Last week it was announced that four sad people with no sense of humour, no discernable social skills, no life, no experience and no self-awareness had complained to the BBC about the lovely Samantha. For those of you who don't listen to Radio 4, (shame on you!), Samantha is the non-existent scorer on the epic long-running comedy panel show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. She appears in name only and her gentle but often slightly risqué exploits are relayed each week for the listener.
I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is one of those things that makes Britain great. It's a bastion of Britishness; a quirky, eccentric, wonderful piece of radio that injects joy and happiness into the lives of 2.5 million Brits each week - and it has being going since 1972. I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue demonstrates that the British are unique. Only we can truly understand the humour of a fictional 'game' based on the London Underground called Mornington Crescent. And only the British can truly love a beautiful phantom woman called Samantha.
Jack Dee who took over from the legendary Humphrey Lyttleton as host in 2009 has threatened to quit the show. The other panellists are equally unhappy and may not continue if details of Samantha's wonderfully varied life can no longer be revealed. The complaints to the BBC state that Samantha is demeaning to women. I'm yet to find a woman who believes this - so I suspect the complainants were men. If they were men then, hey, get a life! It's people like you that ruin it for the rest of us!
I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is just a small part of BBC Radio 4's long proud history of gentle comedy with added smut. It all started with an iconic wartime show called 'It's That Man Again' or ITMA which ran from 1939 to 1949 and kept people laughing on the Home Front as the bombs fell around them. Half the UK population listened to the show each week. One of the famous catch phrases spoken every week by Mrs Mopp the cleaner was: 'Can I do you now, Sir?' You do not need a smutty mind to understand the roar of laughter this generated each week.
The late 1950s saw another gem, The Navy Lark, a sit-com based around life on a Royal Navy Frigate and starring Jon Pertwee and Leslie Phillips. This double-entendre-filled romp included episodes with titles such as 'Stuck Up The Inlet'. In 1965 Round The Horne was launched, and gentle smut was liberally applied over every episode. But it really pushed boat out with its two incredibly camp resting-actor characters, Julian and Sandy, played by Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick. Now before you read the example quote from the show below, bear in mind that at this point homosexuality was still illegal in the UK:
SANDY: "Don't mention Malaga to Julian, he got very badly stung."
HORNE: "Portuguese man o' war?"
JULIAN: "Well I never saw him in uniform..."
The 1970s saw Hinge and Bracket, basically two lovely old ladies who happen to be played by Patrick Fyffe and George Logan. Example quotes from the show include:
HINGE: "He was in the guards..... Only for two weeks"
COUSIN EVELYN: "He was caught playing [cards] with his privates."
Roll on to 1972 and we have I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue; a panel show that took elements of all these previous hit shows and others including the faux naïf The Men From The Ministry and the epically brilliant Just a Minute and created one of the most innovative pieces of radio that has ever been produced anywhere in the world.
Regardless of one's smug-tolerance levels, who in their right mind can object to any of the following?
"Samantha, can't be with us today as she's away helping an elderly neighbour clear out for a house move. This morning she sorted his box room and later she's going to join him in the attic to have a good rummage in his trunks."
"In her spare time, Samantha likes nothing more than to peruse old record shops. She particularly enjoys a rewarding poke in the country section."
"So as Samantha heads off to the Highland games to admire the contestants in the caber competition, and perhaps have a go at tossing one or two herself..."
And let's face it, if the show ever got canned we'd not only lose the lovely Samantha and the talents of all the great panellists over the years, be losing a whole history of comedy gems. Here are just a few:Undelivered letters from history
- From George W. Bush: Yo Blair You got it wrong. I said we're gonna invade Tie Rack.
- To Michelangelo: His Holiness wants the ceiling plain magnolia emulsion.
- Bill Clinton: Please! I'm married!
- Jerry Springer: Your private life is no concern of mine
- O.J. Simpson: Oh great, I've been looking for those gloves
- John Prescott, M.P.: I'm saying nothing...
- Graeme Garden: "Mr & Mrs Millionquid, whose son hasn't come with them, because Arthur Millionquid doesn't go very far these days!"
- Tim Brooke-Taylor: "Mr & Mrs Inacardboardboxnow, and their daughter Olive Inacardboardboxnow"
- Graeme Garden: "Bring Me Someone Who Knows Alfredo Garcia."
- Tim Brooke-Taylor: "Gulliver's Packing."
- Tim Brooke-Taylor: "We're Running a Bit Low on Mohicans."
- Barry Cryer: "Apocalypse Soon."
- Barry Cryer: "Do you want to put it in first?"
- Barry Cryer: "You've been turning this back, you little clock-teaser!"
So, suffice to say, I'm with Jack Dee on this one. Samantha goes and I go too.
And with that, as the late, great Humphrey Lyttleton once said: "As the great tit of time nibbles through the gold top of eternity, and the unseen mouse droppings of fate nestle in the Crunchy Fruit and Nut muesli of destiny..."...I bid you farewell.