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Radio / I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue

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The irreplaceable Humphrey Lyttelton. note 
"For a show such as this to have lasted thirty years might be thought achievement enough in itself. But to have brought joy and laughter to thousands of listeners ... might at least have been worth a try."
Humphrey Lyttelton, 30th-Anniversary special

Panel Game (according to the introduction, "the antidote to panel games"note ) broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the "classic radio" station BBC 7. Born in 1972, it was something of a continuation of the Sketch Show I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again (which was also the origin of The Goodies). The main difference was that, as a panel game, they didn't need to write any scripts.

The chairman was Humphrey Lyttelton, a jazz trumpeter (the thinking being that improvisational comedy owed a lot to jazz), who created the persona of a curmudgeonly Deadpan Snarker who would rather be doing something else. Anything else note . Barring some Early-Installment Weirdness in the first two series, the regular teams from the beginning in the 1970s until 1996 were Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden versus Tim Brooke-Taylor and Willie Rushton. After Rushton's death in 1996, the fourth panelist became a rotating position.note  Guests have also deputised for Barry, Tim or Graeme if they were unable to make a recording. Because of the show's pedigree, and the fact that the regulars have the final say in who the guests are, being asked to appear on the show has a certain amount of prestige attached to it (and many have turned down the opportunity for fear they might ruin it).

The future of the show was in doubt following Lyttelton's death in 2008, although Series 51 was aired in mid-2009 with Stephen Fry, Jack Dee, and Rob Brydon taking over the chair for two episodes each. Although he was not definitively stated to be the full-time replacement, the show returned to its regular schedule with Dee chairing every episode later that year; he has chaired every series since. (In the 2015 tour of the live show, Sandi Toksvig took the chair for some dates.)

In recent years, Barry and Graeme both cut down on their number of appearances and would appear only occasionally. This resulted in the show's future being left unclear once again after Tim Brooke-Taylor, the last of the original panellists still regularly appearing on the show, passed away from COVID-19 in April 2020. It was eventually announced that the show's 73rd series in Autumn 2020 would consist of Tim's final two episodes (recorded shortly before the nationwide lockdown), followed by four remotely recorded episodes with the surviving regulars and a virtual audience (categorized by the BBC as Series 74). Since then, the show has featured an entirely rotating panel. Barry Cryer participated in the first two episodes of Series 76, his final appearance before his death in January 2022; Graeme Garden, the last surviving member of the original panel, has appeared occasionally since then.

Other people on the show include Colin Sell, the long-suffering pianist, and Samantha, the entirely fictional scorer, about whom many Double Entendres are made. On one occasion, Colin Sell's stand-in as duty pianist was veteran jokester musician Neil Innes, best known for The Bonzo Dog Band and The Rutles. Humph introduced him as 'a man whose royalty payments on "I'm The Urban Spaceman" have just run out', to which Innes responded with several bars of the Death March from Aida.

While winning and losing is seldom an important part of Panel Games, ISIHAC views it as entirely irrelevant. In one 1997 episode, Humph commented, "It's just occurred to me Samantha hasn't given us the score. Since 1981." It would be impossible to determine who won most of the games anyway, given that many of them don't make any sense, and the "Complete Quotes" round has the warning "points will be deducted for a correct answer".

Most of the games are simply excuses for a Hurricane of Puns, but some have a surreality bordering on nonsensical. These include "Celebrity What's My Line?" (in which the panel has to guess what a celebrity does for a living), versions of board games and other quizzes (where the joke is that we need to see what's going on to understand it), and, of course the Great Game, Mornington Crescent (a game of complex and subtle rules which, to the uninitiated, sounds like people shouting out tube stations at random) and its boardgame cousin Boardo! (complete with rattling dice and clicking counters).

There are also some musical rounds in the show. While the most popular musical game in the early years was the "Blues" (where each team has to create one on the spot), the three most popular throughout most of the show's run are "One Song to the Tune of Another" (which is self-explanatory, although Humph thinks otherwise), "Pick-Up Song" (where each of the team members have to sing along to a song which is muted half way through and still be in time with the lyrics when the sound is turned back up) and "Swanee-Kazoo" (where each team has to play a given song with a swanee whistle and a kazoo). There was usually a Running Gag at the expense of the late Jeremy Hardy whenever he was on the show as he was a hilariously terrible singer (which eventually extended to jokes about said singing even when he wasn't present). Some of his singing from the show (specifically "Hallelujah" in the style of George Formby) was even used as a Greatest Hits moment on the announcement of his death.

