Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

April 27, 2008

The Independent on the future of Clue

Millions haven't a clue what they'll do without Humph

That old showbiz cliché 'irreplaceable' may for once be true – cult show may well die with him. David Randall reports
There was a growing feeling last night that I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, widely regarded as the funniest radio programme since The Goon Show, will pass away along with its chairman and innuendo-peddler in chief, Humphrey Lyttelton, who died on Friday at 86.
A BBC spokesman said that it was far too early to comment on the future of the show, which regularly attracts audiences of two million. But last year, when asked about the 36-year-old programme, one of its veteran panellists, Tim Brooke-Taylor, said: "Humph is the most important component. Willie Rushton [a founder panellist, who died in 1996] and I talked about it once and we agreed that if, Humph isn't there, it's not worth doing." When Lyttelton fell ill recently, the show's spring series was cancelled, rather than be recorded with a substitute chairman.
It is certainly difficult to imagine anyone other than the courtly Lyttelton getting away with the outrageous double-entendres that ran through the show like a chorus girl being chased by a stage-door Johnnie – especially those referring to "Samantha", the show's mythical but fun-loving scorer. ("She's looking forward to going out for an ice-cream with her Italian gentleman friend. She says she's looking forward to licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan.") Colin Sell, the show's pianist also came in for weekly stick, as in: "I'm very pleased to announce that the BBC have arranged a special collection of Colin's entire work... they've bagged it up and the council are sending some men round for it on Tuesday."
The enormous affection that listeners had for Lyttelton was evident on the BBC website yesterday. By 6am, less than eight hours after his death, there were no fewer than 35 pages of tributes. David from Towcester wrote: "They better book the biggest church in the country for the memorial service because we'll all want to be there – and get the foundations checked, because the place will literally shake with laughter in his memory." To which Brian Rogers from King's Lynn added: "I trust the memorial service will be held in the true spirit of the programme: Colin Sell at the piano, hymns displayed on the giant laservision scoreboard, 'Nearer My God to Thee' sung to the tune of 'Penny Lane', late arrivals at the undertakers' ball, an empty chair for Samantha, 'Jerusalem' played on kazoo, and one final glorious game of Mornington Crescent!"
Lyttelton was an intensely private man, few of his jazz or radio colleagues even having his phone number. His wife Jill died in 2006. His passions in life were jazz, calligraphy, bird-watching and getting away with ever filthier remarks on his beloved radio show. "And so," as he once concluded a show, "as the still-warm seat of eternity is lifted by the charlady of time, before she brandishes aloft the Toilet Duck of destiny, it's time to go." Farewell.


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