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28 October 2014
I'm sorry I haven't a clue

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30th Special


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The Pianist - Colin Sell

I'm here with Colin Sell, famously the pianist on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. Does it seem like 30 years? Were you there from the very beginning?

It sort of takes me by surprise actually that, yes, it's been going for 30 years. I joined it, I think, 28 years ago. I didn't do the pilot and I didn't do the first series and then I joined it. And the reason I joined it was because the very young producer, the very good producer who'd been asked to take it over was a chap called Simon Brett who of course has gone on to do lots of other things, writing books and plays and heaven knows what else. Bur he'd seen me do stuff up at the Edinburgh Fringe and he just took a complete chance on me and said "I've been given this new program to do and I've heard you play and heard you write music and you improvise and you can kind of cope with most things that people throw at you musically and would you like to do it?"

So, that was back in 1974, I was in short-trousers of course then, I was a child prodigy really, and it took me a long time to get used to it because I was working, and I still am working, with people who are sort of my icons, really. You know, I was a teenager watching The Goodies and there was Barry Cryer and Humph Lyttelton playing jazz and all that, you know. And Willie Rushton who was an enormous name, particularly in the 60s. He made his name really doing That Was The Week That Was and so on. And suddenly, I was working with these people and so for about 10 years I kept thinking "They're never going to ask me back". Gradually over a period of time I've become, which is very nice for me, part of the set up. I don't do much on the programme, it has to be said if you actually analyse it, I don't do a great deal but I get a kind of reflected glory from it.

And there's a certain relationship on stage, at least, between you and Humph which people enjoy.

Yes, yes. They do. And actually, because we get on very well, it's good fun to play that sort of antagonist towards me. I just sit there and smile blithely at him and I don't have a microphone in front of me so if I want to make any comments, I have to really shout so we get this disembodied voice in the background which Humph always likes to play off and makes rude remarks about me.

So have you ever got together with Humph as pianist and trumpeter?

Only on a couple of occasions when we've done Christmas shows - he's had his trumpet there and we've done Christmas specials and he's played 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer', and we've worked then with his bass player and drummer as well. And there was a book launch we did some time ago, two or three years back, at Pizza Express and we had a quartet then. There was Humph and me and then his bass player and drummer. We did quite a lot of jazz playing which was very jolly. But no, we don't - apart from these odd occasions, we don't work together musically.

The only thing is that many years ago I was asked to do the music for a radio version of 'Look Back in Anger' and Jimmy Porter, the character who plays the trumpet, so somebody said to me 'Well, why don't you get Humph Lyttelton to come and play it' which was a very good idea. It was kind of revenge for all the times that Humph Lyttelton had been rude to me in the program. We had a good laugh about it. I was actually getting him to come into the studio and play my music and do what I told him. Actually, it was smashing. We had a wonderful time. It was great. He did a very good version of what the sort of trumpet playing that Jimmy Porter would have done.

There's a huge love for the show across the country and Humph recently played trumpet on a Radiohead…

He did.


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