Radio favourite treading the boards

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue

Wolverhampton Grand

****

THE charm of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, or ISIHAC, as aficionados would have it, is that it is silly, gloriously, irreverently silly, worthy of an arts council grant for silliness.

It was born 38 years ago, fathered by  ex-Goodie Graeme Garden and has has continued along it's anarchic way ever since. 

The result is a creation which is very British in the tradition of radio programmes that the bosses at the BBC probably either didn't hear or if they did, didn't understand. The likes of The Goons, Beyond our Ken and its lovechild Round the Horne and I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again.

There is schoolboy humour, a smattering of filth and double entendre, the worst of puns, wit and cleverness and absolutely no concessions to that scourge of humanity, PC. How it has managed to keep below the radar of the thought police for so long is a complete mystery.

It has also escaped the BBC obsession with dumbing down, introducing yoof (three panelists have had their bus passes some considerable time), or chucking Z-list celebrities in to appeal to the masses. 

For those who have been off the planet for the past 40 years or so ISIHAC is a sort of quiz show which has very strict rules about not having rules and whose pinnacle, whose Blue Ribband event each week is the game of Mornington Crescent which is a tube station in Campden Town. That probably makes more sense as an explanation than the game which involves having to get there from some location in London via a set of ever changing and incomprehensible rules. 

In the stage version there is now satnav assistance which helps . . . not a lot. Which brings us, eventually, to the stage version of the Radio 4 show. 

Here there are no real concessions - and why should there be. This is just a much longer - two-and -a-half hours with interval - radio show with Jack Dee as chairman flanked by Tim Brooke-Taylor and Jeremy Hardy on one side and Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden on the other with Colin Sell tinkling the ivories behind- and of course a space for the lovely Samantha who seems to lead a rather interesting life.

STEAMING AUDIENCE

Producer Jon Naismith warms up the already steaming audience with some jokes older than the show - apart from one which will be doing the rounds of pubs and clubs, factories and dole queues as we speak - before taking the audience to Grade 8 in kazoo playing.

This is in fact the only show which gives every member of the audience a free kazoo, which is a pity as such a gesture would brighten up operas and musicals no end,

There are so many silly games that have graced (not really the word but there isn't anything more accurate in any known language) the show over the years that there is a choice of 25 for the cast to pick from for each show providing a variety which includes the Welsh Film Club with such gems as Sodom and Glamorgan, the Uxbridge English Dictionary - Dictionary itself being the dirty version of Pictionary and Karaoke-Cokey when the audience get out their kazoos . . . so to speak.

The audience play a tune and the panel guess what it is - in theory. Whiter Shade of Pale was the sticking point here with some of the audience obviously not knowing the tune but joining in in any case, those who did know it playing in different keys, tempos and at different parts of the song and then there were some who had mixed it up with Knights in White Satin.

Probably the only person who recognised anything from the din was Jeremy Hardy who proved several times during the evening that he sings way outside the tonic sol-fa scale. In fact no system of music yet devised can identify or categorise the sounds he makes

The audience also learned much about the history of Wolverhampton and the Grand as part of the educational element of the show with such facts as the first paper mill was built in the city - it blew away, and the fact that little Julie Andrews gave her first performance on the satge of the Grand - she was pretty awful so went into the family liver salts business instead.

It was a very silly, very funny evening and, from the age range of the packed and remarkably enthusiastic audience, another 38 years of ISIHAC - via Mornington Crescent of course, would seem assured. 15-11-10

Roger Clarke 

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