The show has won three Golden Sony Awards, including one for I'm Sorry I Haven't A Christmas Carol, a Christmas Episode which cast all the regulars and guest panelists into a version of A Christmas Carol and somehow managed to force most of the games into the storyline. This was followed a couple of years later with Humph In Wonderland. The show also spawned a sell-out live tour featuring classic rounds from previous series, initially with Jeremy Hardy as the guest; the most recent tour, in 2022, featured Tony Hawks, Miles Jupp, Rory Bremner and Pippa Evans as the panellists.

In 2012, the show's official site was launched, which can be found here.

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Ad-Lib Poem

The chairman gives one line setting up a rhyme to a panellist. The panellist then continues the story in rhyming verse, until the chairman buzzes, at which point the poem passes to the next panellist, who does the same until an "artistic conclusion" is reached. Tim notoriously hated this round...which, of course, often led to him starting it off. Not played nowadays.

The Bad-Tempered Clavier

The teams attempt to sing a song while Colin Sell accompanies them. Colin eventually begins changing the tempo, playing wrong notes, and playing different songs altogether. The chairman often mentions that points are deducted for players attempting to sing with their hands over their ears. Not played nowadays.


One team gives a subject for a blues to the other team. The other team then improvise a blues, with each panellist taking alternate lines. They inevitably start with "I woke up this mornin'". (Occasionally, Humph would specifically mention penalizing a team for starting a blues with that sentence, which inevitably resulted in "I rose from my bed as dawn began" or some other synonym.) Variations included 'Calypso' (always starting with "I [thing related to the topic] the other day") and 'Madrigal'. Used to be one of the most reccurring rounds, but is now rarely played.

Call My Bluff

The chairman gives the teams a word to define. The panellists then define the word, each giving different punning definitions. The chairman picks the one he thinks is true, we hear the sound of paper unfolding as the answers are revealed, and the game ends. Not played nowadays.

Censored Song

The teams take a clean song and make it absolutely filthy by strategic censoring. (Usually one team member will sing the song whilst the other uses the buzzer, although occasionally the original song will be played.) Still pops up occasionally, but definitely not as common as it used to be. A similar idea had been used in I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again.

Cheddar Gorge

The teams construct a sentence, taking one word each, with the goal being not to complete the sentence. If the chairman judges that a full stop has been reached, he'll honk his horn (ever since Jack took over, this has been replaced by a gong). Occasionally, each panellist gets a word that they'll have to "seamlessly integrate" into the story. Common ploys involve forming the phrase "and yet strangely" to force a player to describe something multiple times, or someone — frequently Tim — saying "comma" to buy time. On at least one occasion, Humph made it even harder by adding an extra rule, that all the words had to start with the same letter.

Nowadays, this is rarely played, being replaced with Letter Writing (or 84 Chicken Cross Road), which plays along the same principles with two major additions. One — instead of assembling a sentence, the teams are "writing letters" between one famous personality to another. The other team then composes a reply. Two — as you may have figured out, this is played in teams of two rather than both the teams saying words. This simplifies stalling, and someone — frequently Graeme — will often say "and" to force their teammate to come up with as many adjectives as they can. This version is still played frequently.

Clanger Theatre

A re-enactment of a famous scene from stage or screen, with one player giving their dialogue using a swanee whistle so as to imitate the language of The Clangers.note  Most infamous for the Clanger recreation of that scene from When Harry Met Sally.... Not played nowadays.

Complete Quotes

Also known as Quote Misquote and Closed Quotes. The chairman reads the beginning of a quote, and one of the panellist finishes it in a humorous fashion. Quotes are generally taken from all manner of things — songs, poems, interviews, classics, opening lines, and so forth. Still frequently played.

DIY Drama

The teams are given characters and sound effects, and then improvise a play from a given genre. Sometimes, the players are given free rein — other times, the chairman indicates scene changes or mentions which sound effects will have to be included beforehand. Very likely to go off the rails, and sound effects given to the panellists are pretty much guaranteed to pop up after the game's finished. One of the newer rounds, and played about once a series.

Double Feature

The panellists combine the names of films to make puns. Really, that's it. Puns can be literal (such as Half A Sixpence, The Dirty Dozen and The Exorcist being combined to make Half A Dozen Eggs). The meaning of the title can be used rather than the words. (Such as 'Allo 'Allo!, Boom and Farewell, My Lovely combining to make A Short, Meaningless Relationship. Or Lord of the Flies and Flash Gordon combining to make Would You Mind Accompanying Me To The Station?) Then there are the truly magnificent puns, such as Barry combining Superman, Kelly's Heroes, The French Connection, Al Capone, Fantastic Voyage, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, The Princess and the Pea, Nightmare Alley (1947) and The Duchess And The Dustman to make Superkellyfrenchaltasticexpeaalleyduchess. Used to be very popular, but the last time it popped up was in 1995.

