig and Linda Smith, are two excellent examples.

It has been a great help to me in recent years on long car journeys - if alone, I listen to it on CDs, if with the family, we play one song to the tune of another (just as funny in French).

The best Samantha anecdote is her having a new gentleman friend who's an ornithologist : she can't wait to see his woodcock and pullet.

I'd really like to know what Americans make of it - it always seems typically British in humour to me.

That Baldy Fella said...

TishTash - Welcome back from hols! Sadly, I didn't manage to drive all your readers away...

kapgaf - It wasn't misogyny, they didn't occur because I just don't find either of them particularly funny (same for guests like Phill Jupitus and Fred MacAuley who I also didn't mention).

"Samantha has to nip out now to meet her new gentleman friend who's been giving her driving lessons. Sadly, Samantha has scratched his paintwork, and put a few dents in his car that they need to repair, so while Samantha gets stripping, he'll be knocking one out"