Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, after the BBC told him to tone down his notoriously smutty jokes about the fictional Samantha.
The revelation came in an interview with regular panellist Tim Brooke-Taylor, who accused the “pathetic” BBC of having a sense of humour failure over the gags.
A row reportedly broke out after a listener complained that the outrageous jokes made at the expense of Samantha, a silent fictional character who has served as a scorer and a record researcher – were demeaning to women.
Brooke-Taylor, 73, said: “We’ve had terrible trouble with the BBC about the show. Someone complained about Samantha – that it was being rude to women – and told us we had to be careful about this and to not do that.
“The writer who does Jack Dee’s links said, ‘Well, in that case, I’m leaving’, and Jack said, ‘Well, I’m leaving, too’. It’s just so pathetic, as so many things are double entendre that kids don’t realise what we’re on about,” he told Cotswold Life magazine.
The character of Samantha was introduced in 1985 by the panel show’s original chairman Humphrey Lyttelton. Taking the helm in 2009 after Lyttelton’s death, Dee, 52, continued the tradition.
The audience are told that Samantha’s job is made all the easier as no points are given during the show. She instead serves as a target for double entendres and innuendos about her sexual exploits.
First broadcast in 1972, the programme regularly attracts 2.5 million listeners. Introduced as ‘the antidote to panel games’ it features two teams of comedians, including Graeme Garden and Barry Cryer, who are given “silly things to do”.
However, Jack Dee’s agent has denied Brooke-Taylor’s version of events, saying: “There had been a discussion about some of the show’s more risqué content following a particular complaint but this certainly didn’t result in Jack threatening to resign. The discussion was completely amicable and the Clue team felt supported by the BBC as a result.”
The BBC confirmed it has received four complaints about Samantha since 2013. A spokesman said: “We have regular discussions with production teams and contributors of all long-running Radio 4 programmes on how we can best keep the much-loved shows clever, relevant and fresh to listeners.”
A new series of the show will begin on 30 June.
Wax on, wax off: the gags they want to gag
“Samantha has to nip out to spend time with her new gentleman friend. They’re off on a driving tour of Wales. She says he’s looking forward to showing her Cardiff and Cardigan Bay, before going on to Bangor in the back of his van.”
“Samantha spent many hours with the BBC gramophone library research staff for this round, deliberating over the fine old seven-inchers they presented for inspection. She says she had to think about each one long and hard.”
“Samantha and her new gentleman friend have been restoring an old chest of drawers. Samantha is in charge of polishing, while he scrapes the varnish and wax off next to her.”
...and former presenter Humphrey Lyttelton’s final joke on the show, recorded shortly before his death in April 2008:
“Samantha’s been detained in the city’s Latin Quarter. An Italian gentleman friend has promised to take her out for an ice cream, and she likes nothing better than to spend an evening licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan.”