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I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue
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I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is a comedy radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (from April 11 1972 to the present day). The show bills itself as "the antidote to panel games", in which a panel of comedians are "given silly things to do".

Table of contents
1 Format
2 Participants
3 Humour
4 Games
5 Non-game segments
6 History
7 External links

Format

The show roughly follows standard panel game format. There is a chairman and a panel of four comedians. The show is structured as a sequence of rounds. In each round the panellists play a nominally-competitive game, a different game for each round. Between rounds the chairman chats, reads out letters (which are generally assumed to be fake), and generally provides some variety from the games.

In most games the panellists play as individuals, but for some games they are grouped into two teams of two. Most of the games involve interaction between the players, but the team games tend to consist of separate efforts.

Although most of the games have some rule to determine a winner, in fact the show is not competitive in the slightest degree. There is no scoring; there is never any reference to the score during the show, and no winner is announced. Some games lack even the appearance of competitiveness.

Participants

The chairman is Humphrey Lyttelton, generally referred to as "Humph".

The regular panellists are:

Since the death of Willie Rushton, the fourth panel member is normally a fortnightly guest. Guest panellists have included: Colin Sell usually provides musicial accompaniment to some of the games. Guest pianist, when Colin Sell has been double booked and the ISIHAC team have won the coin toss, has been former Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band member and Monty Python collaborator Neil Innes.

Humour

Many of the games are inherently humourous; see below for discussion. All games are played for laughs, even when theoretically capable of being taken seriously.

The show is notable for including far more and far ruder innuendo and double entendre than the BBC would ever broadcast on television in a similar early evening timeslot. For example: "She's become quite friendly with the two elderly archivists, Jack and Arthur. They've recently gone part time, so Samantha's come to a working arrangement. She does the paperwork, Arthur gets her forty-fives out, and Jack's off all afternoon.". (By way of explanation, "forty-fives" could be taken to refer to 45 rpm vinyl records or Samantha's ample 45-inch bosom; and "Jack's off" can be heard as "jacks off", a slang expression for masturbation.)

A frequent source of humour is the supposed presence of something, or someone, which is visually impressive but makes no sound, and therefore cannot be properly appreciated by the radio audience. For example, the regular scorer is "the lovely Samantha" (who never speaks a word), and the team have trialled many "advanced laser scoreboards" over recent decades. In fact these things are of course fictional. The studio audience invariably plays along with the joke by providing gasps of wonder, applause, wolf-whistles, etc., at the appropriate moment.

Possibly the most well-developed instance of this form-versus-content humour was an occasion when Humph announced that they had a very distinguished actor as a guest, and he would be joining in the game of Mornington Crescent. The panellists first played a normal game of Mornington Crescent, ostensibly to give the guest a chance to acclimatise. With much gravitas the guest then approached the panel's table, taking his place such that he would be the last to make his first move. When the game started, the penultimate player, the last of the panellists, won on his first move, thus denying the distinguished guest the opportunity to make even a single move in the game. The chairman apologised, but explained that that was an unavoidable possibility in the game, and the guest gracefully left, without having ever uttered a word. The show was inundated with complaints at the treatment of Alec Guinness, despite the fact that the "distinguished actor" had never actually been named on the show.

Games

The best-known game is the convoluted Mornington Crescent, but there are games with more robust rules such as Cheddar Gorge, improvised limerickss and the singing of one song to the tune of another (sadly no computer can yet store the principles upon which that round depends).

The closing round is often "Late Arrivals at the such-and-such Ball" which descends directly from frequent incidental dialogue included in the earlier, scripted BBC Radio 4 series I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again. Late arrivals at the Drunkard's Ball could for example include Mr.and Mrs.Large-Whisky and their son Oliver Large-Whisky (a pun on "I'll have a large whisky").

A list of games:

Non-game segments

Although more free-form than the games, the parts of the show between the games include some standard features.

At the beginning of the show, the chairman always announces in which town the recording is taking place, and says something about the team's reaction to, or exploits in, the region. Apart from this there is frequently gossip about the crew (especially the fictional scorer Samantha). Usually Humph rambles for a few sentences, apparently fairly aimlessly, before finishing on a double entendre set up by the preceding story. For an example of this form, see the Humour section above.

Since May 11 1985 there has been a (fictional) scorer, usually the lovely Samantha. Occasionally the Swedish stand-in scorer Sven, or another substitute, has made an appearance.

A prolific correspondent to the chairman over the years has been the idiosyncratic (and fictional) Mrs Trellis of North Wales. Her incoherent letters are read out to much amusement.

History

The idea for ISIHAC came when the team of the long-running I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again decided that they could no longer find time to write scripts. Instead they devised a parody of panel games, ISIHAC. The original panellists were Jo Kendall, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor, and John Cleese (all part of the ISIRTA team). The job of host changed week to week between Humphrey Lyttelton and Barry Cryer in the first two series, before Humphrey Lyttelton hosted on a regular basis.

Some early episodes of the series were wiped in the late 1970s. Following the BBC's Treasure Hunt appeal for missing material several episodes were returned in the form of off-air recordings.

Notable special episodes were:

A spin-off of the popular round "sound charades" is the scripted BBC Radio 4 show You'll Have Had Your Tea, with Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden starring as their often used characters, Hamish and Dougal.

External links