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British Comedy

The Stage review of the new series of ISIHAC
16/06/2009 00:00 GMT

Posted by lisa

Here's a nice piece from The Stage about the new series of "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" -

From :

The Return of ISIHAC
By Mark Wright on June 16, 2009 5:03 PM

Devoted Radio 4 listeners could not have missed that last night saw the return to this august radio station of a British institution. But sadly, Iím Sorry I Havenít a Clue is now tragically missing the institution within the institution - the late, great Humphrey Lyttelton, aka Chairman Humph.

There has been much discussion following the sad death of Lyttelton last year as to whether Clue could - or should - continue without the master of the unwitting innuendo in the chair. But continue they have, and one canít help feel that the man himself would have approved. Iíd like to think heíd be horrified to discover his friends stopped having fun because of him.

And so in last nightís opener of the new series, regulars Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Barry Cryer were joined on stage by Clue virgin Victoria Wood for another half hour of silly games and witty, yet still delightfully school yard banter.

Of course, all ears were going to be on the Chairman, and stepping gamely up for the first of two stints (Rob Brydon and Jack Dee will be on chair duties later in the series) was Stephen Fry. A good, solid, line and length choice for the first time out.

Wisely, the games chosen were some reliable favourites - Uxbridge English Dictionary always guarantees a titter, while Pick Up Song and Just a Minim provided some mirth. And there was even a round of Sound Charades, complete with smutty dig at Lionel Blair and a cheerily received turn from Hamish and Dougal (who on this occasion hadnít had their tea yet).

All these beats throughout the episode seemed to be engineered to send the message to the audience that it was business as usual, like a reassuring hug from an old friend. The regulars were all on form, if a little nervous at the top of the show, and Victoria Wood provided a game first-time guest (and worth it for her Joyce Grenfell).

But itís not the same in some areas, and it was a shock at first to hear lines that would once have been written for Humph coming from somebody else. The same innuendo, the same use of pun, all written for Humphís unique delivery and tonal style. To hear it coming from Fry felt wrong. And this was the first stumble. Stephen Fry isnít Humph (and nor would he ever claim to be), so perhaps some effort to tailor the chairís material is needed as the show goes forward.

This sounds like Iím being harsh on Fry. Far from it. It just took a while for this particular tough room to be convinced that it was the right decision to carry on.

And yetÖ Fry rallied as the show went on, warming to his theme, finding within possibly the toughest gig of his career his own brillaint style. By the time he threw out a dry quip about being too distracted by Svenís blowing (the lovely Samantha was indisposed) to pay attention to the game, I was chortling away with glee. At that moment, it felt right - a natural, smutty riposte that didnít feel like it was written for somebody else.

If the audience stays - and why wouldnít they - the material will naturally be tailored to the host, and the effect will be less jarring.

But for now, Iím pleased as punch that ISIHAC is back. It makes me laugh far more than anything else out there (30 Rock aside), and as long as it continues to do that, Iíll still be tuning in. Wonít you join me?

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