Film Club

The chairman gives a profession for a film club, book club, or song book, and the panellists make puns based on the profession, changing around the titles of films/books/songs in order to fit this particular profession. (Such as the bakers' film club — Bun Hur, Citizen Cake and The Last Temptation Of Crust.) Graeme invariably makes a pun on Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Still played often, usually as the closing game of the show.

Good News, Bad News

One panellist says some good news, the other some bad news related to the good news, and so on. ("Good news: I've got a new jacuzzi." "Bad news: It wasn't a jacuzzi when I got in..." "Good news: Jamie Lee Curtis was in it with me." "Bad news: But not for long.") Used to be quite popular, but has not been played since 1993.

Historical Headlines

The chairman says a famous historical event, and invites the players to come up with headlines. This round typically plays on the different viewpoints of different newspapers — running gags include the Sport, with its focus on supernatural events and sightings of Elvis, the Daily Mail, with its obsession with house prices, the Evening Standard, with its concentration on London-centric news, and the Independent with its no-nonsense, fact-stating reports. Inevitably, Graeme will do a "The Guardian corrections and clarifications" joke, which poke fun at the Guardian's reputation for bad spelling by replacing a misspelled headline with an equally misspelled headline. (E.g. "Yesterday's headline 'bishops tickle Darwin's monkey theory' should have read 'bishops tackle Darwin's donkey, Terry'.") The last time it showed up was in 2007.

Just A Minim

The chairman gives one of the panellists a song which they must sing without hesitation, repetition or deviation. (The songs are always picked to make this as ridiculously difficult as possible, such as Old Macdonald Had A Farm or It's Not Unusual.) Other panellists may challenge at any time if they detect hesitation, repetition or deviation, and if the chairman judges that their challenge is correct, they take over from the point where the previous singer left off. Takes its inspiration, rather obviously, from Just a Minute — Jack has taken to chairing the game using a caricature of Nicholas Parsons' energetic, enthusiastic speaking style. Played occasionally for a long time, often as a substitute to Swanee-Kazoo, but it appears to have been quietly retired as it has not appeared since 2016.


The entire audience get a song displayed on the laser display board, and have to hum it. The panellists attempt to guess what it is. In the live tours, each member of the audience gets their own kazoo for this round. Rarely played, but still pops up occasionally.

Last Episodes

The chairman gives the name of a TV series (or film, or book) to one of the panellists, and asks them to "finish it off as quickly as you can". The panellists typically do this with implications of violence, swearing, sex, puns, or other unbroadcastable material. (Such as Call My Bluff: "And your word is...(ting) ...oh my god!") Not played nowadays.

Late Arrivals

One of the most long-running games. The chairman announces a ball for a certain profession, and the panellists come up with names that are puns on this profession. (Frequently taking the format of "Will you welcome, please, Mr. and Mrs. X, and their son/daughter, Y...") The Mad Scientists' Ball, for example, would have "Mr. and Mrs. Tube, and their daughter, Tess Tube" and "Mr. and Mrs. Tomicbomb, and their daughter, Anna". Graeme, if stuck for ideas, will make a "Gordon Bennett" note  -based joke, such as "Mr. and Mrs. Bennettnotanotherflamingpartypoliticalbroadcast, and their son, Gordon". Was played in the first ever episode, and for a long time closed every single show. As society balls became less well known among ordinary people, this round was phased out, last appearing in 2016.


The chairman supplies the first line of a limerick, and the four panellists improvise a line each to complete it. The order of who said what line was always moved, and there would always be four limericks, so that all panellists got the ending line once. Panellists would usually be applauded for avoiding obvious obscenities. Not played nowadays.

Missed Hits

Also known as Wuthering Hillocks. The panellists name movies, songs, books and so on that didn't quite work, always puns on some existing work. (Tales of the Expected, Deaf In Venice, Shakespeare In Hove, et cetera.) Last popped up in 2005.

Its modern equivalent, which is still played today, is called Change a Letter, Ruin a Song/Film/etc. which is based on the classic social media game of changing, adding, or removing just one letter from a title to make it sound silly.

