Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mrs Trellis Regrets

So farewell Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz legend and one time signals officer with the Grenadier Guards who landed on the beach at Salerno with a pistol in one hand and his trumpet in the other. Claiming to be descended from a collaborator in Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot, and described by Louis Armstrong as “That cat in England who swings his ass off,” he was also a cartoonist, calligrapher and, since 1972, supreme master of the double entendre as the deadpan chairman of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

This afternoon Radio 4 bumped the literary quiz The Write Stuff in favour of a typically hilarious classic episode of “the antidote to panel games”, originally broadcast in May 1995. The first edition of the 25th series, it featured original panel member Willie Rushton, alongside Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Barry Cryer, playing the likes of One Song to the Tune of Another, Name that Barcode, and Sound Charades.

After Rushton’s death in 1997 his seat was taken by a rotation of guest panellists including Rob Brydon, Jeremy Hardy, and even Stephen Fry who came up with perhaps the best ever definition for the Uxbridge English Dictionary:

Countryside – To kill Piers Morgan.

The question now remains, will anyone be able to replace “Humph”?

In The Observer today, Lord Bragg of South Bank observed:

He was a very amiable, good-mannered and well-bred man and that is why he got away with all of the stuff he said on Radio 4 as chairman of the panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. His lines must surely be among the rudest jokes that have ever been broadcast anywhere on the radio, but I would be interested to know if he ever got a single complaint.

Who else could ever get away with delivering, in an understated, unknowing way, such typically marvellous ISIHAC filth as:

“The next game is Sound Charades. This is based on the TV favourite Give Us A Clue, where players used to mime the titles of songs, films or plays against a time limit. The master was undoubtedly Lionel Blair, and who will forget him, exhausted and on his knees, finishing off An Officer And A Gentleman in under two minutes?”


“After tasting the meat pies, Samantha said she liked Mr Dewhurst’s beef in ale; although she preferred his tongue in cider”

According to The Times yesterday, last year Tim Brooke-Taylor had been asked to contemplate the future of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue without the then 85-year-old Lyttelton as presenter. He replied

“Humph is the most important component. Willie Rushton and I talked about it once and we agreed that if Humph isn’t there it’s not worth doing.”

In the last stop of the SIHAC Official Stage Tour, Rob Brydon stood in as chairman because Lyttelton had already been admitted to hospital for surgery on an aortic aneurysm. If the BBC do decide to relaunch the show, there are suggestions that Brydon is in the running, alongside Jeremy Hardy and Paul Merton to take over the host’s chair.

Should I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue continue? Who has the ability to fill Humph’s shoes? For once there isn’t a clear antidote.


At 9:58 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

TBT was right. Clue should be allowed to rest in peace with our happy memories. But the BBC won't let it go that quietly and we'll probably all listen, if a little regretfully.

At that edition of the programme chaired by Rob Brydon (recorded only a couple of days before Humph's death) the great man had recorded a special message for the audience...

You can read it on my blog post I'm Sorry...

Brilliant! Making us laugh to very end. And what a jazz player and what a brilliant comic-strip he created with Wally Fawkes (Trog) in Flook...


Post a Comment

<< Home