Page last updated at 07:31 GMT, Monday, 15 June 2009 08:31 UK

Life after Humph

By Graham Satchell
BBC News


Stars in Newcastle to record I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue

Stephen Fry
Comedian Stephen Fry will chair the first show of the new series

Monday night sees the return of the venerable Radio 4 comedy fixture, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

The show has been going since 1972, but after the death of its chairman Humphrey Lyttelton last year there was a debate about whether it should continue.

Panellist Graeme Garden, who had the original idea for the show, said those involved needed time to decide what to do.

"After Humph died, I think we all felt we'd need to think about how we'd carry on," he said.

"But the audience, who play such a huge part in the show, have been so warm and supportive. They seem to welcome us and play their part, it feels familiar and we've all been made to feel at home."

For this series, there are three guest chairmen - Stephen Fry, Jack Dee and Rob Brydon, who has helmed a show recorded in Newcastle.

Speaking to the audience before the recording started, Brydon said: "This is a very big position to fill. So I'll do my best, in the spirit of Humph."

I can listen to this in my car with the kids. They'll get it on a certain level. Adults will get something else from it and in terms of filth it really is shocking
Rob Brydon

But while the chairman position has changed, everything else seems to have remained the same.

Colin Sell is still at the piano, the fictional "lovely Samantha" is still taking the score and, critically, the production team - including Jon Naismith and programme consultant Iain Pattinson - are still at the helm.

The new series, which Naismith says is a tribute to their lost chairman, has a reassuringly familiar tone.

Many favourite rounds return including the strategic cunning of Mornington Crescent, the ingenious wordplay of Uxbridge English Dictionary and the unfeasible complexity of One Song to the Tune of Another.

Thankfully the show has lost none of its deadpan filth.

As Brydon said: "I can listen to this in my car with the kids. They'll get it on a certain level. Adults will get something else from it and, in terms of filth, it really is shocking."

Radio 'fixture'

Phill Jupitus - a guest panellist at the Newcastle recording - said participating was an honour.

"In terms of gigs, it's like sitting with the Rolling Stones if you're a musician," he said.

Victoria Wood and Tim Brooke-Taylor
Victoria Wood is the first guest panellist for the new series

"The show is such a fixture, such a massive part of the radio landscape, I think British radio would be the poorer without it so they made a great decision."

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue has seen threats to its survival before.

In 1997, when regular panellist Willie Rushton died, there was a similar debate about what to do with the show.

But guest panellists including Jeremy Hardy and Sandi Toksvig have helped the show thrive in recent years.

Barry Cryer - who was part of the original line up with Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor - said: "It's always been the same - a shambles.

"We don't know what each other is going to do, we never know, and I always think it's at its best when it's falling apart."

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 1830 BST with Stephen Fry in the chair and Victoria Wood as guest panellist.

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