Mornington Crescent

The Great Game. Any attempt to explain the rules would be redundant and patronizing, but it is worth mentioning that the teams frequently play with special rules or regional variations (such as scrundling being disallowed, or a penalty introduced for leapfrogging). This has led some expert players to dismiss them as amateurs for not playing by the original rules — the teams have responded to this by saying that they find the intricacies of the variations to be of greater priority than a puritan attitude. Nevertheless, they have complied occasionally by playing the original game. As such a tradition could never die, it is still played nowadays.

...Well, alright, it's an absolute load of wahooney consisting of the teams naming random stations on the London Underground and arguing vividly about made-up rules. That doesn't stop the fans from playing it themselves, though.

Nowadays always preceded by the chairman reading out a letter from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales which will be bizarre, incoherent, and addressed to the presenter of a different program.

Name That Barcode

The chairman reads a barcode aloud (such as "thick white, thick black, thin white, thin white, thin black, thick white") and the panellists give suggestions as to what product it was for. Only played once.

Name That Joke

The panellists hear a series of tunes on the piano that refer to a classic joke, and suggest what joke that might be. The "wrong" jokes the panel suggests provide more than enough humour in themselves. A game that popped up around the mid-2000s, appeared semi-regularly, and disappeared in the late 2010s.

Name That Motorway

The panellists hear the sound of a motorway, and guess which one it is. Other variations include Name That Novellist (where the panellists hear a few seconds of somebody typing on a typewriter), Name Those Roadworks, Name That Pause and the most extreme of all — Name That Silence.

Notes And Queries

The chairman asks a question to one of the panellists. They suggest a possible answer, the chairman gives the real answer, and so on. Usually, after everyone's had a go, the rest of the questions are free-for-all, where anyone may give their answer. Sometimes played under the name Household Hints or What's the Problem? (which was an inverted version where the chairman gave the answer and the panellists had to offer possible questions).

One Song To The Tune Of Another

This can be a bit complicated, so listen carefully...a song is like a cat. The music is the cat itself, and the lyrics are the cat's food, nourishing the cat and making it stronger. The cat, or music, will eventually get hungry again, and be filled with new food, or words. And there you have it — One Song To The Tune Of Another. But I know what you're thinking — what about lovesick cats? We've all heard alley cats crooning an object of their affection, and what noise could possibly be worse than some lovesick mongrel yowling behind the dustbins? ... At the piano, Colin Sell!

Or, in other words, one song is sung to the tune of another. It was the first game ever played on Clue, and is still played every other episode.

Opera Time

Panellists take a bland piece of prose (recipes, scripts, extracts from scouting manuals) and turn it into an operatic duet. Played well into the eighties, but not around anymore.

...or Bedroom

Panellists come up with phrases that can be said in a given location (such as in the car, in the kitchen, or at a funeral), or in the bedroom. Essentially just an excuse to throw out endless Double Entendres. A fairly modern game, and an occasional show-closer nowadays.


One team suffers from a delusion or complaint, but don't know what it is. The delusion is broadcast to the audience and the other team via the laser display board, and the team with the delusion have to ask the other team questions. The other team has to respond in a manner appropriate to the first team's delusion, until the first team manage to guess what it is. This has a variation in the Doctors game (latterly known as The Symptoms), which is basically vice versa — the team with the problem know what their problem is, and the other team pose as doctors trying to diagnose them. The team with the problem answer in a manner appropriate to their problem. This version is now the dominant one, with the original game all but retired.

One episode featured another variation, Scandals, where one team played the part of two people invited onto a chat show to discuss a recent scandal they were involved in. The other team, playing the part of the hosts, were aware of the scandal, and the first team had to guess what scandal they'd been implicated in.

Pick-Up Song

Samantha spins some discs on the chairman's gramophone, which a chosen panellist should sing along to. The music then drops out, but the singer continues singing, and if, when the music returns, he's within a midge's semi-quaver of the original, he'll be awarded points (allegedly). And points mean a concerning sheep-like mentality showing the low intellectual capacity of those involved in it, what do points mean?


...Yes. The prizes are always some pun, such as the one for "the pet-lover who doesn't want their exotic pet to get lost — this stamped, addressed antelope". Or just silly. ("This week's prize is for the animal lover who wants to keep warm in bed. It's this hot water buffalo.") Still played nearly every other episode.


Panelists try to fit the names of things - such as animals or brand names - into sentences, with the other team buzzing in if they can spot one that's been hidden. For humour's sake, a similar convention to "Word for Word" is often applied, where an obvious hidden name is ignored in place of an obscure one. Only rarely played nowadays.


