I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue filming, Theatre Severn - review
Many of the original line-up may have been absent, but attending a recording of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue gives you a glimpse of chaotic genius in action.
Dear Auntie Beeb – I would like to register a complaint. Your recording of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue in Shrewsbury on Monday shocked me to my very core.
Stephen Fry was much taller than he looks on the radio, Colin Sell kept playing the piano, and Jack Dee wasn’t nearly as cheerful as his reputation would have us believe.
What’s more, the Uxbridge English Dictionary definition of dictator being a spud shaped like Nigel Farage was really just too much for my increasingly nervous disposition.
It wasn’t half funny though. And I wasn’t the only one that thought so.
I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue has been running for a lifetime – for me it’s a lifetime and a quarter.
On Monday evening it returned for the first recording of its 72nd series at the Theatre Severn. Last of the Summer Wine, eat your heart out.
And although some of the panellists have been showing a bit of grey these past few decades, the jokes certainly are evergreen. In fact, the longevity just makes it funnier. There’s nothing like a running gag that’s older than you are.
With Jack Dee chairing and the likes of Tim Brooke-Taylor, Stephen Fry, Miles Jupp and Pippa Evans on the panel, you know you’re in for a good night. And, thankfully unlike most good nights, this one was recorded for posterity.
For a long-time listener of the radio show, this is an unusual step behind the curtain.
The biggest surprise is how complete the recording is. Save for Jack Dee re-recording a couple of scripted links, the live show is exactly as you hear it on the radio. It will be edited for length, but apart from that it is all there, right down to The Schickel Shamble and the closing credits.
It’s rather a lot of responsibility for those of us in the audience, and I live in horror at hearing my increasingly unattractive guffaws on the radio.
After a brief question on the proper pronunciation of Shrewsbury, the panellists soon move on to less sensitive subjects like Brexit, Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan.
But for the most part, it’s just good old fashioned fun. Puns, silly songs and enough kazoo and swanee whistles to last a year.
All the classic games are there. It was fascinating to see the great minds of Mornington Crescent battle it out with an interesting poker variation. Like chess, the really brilliant players of the game start young and hone their craft to the point that they can leave you in awe.
The laser display screen seems to get more high-tech each series. If next year’s return of Doctor Who takes a step back budget-wise we know where the money went. They’d only have used it on monsters made of toilet roll tubes and sticky-back plastic anyway.
Mention should be made of scorer Sven, who doggedly tried to make sense of who was winning and losing. He caught many an eye, and that’s all I’ll say. No need to leave him red-cheeked.
Other rounds are almost as much about the audience participation as the jokes themselves. One Tune to the Song of Another and Pick Up Song are hilarious in and of themselves, but add in some clapping and some very big laughs, and suddenly it goes to another level. That feeds the panellists to go bigger – and things get very big.
The audience was fantastic. The great thing about having a crowd of people who have been following a programme for hundreds of shows is that they know what to expect, and what is expected of them. They’ll laugh and cheer in all the right places.
Colin Sell provides virtuoso accompaniment to the musical rounds. Nobody else could provide that sort of backing to a swanee whistle. Not the sort of thing you’d put on a CV, but I suppose it’s done him quite well over the years.
In all seriousness, the asides between Jack and Colin are hilarious, especially because, as always, Colin has no microphone to swipe back.
It’s a tradition that dates back to the glory days of Humphrey Lyttelton, but while it’s very funny, it highlights the fact that only one of the original regulars was present.
In a way that’s a little bid sad. Clue was always so much about the personalities. It’s Have I Got News for You without Paul Merton and Ian Hislop. More accurately, it’s Just a Minute without Kenneth Williams.
The games are just as funny with newcomers. They are set up for good comedians to make good jokes, and in future years maybe it will continue with others. There’s no reason it couldn’t, especially when it still attracts top names to each broadcast.
Some might scoff at the idea of Clue lasting another 72 series. Mostly the people involved I should think, who all deserve a good rest.
But Monday night proved beyond a doubt that the spirit of the show should live on.
And as the boy racer of time rushes at twice the speed limit down the M54 of eternity, our review has come to an end. I suppose in the end my only complaint was that there wasn’t more of it. Good work, Auntie Beeb.
The episodes recorded in Shrewsbury will be broadcast starting November.