Tuesday 2 February 2016

Task 19: Be member of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (ISIHAC) audience

One of my favourite comedians ever is Jack Dee - described fondly by his colleagues as 'a little ray of sleet', his grumpy deadpan delivery always has me in stitches. Andrew and I went to a memorable pre-tour warm-up show of his in Haywards Heath a few years back, where he (Jack, not Andrew) spent most of the evening trying to cajole the over-polite mid-Sussex audience to do a bit of heckling. In 2009 he became the chair of renowned Radio 4 show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and brought a whole new audience to 'Clue' with him. Well, he brought me anyway. I've been an enthusiastic listener ever since, although I realise that makes me a relative sprog in ISIHAC fanbase terms. 

ISIHAC shows are recorded live and sound an absolute riot, hence being a member of the audience seemed a great task to add to my sixtyat60 list. However it's incredibly difficult to get tickets to attend the recording sessions, and so I gave myself the option of attending an ISIHAC touring show, where the frenzy to obtain tickets is a little less, er, frenzied.  In October the news broke that the ISIHAC tour would be coming to Brighton on 30 January. Katherine contacted me in great excitement. Katherine is the very special daughter of one of my oldest friends Sue (see Task 40 where I described the beautiful flowering cherry tree planted in our garden in Sue's memory) and is not only a committed sixtyat60 follower but also an avid Clue fan. What finer companion for Task 15? Tickets were successfully purchased and Task 19 was up and running. 

Last Saturday our ISIHAC day dawned and Katherine and I convened at at an Italian restaurant for a pre-show bite to eat. An idea was beginning to develop small shoots in my mind. 'I was just wondering' I said to Katherine rather tentatively, 'whether we should go round to the stage door after the show and see if we can get a photo of me with one of the panelists - what do you think?'  Katherine's eyes gleamed at the prospect. A tentative idea became a formulated plan in the time it took the waiter to thrust his massive pepper grinder at my bowl of risotto. Wow, that sounds positively Samantha-esque (ISIHAC in-joke guys).

We arrived at the Dome and settled into our stall seats, along with freely distributed kazoos. The show started. Jack Dee was in the chair of course (yay - my anti-hero hero!) To his left were panelists Tim Brooke-Taylor and new boy Miles Jupp. On the right were panelists Barry Cryer and Jeremy Hardy. Colin Sell was at the piano. The lovely Samantha was late as usual. 

Jack Dee's intro on Brighton & Hove was hilarious. My favourite line? 'Thieves broke into Brighton & Hove Albion's trophy room last Wednesday and made off with the carpet'.  OK, maybe you'd have to be a Crystal Palace fan to appreciate that one. Then onto the games. Katherine especially loved the sight of Barry Cryer shaking his hips Elvis-style singing one song to the tune of another. We both laughed ourselves senseless at Jack Dee's parody of Nicholas Parsons in Just a Minim.  Frankly we needed the interval to recover.

As I was calming down my over-stretched laughter muscles during the interval, it occurred to me that perhaps I should take a more strategic approach in my bid to get a photo of myself with an ISIHAC panelist. In my limited experience of such things (such as in Task 55 when meeting Anna Ternheim), I've found that events managers are extremely helpful 'can-do' people.  So I decided to put that theory to the test. The Dome events manager was quickly tracked down (encouraging sign). On garnering some info from me about the sixtyat60 challenge, he promised to have a word with the tour manager.....and guess what, within 5 mins Katherine and had I received the green light to go backstage at the end of the show. We were astounded and very excited (and it certainly proved my theory right about events managers).

The second half opened. My favourite line?  Radio announcement - 'On Thursday evening a documentary will investigate the Duchess of Windsor Mrs Simpson 's problems with sea-sickness - so that's on Thursday evening, Wallis and Vomit'.  Further rounds/more games took place, including the much loved and unfathomably complex Mornington Crescent (ooh they were so mean to newbie Miles Jupp....but he held his own - go Miles). 

The Pick-Up Song game was also brilliant. Katherine especially enjoyed Miles Jupp's rendition of YMCA and Jeremy Hardy's falsetto 'So lonely' by the Police, whilst I was bowled over by TIm Brooke-Taylor's version of Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus, especially the bottom wiggles.  Then the audience had to play 'I do like to be beside the seaside' on their kazoos and us 800 bods in the stalls were mortified to discover that the circle sounded far more tuneful than us ('It's just the acoustics' said Katherine comfortingly). 

The show ended to wild cheers and a final rattle of kazoos. Katherine and I made our way to the backstage door as we'd been instructed. The lovely tour manager greeted us warmly and led us through a rabbit warren of corridors.  All of a sudden we found ourselves at the threshold of a room deep in the bowels of the theatre, where much to my amazement the whole panel, bar Jeremy Hardy, was awaiting our arrival. They knew who I was and what I was doing, made suitably soothing noises about my age and asked me some questions about the challenge and the tasks. I tried to sound coherent and enthusiastic about the wonderful evening's entertainment we'd just had without sounding too fawning. I'm afraid I failed on all counts. Katherine kept her cool and took the required photo. Here's the evidence that we really were briefly in a room full of comedy greats - from left to right, Barry Cryer, Jack Dee, a 60 year old woman grinning like crazy, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Miles Jupp and Colin Sell.  

Katherine and I left the panel to their sandwiches and beer and made our way back through the rabbit warren into the open air, where we pinched ourselves and checked the photos on Katherine's phone to make sure we hadn't just dreamed the whole episode like Alice in Wonderland.  And then unlike Alice we had a glass of wine to celebrate. Here we are the following morning clutching our Clue mementos. Look closely and you may see a certain necklace hiding behind my programme (Day 48 - 12 days to go....)

A massive thank you to Katherine for being the perfect ISIHAC companion throughout what proved to be an even more exciting evening than we could ever have predicted. And my sincere thanks to Barry Cryer, Jack Dee, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Miles Judd and Colin Sell (and Jeremy Hardy in absentia) for a brilliant side-achingly funny show and for their support of my sixtyat60 challenge for Shooting Star Chase, which I'm truly touched by. Very importantly too, a special thanks goes to the Brighton Dome events manager and the ISIHAC tour manager - absolute gems both.  

I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Shooting Star Chase children's hospice care in memory of a gorgeous little girl called Thea Redford. 

For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at  https://www.justgiving.com/sixtyat60challenge/

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