The BBC radio comedy panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue is introduced as “the antidote to panel games”, and consists of two teams of two comedians “given silly things to do” by a chairman. The show launched as a parody of radio and TV panel games, and has been broadcast since on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, with repeats aired on BBC Radio 4 Extra.
After a period of split chairmanship in the first series, Humphrey Lyttelton (“Humph”) served in this role from the programme’s inception until his death in 2008. The chairman’s script is written by Iain Pattinson, who has worked on the show since 1992.
The show developed from the long-running radio sketch show I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, the writers of which were John Cleese, Jo Kendall, David Hatch, Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor and especially Graeme Garden who suggested the idea of an unscripted show which, it was decided, would take the form of a parody panel game.
The pilot episode (where it was originally called I’m Sorry, They’re At It Again) opened with Graeme Garden and Jo Kendall singing the words of “Three Blind Mice” to the tune of “Ol’ Man River” followed by Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor performing the lyrics of “Sing a Song of Sixpence” to the melody of “These Foolish Things”. Dave Lee, who was bandleader on I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, was at the piano and a number of rounds were introduced by a short phrase of music. Other rounds included “Dialogue Read in a Specific Accent” and “Songs Sung as Animals”. In 1974 Bill Oddie was replaced by Willie Rushton, with Barry Cryer as Graeme Garden’s teammate, and Humphrey Lyttelton as chairman, and the personnel remained constant from this point until Rushton’s death in 1996. Since then the fourth seat on the panel has featured a variety of guest comedians. [Wikipedia]
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The most famous round featured on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue is Mornington Crescent, a game with each panellist in turn announcing a landmark or street, most often a tube station on the London Underground system. The apparent aim is to be the first to announce “Mornington Crescent”, a station on the Northern line. Interspersed with the turns is humorous discussion amongst the panellists and host regarding the rules and legality of each move, as well as the strategy the panellists are using. Despite appearances, however, there are no rules to the game, and both the naming of stations and the specification of “rules” are based on stream-of-consciousness association and improvisation. Thus the game is intentionally incomprehensible. [Wikipedia]
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