Ipswich: Get in touch with your silly side says I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’s Barry Cryer

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue comes to Ipswich next week. Picture: Janie Airey

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue comes to Ipswich next week. Picture: Janie Airey - Credit: Archant

The cast of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue the live tour feel like a rock band right now.

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue comes to Ipswich next week. Picture: Janie Airey

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue comes to Ipswich next week. Picture: Janie Airey - Credit: Archant

“We played Brighton and Reading when we started the tour, both places were big and wanted a matinee. We filled both twice in a day,” says show stalwart Barry Cryer, who is joined by Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Jeremy Hardy and Jack Dee as host.

“I always say if the audience are our age they’d be dropping off by now but we get families, students, all sorts. John the producer often asks ‘anybody seeing us for the first time’ and there’s always quite a lot so it’s very encouraging.”

The radio show has been tickling fans’ funny bones since 1972, starting life as the impish son of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again and has several sell-out live tours under its belt since the first in 2007.

“It wasn’t that well received initially, the BBC didn’t think highly of it but gave it another go,” remembers Cryer, who stood in for Humphrey Lyttelton as chairman twice during the first series and became a regular during the second.

The format is very simple - four players are given silly things to do by the chairman with Colin Sell setting some of them to music.

Looking, feeling and sounding like a recording, Monday’s show in Ipswich is a Greatest Hits presentation, revisiting some of their favourite rounds through the years. Audience members are even treated to their very own kazoo.

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Cryer says they don’t analyse why it works, they’re just glad it does.

“If it works, don’t fix it. We’re not complacent, I don’t mean that, we’re just very happy about it.

“It’s verbal, it’s word play. Humph used to say ‘never lose touch with silly’. He was a great devotee of silliness and it’s a great tradition - like Alice in Wonderland, Edward Lear and The Goon Show. The surreal, nonsense tradition is very solid in this country.”

He thinks people also tend to grow into Radio 4.

“Arthur Smith is a friend and played the theatre near where I live. There were some young people in the audience and he said ‘do you listen to Radio 4’? One of them said ‘no’ and he said ‘you will’,” laughs Cryer.

Given how many hit comedies have blossomed on radio before jumping to TV, perhaps listeners are looking out for the next new thing?

“Well, we’re the next old thing aren’t we,” he laughs.

The writer and comedian’s path into showbusiness came by lucky accident when brothers Michael and Stanley Joseph, who co-ran Leeds City Varieties, saw him in a student show at Leeds University during the mid-1950s.

“If they liked somebody they’d give you a week’s work; completely blackleg, you weren’t a union member or anything. They saw me and I’d been prancing about for charity and in front of family and friends and a big audience... but this was a real cold shower, it was a marvellous baptism.

“Suddenly you were with professionals, you were with strippers, that was who the audience had come to see, not comedians. I fell into the business and thought ‘oh I like this’ and that was it.”

Hardwork and timing is key, but Cryer says anybody who discounts the part luck can play in their career is a fool.

“I used to write Danny La Rue’s nightclub show and one night David Frost came in and had a drink with me and Ronnie Corbett who was in it... as a result Ronnie went into the series The Frost Report and I became a Frost writer. That all happened because of one night when Frosty came to Danny La Rue’s club. You can’t plan that.”

Look forward to lots of things that aren’t planned happening at the Ipswich Regent Monday night.