Panellists take it in turns to sing the opening lines of songs, whilst their teammate comes up with responses that would bring the song to an immediate end. (Example: "Hey, mister tambourine man, play a song for me..." "What, on a tambourine?") A recent game that has been played every other show since its introduction.

Sound Charades

The laser display board shows the title of a work for the audience and one team. The team then performs a small, improvised sketch, typically using a contrived pun or other wordplay for the other team to guess. Barry and Graeme would make all their sketches about two eccentric Scotsmen, Hamish and Dougal, setting up jokes and puns for each other seamlessly. One of the mainstays of the show, and still played every other episode.

Sound Effects

One team tells a story, the other team provides an appropriate sound effect (sometimes a capella), then the first team reveals the last phrase they said was a Bait-and-Switch so the sound effect becomes inappropriate, repeat as long as it gets laughs (which is often a long time). Popular in its time, but not played today.

Stars In Their Ears

Also known as The Singer And The Song. Panellists sing songs in the style of a famous personality, drawing on accent imitation and impersonations for the humor. Still played occasionally.

Straight Face

The panellists say one word each, with the goal being not to provoke laughter from the audience. (The chairman often mentions how they've been training a lot for this.) If anyone elicits even the slightest titter from the audience, they're eliminated, and the game goes on until only one remains. Inherently Funny Words make this round harder than it sounds. (A variation had the panellists saying punchlines to jokes instead of just words.) Still occasionally played.


One team lists things beginning with a letter randomly chosen by the chairman, with the pretense of packing these things in a suitcase. The other team may challenge if they believe the object wouldn't fit in a suitcase or wouldn't be suitable on holiday. If the chairman upholds the challenge, they take over listing things with a randomly selected letter of their own. Not played nowadays.


The teams play a song using a swanee whistle and a kazoo. (Tim and Graeme always play the swanee whistles, whereas Barry and Tim's guest always play the kazoos — although when Sandi Toksvig stood in for Graeme, Barry had a one-off go at the swanee whistle. In the COVID-19 lockdown episodes, which featured three guests to a team instead of two, there was an "unseemly break from protocol" by having Harry Hill play the trombone.) The humor comes from the naturally silly sound of these two instruments (usually described by the chairman as "the cheeky rasp of the kazoo and the smooth ululation of the swanee whistle"). Still played about every second episode.


A game about boasting - players take it in turns to provide an unlikely boast and outdo each other. Played in the 90s and 2000s but not anymore.

Tag Wrestling

Each team is given a punchline and is tasked with creating a story that ends in that line. When the chairman's horn sounds, the other team takes over and tries to drag the narrative towards their own punchline. Believable segues are theoretically required, but in practice not used. Not played nowadays.

Trail of the Lonesome Pun

Players take it in turns to announce new TV and radio programming with premises that are contrived to fit a clever pun in the title. Played once or twice a season since the turn of the millennium.

Uxbridge English Dictionary

Formerly known as New Definitions, and renamed after a book containing the best definitions. The panellists say a word, then give a definition of the word, usually by breaking it down into smaller words or making a pun on an already-existing word. (Such as "Impolite: note  To set fire to a pixie.") Barry will occasionally say a word and define it as how Sean Connery would pronounce something. ("Pastiche: note  What Shean Connery eatsh in Cornwall.") Finest ever example was by Stephen Fry, who defined "Countryside" as "to kill Piers Morgan". Basically, Hurricane of Puns at its maximum. Still played every other episode, usually as the first game of the show.

Word for Word

The word disassociation game. One team exchange a random series of words with no connection whatsoever. The other team may challenge if they spot a connection, and if the chairman agrees with the challenge, they take over. Words with a direct connection are usually ignored in favor of words with a roundabout, absurd connection. ("Kangaroo." "Hop." "(buzz) A kangaroo might go to a dance...which, in America, is known as a hop.") Barry has made a habit out of buzzing in on any two words and claiming they were a sixties rock band. First played in the second ever episode, and continues to appear regularly to this day.



