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British Comedy

Telegraph article about new series of ISIHAC
11/06/2009 00:00 GMT

Posted by lisa

An article about the first recording for the new series of "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" appears on The Telegraph's website at

From [url[/url]:

Stephen Fry: the day the comedian became Humphrey Lyttleton

I'm Sorry I Haven't Got a Clue returns to Radio 4 on Monday without the late Humphrey Lyttleton. Catherine Gee attends a live recording of the panel show.

By Catherine Gee
Published: 5:32PM BST 10 Jun 2009

It’s the opening show of the new series of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and guest host Stephen Fry is redoing a line. He’s managed to introduce the regular panellist Barry Cryer as “Brian”, which, when he’s reminded of his mistake, brings titters from the live audience and from this evening’s star guest-panellist Victoria Wood, who’s making her debut on the programme.

Fry is understandably nervous. He’s sitting in the place of the show’s deeply admired former chairman Humphrey Lyttelton, who died last year.

Lyttelton had presented Radio 4’s determinedly silly panel game – the self-declared “antidote” to more standard examples of the genre – since its inception in 1972. His deadpan presenting style was thought intrinsic to the success of the show, and after hearing the news of his death, the Clue team did not know if the programe would return at all. “We agreed to take a year out and let us all get over [his death] in our own ways,” says regular panellist Graeme Garden.

But despite concerns that it wouldn’t be the same without him, the BBC was inundated by requests from the public for the show to come back. “Literally thousands of emails came in,” says Barry Cryer. “We were flooded.”

So back it has come, with temporary guest presenters until a permanent replacement can be found (both Cryer and Garden are tight-lipped on who that could be). When tickets for the new six-part series were released, with announcements that Stephen Fry, Jack Dee and Rob Brydon would each be presenting two programmes, they were snapped up within minutes. The guest panellists weren’t even announced yet – Wood’s appearance (she holds her own despite saying this week in an interview the Radio Times that panel shows are too “male-dominated”) is a complete surprise.

It’s a Sunday evening in April and we’re in Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. On stage are Garden, Cryer, Wood, regular panellist Tim Brooke-Taylor, Fry and, next to him, an empty chair for scorekeeper Samantha (who isn’t real). Two shows are recorded in one evening, with each taking about 45 minutes.

Fry is looking particularly dapper in a tuxedo and sparkly waistcoat as tonight’s recording falls on the same night as the Bafta Television Awards and he’s dashing off to the dinner later. He informs us that his sister is going to text him should he win any of his three categories. Sadly, no text arrives.

The games start quickly, with each panellist reading from a script – the show began life improvised but is no longer. As always with Clue, there’s plenty of innuendo to keep the audience amused. During a round in which they have to guess the original wording of quotes by the socialite Paris Hilton, Brooke-Taylor is given “I don’t have sex unless I’m…”. “Awake,” he quickly offers. “The opposite of me,” remarks Fry.

More are found in the return of Mornington Crescent – the nonsense game in which participants always arrive at the name of the underground station – which is welcomed by loud cheers. The panellists are now joined by a new “machine” from which a robotic voice says the names of Tube stations. But, of course, the machine is faulty and it scrambles the names of stations. It barks rude-sounding hybrids such as “Shepherd’s Cock”, “Queen’s Bush” and “Parson’s Balls” – leaving the audience giggling like naughty children.

But as much as Clue is about harmless fun, a few taunts do fly about, with the main focus being Fry and his fondness for Twitter, the social networking site. Indeed, Fry, at the end of the show’s first half, makes a spontaneous attempt to get the audience involved with the whole Twitter phenomenon.

“We’re not keeping you from the bar are we?” he asks the crowd, as he eats into their 20-minute interval time.

“Only Barry,” yells a spectator, to a round of laughs.

The incident is typical of the whole evening: the audience seem particularly supportive and fond of the team on stage, as if to compensate for the dark cloud hanging over them.

“The mood of mourning for Humph was changed into a very warm feeling,”

Cryer says later. “Like he was standing in the wings.”

I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue begins on Monday 15 June on Radio 4FM at 6.30pm

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