"This is 'I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again', an extravaganza especially written for the wireless by several persons, and featuring a number of performers."
I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again was a popular BBC Sketch Comedy show which ran between 1965 and 1973, with a one-off "25th anniversary" show in 1989. It was something of a spiritual successor to The Goon Show, featuring numerous awful puns, funny voices and bizarre situations. The program originated from a broadcast of the 1963 Cambridge Circus revue, followed by three preparatory shows in April 1964, which were followed by the first series proper a year and a half later.The cast, all Cambridge alums, included Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, who later went on to create The Goodies, and John Cleese, who, along with occasional writers Eric Idle and Graham Chapman, later went on to form Monty Python. Also in the cast were Jo Kendall and David Hatch.The format of the show was rather slapdash in the beginning, but eventually was streamlined into a Cold Opening sketch followed by the tongue-in-cheek opening announcements, followed by two or three unrelated sketches, a (usually) comic song by Bill Oddie, and then the extended central sketch of the week, usually an Affectionate Parody of either a specific film, book, or play, or just a genre.I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again was responsible for the creation of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue a few years later.
Ambiguous Syntax: One John and Mary sketch has John driving Mary around the bend with an incessant string of magic tricks:
John: How about the baffling Chinese mice trick? Mary: Darling, the dining room is full of Chinese mice as it is. John: Well, can't I go down and baffle them?
And Starring: Invoked in the intro of one episode, in which no one can agree about the casting and billing.
John: This is I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, with special guest John Cleese. Tim:' Featuring Tim Brooke-Taylor... David: Starring David Hatch! Graeme: Surprise celebrity — Graeme Garden! Jo: Introducing Jo Kendall. Bill: With...(sadly) Bill Oddie.
Butt Monkey: Bill Oddie, and occasionally David Hatch. Example:
Jo Kendall: And now a little song about a one-man band, sung by our little songster, Bill Oddie, who should be one man banned.
Camp Gay: Often played by Tim Brooke-Taylor, and sometimes John Cleese as well.
Camp Straight: Sir Prancelot, in the King Arthur sketch, is Tim Brooke-Taylor at his most camp — and madly in love with the King's daughter.
Prancelot: That surprised you, didn't it?
Car Meets House: Bill and Graeme park inside Tim's house in the 25th anniversary episode.
Catch Phrase: Usually avoided, although "I'm the king rat!" stands out as an exception, as well as Jo Kendall's characters' "Hello, sailor!" and Bill Oddie's "How de do dere, honey!"
One episode featured Bill attempting to turn "Terrapins!" into a catch phrase, only for the rest of the cast to keep telling him there was nothing funny about terrapins.
Another episode included characters randomly blurting out the word "teapot" in the hope that the audience would be conditioned to find it funny. And by halfway through the episode they were.
Catchphrases seemed to keep happening, whether the performers wanted them or not. In one later episode, they ran through all the catchphrases from the show's run right at the start to get them over with, with John Cleese commenting "Honestly, it's like feeding time at the zoo" at the audience's cheers.
Character Development: Unusual for a sketch show, but still present — for many seasons, David Hatch usually played himself playing a generic announcer, and was otherwise either dull or snarky. Then, towards the end of season 7 and throughout season 8, he started identifying himself more as a producer, becoming more assertive, occasionally power-mad, and actively trying to stop the surreality/filthy-mindedness of other cast members rather than just providing a contrast to it.
Deadpan Snarker: David Hatch and John Cleese, but John especially. A running gag was him breaking character or otherwise interrupting to snark.
David: London is home to many people. John: ...London is home to many people. Oh, well done. David Hatch, the boy genius.
Impossible Insurance: In one sketch, a character buys a ridiculously-specific insurance policy that will only pay out if he's trampled by a herd of bison in the middle of Whitehall. As he is explaining to a skeptical friend (while standing in the middle of Whitehall) what a good deal it was, he is indeed trampled by a herd of bison — but it turns out they're buffalo, not bison.
David: Oh my, oh my, oh my—I'm late, I'm late, I'm late—oh my ears and whiskers—oh my, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late... John: It was a loony. David: I am not! I'm a little white rabbit!
Left the Background Music On: Several times. In one episode, the BBC can't afford any musicians, so the linking music that usually signifies a shift in location is conspicously absent. The cast, therefore, sing an a cappella rendition of the music to move from location to location.
Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: The final episode of the Professor Prune And The Electric Time Trousers serial opens with all the characters dying. They get better.
Running Gag: Many, such as Tim Brooke-Taylor playing all women's parts, the phrase "promises, promises" to signify a Double Entendre, David Hatch playing all boring bits, ferrets, gibbons, OBEs, and John Davidson (who?).
Once she becomes an established recurring character, Lady Constance's first appearance in any given episode always causes a prolonged audience reaction. (Inevitably, several episodes deliberately subvert the audience's expectation of an impending entrance by Lady Constance... for a minute or two, anyway.)
From the serial Professor Prune And The Electric Time Trousers, at every appearance of Spot the Dog (played by Tim Brooke-Taylor, who had previously not been given a role in the serial), there's huge audience applause, even though his only line is "Woof!". Eventually, John Cleese gets jealous.
David: Oh, come now, John — you've got a sports car, a mansion, a career—all Tim's got is his woof! You don't begrudge him that, do you? John: Yes.
Show Within a Show: All the time, since the setting of the show was a radio station. Most notable is the weekly Prune Play Of The Week and the two serials, Curse Of The Flying Wombat and Professor Prune and the Electric Time Trousers.
Spoonerism: The first episode of Series 5 ("Bunny and Claude") segues from the opening credits into "The David Hatch Show", in which David passes himself off as a DJ. His DJ patter includes the following careful subversion of the obvious spoonerisms:
David Hatch: Yes, it's Dave the Rave on the medium wave, with another happy-go-go, ringing-dinging, bunky-futting, frunty-bucking, brunty-funking, funting-butting - that was close! (audience laughter) Funky-butting fun time of fun and frolics on Radio Hatch!
Stage Magician: One John and Mary sketch has John driving Mary round the bend with an incessant string of magic tricks, including versions of Pick a Card (he gets the card wrong) and What Have We Ear? (producing several remarkable objects, none of which is the one he intended).
Straight Man: David Hatch, who claims he "only does the narration and boring bits". Occassionally he bemoans it, and occassionally he uses it to avoid taking part in the latest shenanigans. (He did often get his share of puns to deliver, though. Just not as many silly voices.)
Take That: Tony Blackburn, David Frost and many others.