Friday, 27 February 2009

Minute, Clue

I agree entirely with the excellent Brit's comment below the Bouncing Fish - Paul Merton is indeed in his element on Just A Minute. He's probably the main reason why the show has found a new lease of life in its old age - it's been going ever since 1967, the year Radio 4 started, which is amazing longevity even for radio. Kenneth Williams also found a perfect niche on the show - to the point where some weeks he was virtually the whole show - and after he died it looked as if Just A Minute might run out of steam. But it was refreshed with new comedy blood and gradually regained its top form. Despite its age - not to mention Nicholas Parsons' - it comes up fresh and full of bounce week after week. But what I was meaning to post on was the unsettling news that I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue - which should surely have been allowed to die naturally post-Humph (after all, there's 36 years of archive to draw on) - is to return, with three 'rotating' chairmen: Stephen Fry, Jack Dee and Rob Brydon. And the first in the chair will be the orotund, unstoppable Fry - a figure about as unlike Humph as it's possible to be. This could be a good thing, as there will be no question of trying to 'do a Humph' (he was genuinely unique and inimitable anyway) - but the prospect fills me with trepidation. Even if, with one or all of these chairmen, it works pretty well, it can never be the work of sheer radio genuis it was in the hands of Humph. It seems an awful shame to me that they're carrying on with it.


  1. Trepidation is the appropriate approach, I think, Nige. They could easily have just retired it and come up with a new format for similar silly comedy. But it'll probably be good anyway (I generally tend to like things. This has held me back in any possible career as a critic, I find it so difficult to summon Nick Cohen-style indignant rage).

    Clue was always the best post-DID show, followed by Minute, with the rest somewhat interchangeable. That said, David Mitchell on The Unbelievable Truth is very good.

    Merton's unusual in that he's terrific when improvising but a bit rubbish when scripted.

  2. Yes that's very true about Merton - he can't act (like many standups). And David Mitchell's brilliant in that show - the TV version of which is a travesty (cue indignant rage)...

  3. Yes, but not just the acting, the jokes on Merton's sketch show were pretty feeble.

    Broadening the discussion somewhat, could this be because humour depends on context - ie. when something is off the cuff we're more prepared to laugh at it, whereas when it's scripted our demands are higher because we expect a bit more polish?

  4. Yes his skech show was pretty leaden wasn't it - so maybe he can't write or act - but he's still brilliant when he's on an improv roll. Of course his delivery is v flat and inexpressive - and that works superbly when he's off chasing some increasingly fantastic rigmarole, but it's deadly when he's performing scripted material.
    Yes generally off-the-cuff humour does pack more of a punch - as when someone ad libs in a scripted comedy, cracking up the others (a Peter Cook speciality) - it feels so much more exciting seems proof that someone is genuinely funny. Which, of course, Merton is - until you put a script in his hands.

  5. During the long run of ISIHAC I had often wondered whether it would continue 'after' Humph, and what it could possibly be like without him. I decided that it could not, and would not, as the qualities that he brought to this wonderful but 'silly' show were the mortar that held it together and made it unique. The gently patrician tone, the obvious authority, shown in concert with the bumbling other-worldly appearance of an off-duty geography master from a minor public school, and, most of all, the surely God given sense of comic timing and the use of silence - will we see his like again?
    I think not - but Fry and Co may go forward and create a different beast.

  6. Yes Humph is irreplaceable and
    was quite unique.
    None of the rotating threesome
    taking over will charm as he did.
    But,the show was not The Humph
    Show and we really aint got a
    clue how effective the trio
    may be...give em a break,Nige.

  7. Comedy being what comedy is, personal taste etc, and not wanting to guide the trajectory of a nut removing implement into the building used for manufacture, or repeat myself, it is the considered opinion of the person typing at the moment that, given the people on the bridge were determined to carry on with I'm sorry, I volunteer Mark Lamarr, given 12 months to remove the rough edges he would do nicely.
    I much prefer comedians to be either anarchic, barking mad or both. One of the most underrated shows of recent years has been Buzzcocks.
    So there.
    Jack Dee ? ....OK
    Rob Brydon ?...bog off!