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24 September 2014
I'm sorry I haven't a clue

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Radio 4 comedy
»I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue
30th Special


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The Writer and the Producer- Iain and Jon

Jon, how did you first come to the show?

Jon: In 1991 it was.
Iain: In his grandmother's will… in fact.

Did you make any changes to the format?

Jon: There were certain, I mean, you know, … I thought that every new producer, I think, has an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the show. It was not a show that I consciously listened to a great deal. I suppose I came to it quite fresh and perhaps sort of relatively objectively. I think there were certain rounds that I thought were maybe a little past their sell-by date. But previous producers had kept quite a good archive of past rounds so I was able to go through them initially. And I also had an exercise swiftly after taking over the show, I was asked by the World-wide to compile an audio cassette and I thought I'd do a compilation of past programs so I basically listened to, I phoned teams first to say could they suggest any good rounds for the tape and they said "I can't remember any. I couldn't remember any highlights from any of the show"…. So I listened to every single tape in the archive. About 150 programmes.
Iain: And then you found the highlight.
Jon: Then I found the highlight. I found quite a few actually and they're on the first tape.

Iain, what's your first memory of coming to Sorry I Haven't A Clue?

Iain: Well, in a non-professional sense, I came to Clue when it started. I used to listen to it in the 70s when I was in the real world doing a real job and never thinking that some 20 years later, I would actually be working with the guys and writing on the show. Which is a bit of a tragic end to a young person's career, I know. But, there it is. As Jon describes, Bob Fraser-Steel and I were writing a news quiz at the time and then, the BBC in its wisdom sacked our producer… very sensibly, in my opinion. And then noticed at the beginning of the next series that they didn't have a producer. Not so sensibly, they decided that Jon have a crack at it and I think that the two shows were in production at the same time, or overlapped or something which meant that Jon had been writing the links and some good ones too, I thought… I have to say. But that's not necessarily a producer's job, especially since it takes the bread out of the marrow of writers… who have slaved years and done an apprenticeship for this… only for some amateur to make a pathetic attempt to write a few knob gags in his spare time.

It's a credit to all of you that its gotten funnier as time's gone on.

Jon: How sweet of you to notice.
Iain: How very perceptive of you to notice, I'd like to say. I think that, well obviously as far as I'm concerned, the main stuff I do is to write for Humph. Humph wasn't, in my opinion, doing enough because, not because he's lazy, simply because he wasn't being given stuff to do. And I don't think that anyone ever considered that the point of having the chairman there was to do a ten-minute stand-up act in between all the rounds. But, in that virtually, if you gave him the Argos catalogue he could read it and make it funny so it's not such an arduous task. But, you just think "Yeah, I can hear him doing this". Occasionally he'll write a link and I'll think that link is easily long enough and I'll think there's another gag there. Would be nice to hear him do it. Oh, hang on, there's a topper that could go with that… well, put it in anyway… we can always cut it out. But I do occasionally feel a bit sorry for the other guys, Tim and the rest of it, have to sit there while he grinds his way through a couple of pages of old rubbish that I've been churning out the night before.

The lines sometimes get pretty near the knuckle.

Iain: Not with you…

I'm talking about innuendo.

Iain: You mean knob gags?
I mean knob gags.

Jon: No… no…
Iain: There is no rudery at all. The words on the page are completely innocent.


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