I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue
I am writing daily, during my cancer treatment, about a radio show that has brightened up my life.
A Canadian colleague, when asked how he had enjoyed his first vacation to the UK, responded in mild outrage that he had been shocked by the state control of the media here and the dirth of anything other than BBC radio and television. Meanwhile, the ruling party is often complaining of the BBC’s left-wing bias. Perhaps that suggests they have it about right so I will not apologise for picking another BBC Radio 4 show for my fourth treatment.
I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, the antidote to panel games, was first broadcast in 1972, when I was well into my teenage years. The format consists of a series of absurd parlour games and the panellists must have lightening wit to survive. Like all the best panel games, the winning is of absolutely no importance. In this case, no points are actually awarded. The repartee that accompanies the games is all important. The audience is often reduced to stitches.
The programme was chaired by jazz musician, Humphrey Littleton, until his death in 2008. He loved a good, old-fashioned innuendo. The current chair is the Sahara dry Jack Dee. Panelists have included Tim Brook-Taylor, Willie Rushton and Sandi Toksvig. The scorer is the mysterious and “lovely Samantha” .
Of the several games played during each episode, Mornington Crescent is one of my favourites and perhaps the most absurd since it is entirely meaningless. The game involves a tour of London streets and its Underground system in which a logical response to the street or station suggested by the previous panelist is proffered after a, sometimes long, pause for faux strategic thought. The logic can be challenged at any point and the objective of the game is to avoid giving the game to the next panelist with an answer that can be unfathomably followed by “Mornington Crescent”. Sometimes the game is played to special rules which, of course, are doubly opaque and totally flexible at the chair’s discretion.
If you can listen to I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue and keep a straight face, you are already dead.