Saturday, 26 April 2008

"So from the teams, Samantha, myself and the good folk of ISIHAC land, it's goodbye"

What's this? My fifth or sixth post? And I'm already writing a tribute.

Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz trumpet player but known by me (as perhaps many others) as the host of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, died yesterday evening aged 86. It emerged from the ashes of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again in 1972, starting with a cast from that series (Tim Brooke-Taylor, Greame Garden, Jo Kendal and Bill Oddie were the panellists for the first episode), before finding the "dream team" of Willie Rushton and Barry Cryer, along with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Greame Garden.

Humphrey, or Humph to his admirers, was the host from the very start (apart from three episodes in the first series where Barry Cryer was in the chair). Despite being a musician by trade, he was picked to be the host of what became known as "the antidote to panel games" as it was thought that his ability to improvise on his trumpet would transfer to presenting duties. Whoever made that decision (probably a joint decision between Greame Garden and the programme's original producer, David Hatch) certainly made the perfect decision. His combination of deadpan, perfect delivery of double entendres and perfect ability to sound like he'd much rather be elsewhere made the show what it was. That, combined with Jon Naismith's brilliant script, made the show enjoyable to millions of people, young and old alike.

Some of my earliest memories are of listening to ISIHAC on a Monday evening on the way to gym with my dad when I was about five or six and I used to love it even then. Of course I wouldn't have got references to the delightful Samantha qualifying to be a magistrate, judging the cases of criminals and being keen to try a few hardened ones on the bench, but the bits that I was old enough to understand cracked me up.

I was lucky enough to see a recording of the programme in December 2005, and I feel privileged to have done so. To have seen him tweak his horn on stage, to hear him say the immortal words "It's now time to play the game called Mornington Crescent". All I can say is I'm so glad that I saw it once.

And so, as the blue cagouled rambler of time confronts the colour blind bull of destiny, and the dead pigeon of fate decomposes in the water tank of eternity...

As the guardsman of time strokes the bearskin of eternity, as the sergeant major of fate orders him back to the barracks to put some clothes on...

As the Steve Davis of time clambers over the table of eternity to reach for another red, and the wine waiter of destiny asks him to leave the restaurant...

So from myself and no doubt everyone who was ever touched by your wide ranging talents, goodnight.

Humphrey Lyttelton - Born May 23rd 1921, died April 25th 2008.

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