Lay off Lionel!

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue to drop its most famous double entendres

It is the end of an era: I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is to lay off the jokes about Lionel Blair.

For more than 15 years, Radio 4’s ‘antidote to panel games’ has made a running joke of the dancer’s time on the TV charades show Give Us A Clue, providing a rich vein of filthy double entendre.

But now the gags will no longer feature in chairman Jack Dee’s scripts, amid fears the joke has worn thin.

A show insider told Chortle: ‘ There is a feeling that the Lionel Blair gags have had a long enough run and it is time to move on.’

Jokes at Blair’s expense have been part of the show since at least the mid-Nineties, when original host Humphrey Lyttleton would deliver the lines with no indication he was aware of their dirty second meaning.

However, 81-year-old Blair is said to have been unhappy about the gags, which envisage him indulging in all manner of gay sexual practices. He said they were particularly tough on his wife of 45 years, Susan.

In a Radio 4 interview in 2010, he initially seemed to take the jokes in good spirit, albeit reluctantly. But as the interview progressed, he said bitterly that he was glad Lyttleton was dead so the jokes would stop. But they have continued with Dee.

He told presenter Fi Glover: ‘I don’t mind it, my wife *hates* it. Sometimes they went a bit far.

‘I say “mention my name and you’re bound to get a laugh”, so if they like to do it, he can do it. I don’t think they still do it, I’m not sure.

He added: ‘I swear to you I never heard one programme. The only reason I heard about it was that people would come up to me in a supermarket and say: “Did you hear Clue? Wasn’t it funny?” or “Did you mind what they said?” Well, I never heard it so I never knew.

‘Well, it’s now on the internet, all the things they [said] – and they were a bit naughty, I thought.

Then he added: ‘He [Humph] is no longer with us, so you know... You should always speak good of the dead. He’s dead. Good.’

The BBC did not confirm that the gags were definitely going, but a spokesman said: ‘Innuendo is part of the fabric of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. As with long-running programmes such as this, the content is always evolving to ensure freshness and topicality for the audience.

‘We don't comment on the minutiae of the production process but our first priority is making sure the best material makes it to air.’

The gags came in the introduction to the Sound Charades game, which always was compared to Give Us A Clue – which featured Blair and Una Stubbs as team captains, but ended its TV run more than 20 years ago.

Here are some of the more memorable lines:

  • The most highly skilled of all was Lionel Blair, but how the tears of frustration welled up in his eyes during their Italian tour, at not being allowed the use of his mouth to finish off Two Gentlemen Of Verona.

  • Who can ever forget opposing team captain Una Stubbs sitting open mouthed as he tried to pull off Twelve Angry Men in under two minutes!

  • Possibly the most versatile performer was Lionel Blair, and no one will ever forget the occasion he was given A Town Like Alice, when he chose to do a silent impression of the author. Such was the performance, Una Stubbs gasped in amazement when she saw Neville Shute in Lionel's face...

  • Give Us A Clue was made all the better by it's resident expert Lionel Blair, who was particularly good at the films of Richard Gere. Who can forget the gleam of satisfaction in his eye when he was given Yanks by Michael Aspel for two minutes .

  • Or this one:

Published: 18 Dec 2012

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