  • 12-Bar Blues: The "Blues" round songs would always take this structure.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Humph would usually do this rather subtly, placing — or neglecting to place — emphasis on a word to completely change the meaning of the sentence.
    Humph: The chairman of Just a Minute is, of course, the irrepressible Nicholas Parsons. I never miss him.
  • Accidental Misnaming: In an episode when Andy Hamilton was the guest, Humph pointed out an oddity in the buzzers.
    Humph: I'll tell you who we haven't had a challenge from...Bill. They've stuck your names on the buzzers here, and it says "Barry", "Graeme", "Tim" and "Bill".
    Andy: (sullen) Are you trying to tell me I was a late booking?
    Tim: I hope that's not Bill Bailey from the last series...that'd be really sad. note 
  • Acquired Error at the Printer: Any round of "Historical Headlines" will feature someone (probably Barry) citing a misprinted headline from The Guardian (which has a reputation for this kind of thing). For example, Barry claimed that The Guardian's headline for the Great Fire of London would have been "London's Burping!".
  • Actor Allusion:
    • In a round of "Karaokey-Cokey", the audience were given "The Funky Gibbon" to hum. About three seconds in, Tim gets it and bursts out laughing.
    • A few panellists have also been tasked with accompanying themselves in "Pick-Up Song", such as Tony Hawks singing along to "Stutter Rap" and Barry singing along to his cover of "The Purple People Eater".
    • Barry's version of "The Purple People Eater", which topped the Finnish charts, is referenced at other times:
      Humph: Barry once had a surprise number one in Finland, but then the cold weather does that to him.
    • When Richard Osman was a player in "Mornington Crescent", the game took on elements from Pointless.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of other panel games and Game Shows.
    • Most notable is the "Just A Minim" round, where they have to sing a well-known song without hesitation, repetition, or deviation — needless to say, the songs are deliberately chosen to make this hard, Old McDonald Had A Farm being one hilarious example. Since Jack Dee took over as host, the parody has extended to Jack channelling Just a Minute chairman Nicholas Parsons' effusive hosting style.
    • In unrelated rounds that involve the buzzer (such as 'Word for Word'), panellists (particularly Tim note ) have also been known to issue challenges of hesitation, deviation or repetition.
  • The Alcoholic: What everyone believes Barry to be. In one round of Sound Charades, Tim and Jeremy do the title Miracle on 34th Street with this:
    Jeremy: Where are we?
    Tim: Somewhere between...thirty-third and thirty-fifth street.
    Jeremy: Oh, there's a pub along here. Fancy a drink, Barry? ...Cryer, that is?
    Tim: No, no, not for me, thanks.
    Barry: Something incredible on thirty-fourth street. Something you would hardly believe on thirty-fourth street...I find all this incredibly offensive, incidentally...
    • Another example, from a round of Complete Quotes:
      Humph: "I'm Henry the Eighth, I am, I am..."
      Graeme: 'Course you are, Mr Cryer, now if you could just blow into this tube...
    • In one episode, Humph mentions that Barry proposed to his wife in a pub and, gripped with the romance of the moment, even got up on one knee.
    • In a round about things people would never say, Tim proposed "Barry Cryer: Just a half for me, thanks." Barry immediately came back with "Tim Brooke-Taylor: I'll get them in."
    • Barry was once described as being in a bad mood because someone had cut all the ring-pulls off his lunch.
  • The Alleged Car: In the "Kiss of Death" round, each panellist has to come up with a one-liner that will not only end a date but make sure it is never repeated. One of Graeme Garden's was:
    Fancy a run in the Skoda?
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Humph sometimes makes these out of his "boredly reading the prompter" act. "That went awfully well. Let's try another. I'm sorry, I read that wrong — that went awfully. Well, let's try another."
  • Ambivalent Anglican: One episode had a round where the panellists suggested Funny Answering Machine messages for public figures. One idea for an Anglican bishop was "I don't believe I'm in."
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Whenever Jeremy Hardy's turn comes up in a music round, or a game of Mornington Crescent is announced.
    • In a straighter example of the trope, Colin is once accidentally shot during a round of Russian Roulette. Humph immediately shouts "Yes!"
  • Arch-Enemy: Humph has Nicholas Parsons, the bright and cheerful host of Just a Minute.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: In the limerick rounds, the panellists would often come up with bizarre lines out of nowhere.
    Humph: Graeme, here's a first line for you. "While out on the shores of Loch Ness..."
    Graeme: "...I was startled to see Rudolf Hess..."
  • The Artifact: In the first episodes, nearly every other game involved singing, and so involved the pianist. In recent years, the only games requiring the piano at a recording session are "One Song to the Tune of Another" in the first episode and one other game at the second — and sometimes even those will be left on the cutting room floor.
