On June 15, 2009, a year after the death of its legendary host, one of the funniest radio shows of all time started a new era - the unforgettable, and unforgettably titled, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue (ISIHAC).
If you're reading this in America, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. This is a bad thing, not only because ISIHAC is a great show, but because ISIHAC is close to impossible to describe. It's an improvisational comedy game show, but that's like saying baseball is a team sport - it doesn't even scratch the surface. I can't explore the show in detail in one blog post, but suffice to say it features such games as One Song To The Tune Of Another and Sound Charades, and that the host's introduction to these games is as funny as the game itself.
From the first episode in 1972, the show was hosted by jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton, who may have been an unlikely choice but turned out to be fantastic in the role. Unfortunately, Humphrey died on April 25, 2008 at age 86, just as tapings were about to resume. The inevitable year of reruns and tributes followed, but the people behind the show did want to continue, and eventually it was decided that the show would enter an interim period of guest hosts. So at 6:30PM GMT on June 15 on BBC Radio 4, the show returned at last. For the next six weeks, Stephen Fry, Jack Dee and Rob Brydon each hosted two episodes.
What had changed? Everything...and nothing. Certainly the game hadn't changed a bit, and longtime panelists Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor were all present and accounted for. In fact, it could be argued that not enough had changed. It's hard to judge the performances of Stephen, Jack and Rob because they weren't allowed to inject their own styles into the show - virtually everything they said sounded like what Humphrey would have said. I don't know how much of this show actually is written in advance, but this sure sounded like it was.
Nonetheless, I agree with most that Jack did the best job. Stephen is a funny guy, but seemed to be laughing too hard at his own jokes; as for Rob, his performance is best summed up by the moment where he burst out laughing in the middle of explaining Sound Charades, then continued "I'm sorry, I know what's coming." Jack at least had some idea what he was doing.
Jack did the best job, but that doesn't mean I believe he should get the job. Stephen, Jack and Rob had all appeared as panelists on the show countless times - which is exactly why they shouldn't get the job. I don't want a past panelist hosting the show; I want "new blood." Remember, one of the reasons Humphrey was originally chosen was that he wasn't a comedian and could provide a contrast to the panelists. Hire someone we didn't expect, and whoever that person is, allow him or her to say something Humphrey wouldn't have said. That doesn't mean I think everything should change - the game certainly shouldn't, and I don't want to lose all of the catchphrases and running jokes. Still, a new host should mean a breath of fresh air, not recycled script copy.
Am I wrong? I guess we'll have to wait and see. The latest season ended with an announcer promising that the show will be back later in the year, and producer Jon Naismith has said that he wants to use the next season as a chance to try some more unusual ideas for hosts. Still, Jack is hosting the 2009 ISIHAC touring stage show, so I probably shouldn't get my hopes too high up. Wait and see. Like I said, the show is supposed to be back later in the year...but on the other hand, so are The Unbelievable Truth and The Museum Of Curiosity...