I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue's glamorous scorekeeper Samantha set to resume her favourite position despite complaints
Tim Brooke-Taylor revealed that he, Jack Dee and other Clue regulars had considered quitting the show after the BBC threatened to tone down the innuendo used to describe Samantha's extra-curricular activities
Perhaps fittingly, it was on the occasion of the debut appearance by the late Kenny "Cupid Stunt" Everett on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue that the Radio 4 show welcomed another purveyor of high-end smut – in the best possible taste. The lovely Samantha took up her position as scorekeeper on Humphrey Lyttelton's left hand in May 1985. She is expected to resume her role next Monday, undaunted by a row over the smutty jokes that she inspires.
Tim Brooke-Taylor revealed last week that he, Jack Dee and other Clue regulars had considered quitting the 61st series of the show after the BBC threatened to tone down the innuendo used to describe Samantha's extra-curricular activities, which usually involve a gramophone library and/or a "gentleman friend". Laced with double-entendres, they are, those offended by them suggest, demeaning to women.
Gratuitous example: "Samantha has to nip out now with her new gentleman friend. Apparently, they've been working on the restoration of an old chest of drawers. Samantha is in charge of polishing, while he scrapes the varnish and wax off next to her."
But to be offended by these lines is to underestimate their comedic value, and misunderstand a fictional character's role, says Jem Roberts, Samantha's official biographer. When Barry Cryer, another stalwart Clue man, read an article that Roberts had written for a Clue fanzine, he put him in touch with a publisher. The Fully Authorised History of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue came out in 2010.
"Cryer himself said analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog: nobody laughs and the frog dies," says Roberts, who has gone on to write books about Blackadder and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "But I thought, someone is going to write this book and if I did it, I could make readers laugh and keep the frog alive."
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Roberts says that Samantha was, apart from being quite a funny thing, a comment on the era into which she arrived. "Humph used to joke that Nicholas Parsons had someone sitting next to him as scorer and they decided to bring in the most beautiful and glamorous scorer they could," he says. "It was inspired by that 1980s Page 3 stunner cliché, but they subverted it right away." Samantha's name had been borrowed from Samantha Fox, the Eighties glamour model. And while early references made her sound more like a stereotypical bimbo, "that was very quickly changed," Roberts adds. "It didn't sit well with any of these guys. They were not Bernard Manning-type comics."
Yet complaints have come in periodically throughout Samantha's tenure, which she has occasionally shared with Monica and "the rippling Sven", her Swedish stand-in. Jokes about Sven tend to depict him as a gay man ("Sven has to nip off to make sandwiches now for the builders he has working in his house. No matter how many times they ask for cheese and gourmet chutney, he always palms them off with relish").
New host: Roberts concedes that the Samantha jokes lose something in Jack Dee's delivery
That either character has been allowed to maintain his or her varied hobbies is testament to the delivery of the show's long-time chairman. "That was the real chemistry," Roberts says of Humph, the avuncular jazz musician, who died in 2008. "His urbane innocence combined with the creative genius of Ian Pattinson, the writer, gave us the absolute cream of dirty jokes – the finest-wrought puns and innuendo of the century."
Jack Dee has now settled into Humph's chair, which had also been occupied after his death by Stephen Fry and Rob Brydon. Roberts concedes that the Samantha jokes lose something in Dee's delivery, but adds: "I think that for as long as she's part of the show, we should know what she gets up to in her spare time."
His favourite double-entendre? Roberts thinks for a while before emailing with the following, "eerily suitable" line, delivered during a live performance of Clue in Croydon (the show began a successful UK stage tour in 2007).
"Record researcher Samantha spends many hours down in the gramophone library, and she's recently found that the archivists have become very snooty about this low form of entertainment, and have been making protests to have it stopped. However, Samantha says she's more than capable of handling enormous snobs and standing up against them."
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