  • Artifact Title: The title was originally meant to echo I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, but since Clue has outlived its parent show by decades, a lot more people know about Clue than ISIRTA. Also, the subtitle "the antidote to panel games" doesn't make as much sense now as it used to — back when it was created, there were way more 'serious' panel games on the BBC, rather than the generally comic tone of those played nowadays. Graeme once jokingly suggested to change it to "the template for panel games".
  • As Himself: Alan Titchmarsch, also doing double-duty as several other famous gardeners for a round of "Gardeners Question Tim".
  • Audience Participation: Sometimes prompted, sometimes spontaneous.
    • In Sound Charades, the audience will react with either applause or booing depending on how accurate the guesses of the guessing team are.
    • In Pick-Up Song, they occasionally clap (something pointed out by Humph is that the audience seldom know the exact rhythm, thus misleading the singer into going faster or slower than they should) or sing along.
    • In Mornington Crescent, they applaud, collectively gasp, cheer — and one or two members of the audience has actually yelled out possible moves.
    • And, of course:
    Humph: And prizes mean points. What do prizes mean?
    Audience: (hesitant) Points!
    Humph: ...Well, at least you're halfway intelligent.
    • The audience spontaneously claps and cheers at the announcement of Mornington Crescent, and in recent years has also started doing this for "One Song to the Tune of Another", "Pick-Up Song" or any time Jeremy Hardy is called upon to sing.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The opening spiel for a round of Uxbridge English Dictionary often involves the host offering to explain the distinction between two commonly confused words (such as "habitable" and "livable"), giving a very precise definition of the first, and then giving a completely fake definition for the second ("whereas 'Livable' is where Scousers come from").
    • Butler: This is Lord Bedside.
      Lord Bedside: How do you do. Welcome to Bedside House.
      Butler: I thought you were going to say "Manor", sir.
      Lord Bedside: Yes, so I was. Welcome to Manor House.
    • From "Late Arrivals To The Television Ball":
      Tim: Mr. and Mrs. Pythonsflyingcircus... (loud crowd cheer) ...and their son...Arthur!
    • One round of new definitions featured this:
      Barry: Cancan: couple of tins. Toucan: couple of tins. Tintin: famous cartoon character.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Much snark is often thrown at BBC Radio 4, with the recurring joke that people who listen to it are exclusively elderly middle class folk, and any listener who isn't has simply gotten lost. The show is broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
    Oh yes. you've been subsisting on radio appearance fees for that thing, what was it again, I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Script?
  • Blatant Lies: The entire point of the game Misleading Advice is to supply these, with the purpose to confuse and cause chaos.
    Barry: London policemen are affectionately known as "titface".
    Graeme: If you're invited for a game of croquet, it's traditional to give your host a gift of a dozen moles.
    Bill Bailey: In England, the hedgehog is sacred.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: In one round of Sound Charades, Tim and Phill Jupitus opened their charade with "Hamish!" "Dougal!" The audience still cheered.
  • Bowdlerise: When Miles Jupp sang "Creep" by Radiohead to the tune of "New York, New York", he changed the Precision F-Strike to "so very special". Likewise, when he does Divine Comedy's "National Express", the line about suicide is excised.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Most often used in the intro to Swanee-Kazoo.
    Humph: Once an odd combination, the swanee whistle and the kazoo now go together as well as bangers and mash, fish and chips, and diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Brick Joke: One show has a round in which Jack asks "Where's the Gents'?". Barry buzzes in and answers ("Down the stairs, second on the right"), and Jack goes on to introduce the next round, Mornington Crescent. Halfway through that round, deep in a discussion of the minutiae of the rules, Tim asks Jack for an adjudication — and the sound of a flush is heard, followed by Jack hurrying back up the stairs to the game.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: One way of playing the "Pick-up Song" round.
    • Occasionally leads into Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping (such as when Marcus Brigstocke found it difficult to keep a straight face whilst accompanying Shaggy's "Mr Boombastic").
    • If someone challenges for repetition, hesitation, or deviation in a round outside Just A Minim, Jack has taken to replying with his Nicholas Parsons impression. "No, no, Tim, I don't think that's right...but the audience enjoyed your challenge so much!"
  • The Butler Did It: Spoofed in a round where the players had to improvise a detective story with the title "Murder by Moonlight": almost immediately, Barry Cryer established that "Moonlight" was the name of the butler. He turned out to be innocent in the end, though.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Tim Brooke-Taylor, who was picked on by Humph and Jack. Particularly (especially) when playing Mornington Crescent. He was also often made to sing songs outside his vocal register, which later developed into a Running Gag of making him sing along to twenty-something pop singers such as Taylor Swift and Jessie J.
