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28 October 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


Humph actually said that the secret to his delivery is that he doesn't actually understand the jokes.

Iain: He does read it as if he doesn't get the joke but he obviously does. But, he has got that fantastic knack of genuinely looking as if its the first time he's read it. It sounds like the first time he's read it as well. But, he really does have that ability to just pick it off the page as if he were reading a shopping list. I think he might casually glance down.
Jon: I don't think that there's any better deliverer of a line, a chairman of any other panel game, and I seem to have worked with almost… so's Iain.
Iain: Olivier was just hopeless. He couldn't read a line to save his life.
Jon: Obviously, I'm talking about the chairmen of panel games. But, they are few who compare, radio and television panel games, there are few people that can get laughs and rounds of applause before they even introduce the teams. I don't know what the percentage of, 50 percent lines and 50 percent delivery, but Iain has, 'cause I've worked with him quite a lot on other ventures both on radio and television, and it's not been completely unknown for some of the lines that Humphrey has delivered to have been used again for other performers and I have to say that they haven't gone down nearly as well.

Has anyone ever phoned up from on high and said "I can't believe Humph has just said that!"?

Jon: I sometimes get emails of praise from fellow producers astonished that some line could have been delivered. I got that with a Samantha line, was it Italian? Some sort of Italian thing?
Iain: It was an ice cream thing.
Jon: Yes.
Iain: She was going to spend the evening licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan. And I really don't see where the joke is in that. It was simply going out for an ice cream.
Jon: It's an ice cream… with pistachios…
Iain: It's an ice cream that has nuts on it…
Jon: And she was licking it, as one does.
Iain: Yeah.
Jon: Licking the nuts off.
Iain: She wasn't going to commit a sexual act on an Italian. I mean, that's just ludicrous to think that.
Jon: Also…
Iain: Fat or otherwise.
Jon: With the dog-breeders. Didn't she go to the park with a German Shepherd.
Iain: No, I think it was time to let her whip it out.
Jon: Oh, was it?
Iain: Yeah.
Jon: Oh, right.

So it's been 30 years, any thoughts on how it's lasted and why it's still so popular?

Jon: Iain?
Iain: Probably idleness on the part of the schedulers and their inability, seriously, their inability to come up with anything that could be better to replace it. It's a very good show with very good people on it. Simple as that. And it hasn't got lazy. There are plenty of rounds that used to be done that aren't done anymore, new rounds have come in and gone pretty quickly. There are some, one or two rounds, which we've done that have only ever appeared once and got fantastic laughs at the time. And yet, there are other shows that would probably do that again if not every week… that's not been the case.

And it's also got in the panellists, sadly no longer with Willie, but certainly with a choice of some of the best guest comedians in the country. With those four people sat there, you have got some of the best talent there is in the country. And a diverse talent as well. They come from various different schools. Partly comprehensive, part public… obviously.

But there is a fantastic diversity which means that you don't have to do it… so if you watch an awful lot of TV comedy panel games you could swap all the people around from seat to seat and not really notice any difference. I mean, their material is much the same. If you switch the set, if you turned away from the set, just listened to it, you would have trouble telling who was delivering which line, which joke. But there's not that problem with Clue because each individual does have his own style and it all adds together like some kind of bizarre aural jigsaw that melds together to make something a bit bigger, I think. And, have I won my award for being pretentious prat yet?
Jon: It's a tremendous show and that's why its lasted. And it combines every form of humour: satire, nonsense, impressions, singing… its even got a pianist. It's a tremendous, tremendous show.

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