All clued-up for Humph's manna: Radio

The following words were delivered on Radio 4 at about 6.31 last Monday, from a travelling radio show which found itself, last week, in Nottingham, and in front of an audience. "It's well documented in official records that the city's original name was Snottingham or `home of snots', but when the Normans came, they couldn't pronounce the letter S, and so decreed the town be called Nottingham, or `the home of notts'. It's easy to understand why this change was resisted so fiercely by the people of Scunthorpe."

Yes, it could only be I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue. It announces itself as "the antidote to panel games", and when I was much younger I used to get fantastically irritated by this as not only did the show seem to be steeped in self-congratulatory whimsy, it seemed to be very much a panel game, with four people being asked questions and required to answer them for points. Besides, what was wrong with panel games?

As I say, that was very long ago, shortly after the invention of the wireless I believe, and since then the quality of other Radio 4 material has plummeted, or at least slipped rather nastily, so what used to be a faint star in the broadcasting firmament is now impressively, embarrassingly bright. And as for what happened to the calibre of panel games ... I believe I have gone on about that before in this column, and need not repeat myself.

The I'm Sorry... team knows all this. They really are on song at the moment, and almost every second of it is a delight. The week before last, they had a crack at those very panel games, as well as the schedules re- organisation. Last week the biggest laugh of the programme - after the one they got for the Scunthorpe gag - was for this: "One show that goes from strength to strength, despite all the recent changes, is the Today programme. Ten minutes of top news and current affairs, packed into three and a half hours (huge burst of laughter and applause), packed into three and a half hours of trails."

This is more than just a joke; it is a howl of despair from a section of the country trapped in the decaying hell of Radio 4, people who cannot escape, because everywhere else is - worse. It is the giddy laughter of the damned, the exhilaration of the prisoners as they crazily set fire to their own mattresses.

Then again, I'm not sure that it did get the biggest laugh of the programme (which means, effectively, given the somewhat precarious and rudimentary state of radio comedy, probably the biggest laugh of the week). Some jokes came from the round in which the panellists - Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Jeremy Harding - were asked to supply the most unlikely quotations they could imagine from famous people: "I'm sure there's a perfectly rational scientific explanation for all this." (Saint Paul) "Please! I'm married!" (Bill Clinton) "Of course, I'm no expert on this subject ..." (Jonathan Miller)

Or imagine the warped mind that will ask someone else to sing "Postman Pat" to the tune of "Robin Hood" (it works) or Madonna's "Hanky-Panky" to the tune of "Land and Hope and Glory" (it works even better. Try it yourself: "Treat me li-ike a bad girl,/Even whe-en I'm good ...").

The interesting thing about this is the way that it encourages the participants to humiliate themselves in a way they would not do, one imagines, over dinner in the privacy of their own homes. (Unless Jeremy Hardy is putting it on, his is the worst singing voice I've ever heard.)

At one point, the compere, Humphrey Lyttelton (known as "Humph"), decided to get everyone to play Hunt the Slipper. There followed his long explanation of the rules ("after a few seconds' slipper-passing, I shall call out `slipper search on' and then I'll open my eyes"), then a pause, and a genuinely-embittered-sounding "I'm 78, for Christ's sake". The game itself lasted about five seconds. "Should, um ... Humph ..." said Graeme Garden, "should somebody have brought a slipper?"

"What would have been the point of that?" said Humph, rather shortly.

There was more surreal humour on Radio 3's lunchtime concert from the Aldeburgh Festival. In common with many men in the autumn of their years, Alfred Brendel has decided that he is not only the greatest piano player in the world, he is also something of a poet. So while he got Pierre-Laurent Aimard to play piano music by Ligeti and Gyorgy Kurtag, he recited his own poetry between pieces.

The effect was rather like ... well, rather like something from I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue. One of the piano compositions - I don't know whether it was one of Ligeti's or one of Aimard's - was, strictly speaking, a composition for hands drumming on closed piano lid. That was sweet, really, but I draw the line at Brendel's own poetry. I cannot quote any, as I wasn't taking notes when the programme was broadcast, and my own complimentary copy of Brendel's poetry (called One Finger Too Many) I had decided, after a quick skim, to sell for drugs.

It wasn't too bad - after all, it doesn't really hurt your reputation as a poet to be pre-eminent in your field and have a charming mittel-European akzent to boot - but being in the audience would have been excruciatingly painful. The urge to shout out "don't give up the day job, Alf" would have been unbearable.

Suggested Topics
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate