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No Longer Clueless
on 23 December 2009
The first half of this, largely, excellent book traces the careers of a small group of satirists and comedians from Cambridge Smokers to Clue via Footlights, revues, I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, The Goodies, Hello Cheeky and numerous other less well remembered projects and, over that time, there are comedy connections to most of the greats of the last 40 years. It is only half way through that we are finally introduced to Humph, Barry and Willy.
The author tries to make a case for ISIRTA being the greatest of all radio scripted comedy. Having been too young to have listened to it when first broadcast I have only encountered it far down the line via, the wonderful, BBC Radio 7. As the author writes in another context perhaps you had to be there at the time.
Of course after nearly 40 years Clue has undergone massive changes in style - if not in cast. Most of the early years got wiped by the BBC long ago but those episodes left are a much gentler affair than the current, barely broadcastable, riot with its systematic victimisation of Lionel Blair and the infliction of Jeremy Hardy's "singing" on an unsuspecting world. It was a succession of young producers - Perkins, Mayhew Archer on - who slowly transformed the game into what we know now. Jack Dee has the right personality and wit to keep it going.
I am sure some people saw this title and feared it was a cut and paste rush job to exploit the good will we all had for Humph. Nothing could be further from the truth, this book has clearly been pieced together by a decent writer over a long period and with significant input from most of those involved over the best part of 50 years. My one criticism is that the author likes everyone a little too much. There are hints that there were tensions - Oddie's moods, Cleese's ego, Kendall being the "token" woman and marginalised, Rushton not even trying to contribute to games he disliked - but these are not really explored. What we are left with is a celebration of people and programmes much loved by a large number of people. As Neil Young said, long may they run.