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I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, Again: A Legacy of Laughs?

Wednesday 6 March 2013, 17:06

Nick St George Nick St George Producer, Radio 4 Extra

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Editor's Note: Nick St George is the producer of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, Again. Individual episodes of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again are also being broadcast on 4 Extra on Wednesdays at 8.30am, 12.30pm and 7.30pm

I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again It's a good game to play in an idle moment: who or what influenced who (or what) in the history of radio comedy. For some time after cinema had signalled its demise in the theatres, Variety still wielded power on the wireless. Why, even the ground-breaking Goons retained its "straight" musical interludes as provided by Ray Ellington and Max Geldray, while in the next decade so did Beyond Our Ken and Round The Horne (The Frazer Hayes Four et al). But I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again stamped all over that tradition by ensuring that the comedy didn't stop when the music started with Bill Oddie's string of send-up songs.

Script for the radio version of ‘Cambridge Circus’, the 1963 Footlights review that spawned ISIRTA

ISIRTA's regular line-up comprised David Hatch, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, John Cleese, Jo Kendall and Oddie. Cleese ended up in Monty Python's Flying Circus and then Hollywood, while Garden, Oddie and Brooke-Taylor went on to enjoy TV fame as The Goodies. The late David Hatch became a big noise at the BBC, while Jo Kendall appeared in The Burkiss Way on the wireless and Emmerdale on the telly. But it is the Python/Goodies axis that interests us here. Apart from the individuals involved, is there any thread that binds the pun-and-parody-packed ISIRTA to its famous TV descendants? Ticket to a recording of 'I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again' Ticket to a recording of 'I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again' The show's first producer, Humphrey Barclay, believes there is. He says that the "anarchic freedom" that the cast of ISIRTA enjoyed gave them a confidence in writing and performing that led to both Python and The Goodies.  While Bill Oddie argues that both TV shows were so different to "I'm Sorry" that they were, in fact, reactions against it: "it was time to move on".

I wonder if the now little-known At Last, The 1948 Show is actually ISIRTA's long-lost love child. Broadcast only on regional ITV in 1967/8, this sketch show featured among its regular cast and writers Cleese, Brooke-Taylor and the late Graham Chapman (who was in the 1963 Cambridge Footlights revue that spawned ISIRTA). Oddie and Kendall also made guest appearances. Both in personnel and style, it owes something to "I'm Sorry", not least in that the sketches often come across as 'radio-with-pictures'.

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Humphrey Barclay reflects on following in Peter Cook's footsteps. Plus, an ISIRTA Macbeth parody.

But does any of this really matter? The bottom line surely is whether or not comedy of a certain age still makes us laugh. You can make up your own mind at 9am (repeated 7pm) on Saturday the 9th March 2013 when Bill Oddie presents I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, Again on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

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    Comment number 1.

    I came so many times to the Playhouse. Brought family, friends and whomsoever i could drag along (including my Dad) to hear this revolutionary type of radio theatre. I saw the tantrums of the artists and also the sheer professionalism of getting things right. I am now 63 , in South Africa, and have collected a multitude of ISIRTA recordings that i listen to over and over - and they still make me laugh. The image of T B-T going red in the face when doing Lady Constance, Bill acting the part of Grimbling not forgetting his brilliant songs and lyrics, John being SO superior except when the script allowed him to slip out of character, David - always the professional. Jo, the lovely lady with several voices and attitudes, Graeme Garden the ultimate character actor, and the band of Dave Lee. Have I left anyone out? yes the production team and BBC who brought this fantastic timeless comedy to the airwaves. Thank you.


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Identifying the top ten game changers operating in the UK today.


See the latest on our blog


Find out about this year's panel and theme