I'm sorry, we haven't a clue: Who will replace Humphrey Lyttelton?

One of radio's funniest shows is to return, but who can possibly replace the late Humphrey Lyttelton? The search is on, but the field is wide open, as Emily Dugan reports

Sunday 24 August 2008 00:00 BST

Just as the nation had become resigned to the idea that the nonsensical radio quiz show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue would never again be heard on the airwaves, hope of a return for the popular series is on the horizon.

Recording was cancelled this year after the death of its much-loved chairman, Humphrey Lyttelton, known affectionately to his fans as Humph. Many anticipated that the show would die with its legendary host. But now producers have confirmed that it will return, and the hunt is on for a successor to Lyttelton.

The programme's producer, Jon Naismith, confirmed yesterday: "We have decided we want to continue with the show. We enjoy it too much to stop altogether." He added: "It won't happen straight away because we're still mourning Humphrey". Recording was likely to begin next year, he said. "We had thousands of emails when Humph died saying do please continue."

Often attracting audiences of up to 2 million, the spoof quiz show was widely viewed as one of the funniest radio programmes ever broadcast. Dubbed the "antidote to panel games" its run spanned more than three decades and its fan base crossed generations. The 51st series of the show, first broadcast in 1972, had been due to start recording when Lyttelton died, in April.

The first new shows will rotate presenters in the same way as the TV quiz Have I Got News For You, before settling for a full-time choice. The favourite at the moment is Stephen Fry. Naismith said: "I'm sure Stephen would be good: he's very funny and he's excellent on QI."

Barry Cryer and his fellow long-time panellists, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor, have ruled themselves out. Cryer said that the programme-makers had met to compile a long list, which had included Fry, but that he thought a woman might be a better choice. "We all had our favourites, but mine would be a woman because then she couldn't be compared to Humph," he said.

Jeremy Hardy, a frequent contestant, who has also been tipped as a successor, yesterday dismissed the idea that he or any other regular would be in the running. "Humph had big shoes to fill and I wouldn't do it", he said. Hardy's wildcard suggestion was the singer Jarvis Cocker, who is known for his deadpan delivery.

Whoever gets the job, there is no doubt that it will be one of the hardest acts to follow. Lyttelton's one-liners were often the highlight of the whimsical programme.

After one "terrible" round, he remarked: "Nietzsche said that life was a choice between suffering and boredom. He never said anything about having to put up with both at the same time."

The pressure is already on for the new host of this treasured series to ensure that his joke does not become a reality.

And the next presenter is...

Stephen Fry

The leading candidate: quick-witted Fry has already shown his talent at hosting impenetrable quiz shows with the television series 'QI'. He has also been a guest on 'ISIHAC', and narrated a 'Humph Sunday' special.

Jarvis Cocker

A wild card entry suggested by Jeremy Hardy: like Lyttelton his background is in music and he is known for his deadpan delivery.

Angus Deayton

Straight-faced Deayton has been looking for a regular comedy berth since he was unceremoniously removed from 'Have I Got News for You'. Doubtless he won't have any problem making innuendos at the lovely Samantha with his track record.

Sue Perkins

Best known for being the second half of the comedy duo Mel and Sue, she is now a frequent guest on Radio 4 comedy quizzes.

Pam Ayres

Frequently heard on Radio 4 comedy programmes, including 'Just a Minute', she now has her own sketch show and is becoming one of the channel's leading ladies.

Sandi Toksvig

'The News Quiz' host and 'ISIHAC' regular is a staple of Radio 4 comedy and an obvious choice.

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