    • Pianist Colin Sell, who is the butt of at least one joke per episode. "Now listeners will be surprised to hear that pop legend Cliff Richard once insisted that Colin play in The Shadows... but then, he's not a pretty sight in broad daylight."
    • If Colin ever speaks up, someone will usually respond with either "Sorry, who are you?" or "You keep out of this".
  • Calvinball: Mornington Crescent and several other games, including "Boardo" which includes elements of every board game ever, and the "Quiz Of Quizzes" which does the same thing for other Panel Games and game shows.
    Humph: So, Barry and Graeme, you were right to go lower. And Tim gets ten points. Tim, question or nominate?
    Humph: No, the correct answer is "nominate Barry". You lose ten points.
  • Captain Obvious: In a round of "Closed Quotes" where the players had to complete superstitions:
    Humph: See a pin, pick it up, all day long you'll have...
    Barry: A pin.
  • Catchphrase: Subverted; Humph regularly borrows other game show catchphrases...and gets them wrong.
    • Quite a lot of games have catchphrases of their own:
    • "Adjudication, Humph?" said by Barry, whenever an argument about the rules of Mornington Crescent cropped up.
    • Back when the show still ended every show with "The [Profession] Ball", the phrase "Will you welcome, please, Mr. and Mrs..." was often used, and frequently subverted, being substituted with poetic nonsense.
    Barry: Lift the hems of several garments!
    Graeme: Snap your garters with riddled mirth!
    Graeme: ...Mr and Mrs Bennett-generic-expression-of-disbelief, and their son: Gordon. Although in these latter days, Gordon appears to have left home and his younger brothers Bait and Switch accompany their parents.
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: On more than one occasion when introducing the "Pick-Up Song" round, after Humph has said "And points mean prizes". On one occasion he left a very long pause and the audience eventually shouted back "PRIZES!"; on another the audience interrupted him with a loud "oooh", prompting absolute bafflement from the panel.
  • Censored for Comedy: The "Censored Songs" round, in which they sing karaoke with strategically-placed censor bleeps to make the song sound a lot ruder than it originally was. This game arguably never bettered the episode in which we heard...
    * bleep* * bleep* and * bleep* * bleep* and
    * bleep* * bleep* and * bleep* * bleep*
    ''* bleep* * bleep* and * bleep* * bleep* and
    * bleep* * bleep* and * bleep* * bleep*
    * bleep* * bleep* and * bleep* * bleep* all tied up with string,
    These are a few of my favourite things...
    • Another brilliant one "Whenever I feel a[buzz] / I hold my [buzz] erect / And whistle a happy tune / so no one will suspect I'm a[buzz]... Whenever I [buzz] / The people I [buzz] / I [buzz] myself as well..."
    • This concept originated with I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again.
    • In one round of Closed Quotes, the quotes came from an interview with Ozzy Osbourne. Humph censored the more explicit words by honking his horn.
    As for Simon Cowell, I think he's a (honk)ing (honk)hole.
    • In a round of Sound Charades, Tim and Jeremy illustrated The Sopranos by putting on high-pitched soprano voices and talking like typical gangsters, excessive swearing and all. The swearing was all bleeped out in the broadcast version, which Barry predicted — afterward, he quipped "You'll bleep with the fishes!"
    • In a round of I'm a Celebrity Let Me In, Jeremy and Tim were applying to be tenants as Ozzy Osbourne and The Queen, with Ozzy throwing in the usual censored profanities. It's not long before Her Majesty starts throwing them in too.
    I've got a son that's thinking of taking over, but Charles will never be *beep*king King.
  • Chalk Outline: In a round of What's the Problem?:
    Jack: 'Trace around it with chalk.'
    Graeme: 'What should I do if I find a corpse in the lounge?'
  • Christmas Episode: 2003's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Christmas Carol and 2007's Humph in Wonderland, which cast the regulars and guests in retellings of the respective stories that managed to shoehorn in as many of the usual games as possible. There have also been several Christmas-themed editions of the "regular" show.
  • Chromosome Casting: Between 1973 and 1996, the regular panel was made up of five men, and even when one of them was unavailable their stand-in would almost invariably be male; the only women to appear from the show's inception up until Willie Rushton's death were Jo Kendall (a regular on the first series who had also been on I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again) and Denise Coffey (who deputised for unavailable regulars on several occasions between 1979 and 1997). Following Rushton's passing, things barely improved despite the now-regular guest spot, with Sandi Toksvig and Linda Smith being the show's only regular female guests. Things have improved a little in recent years with Jo Brand, Susan Calman, Pippa Evans, Rachel Parris and Victoria Wood all being added to the roster.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mrs. Trellis of North Wales, who writes many letters, e-mails, texts and so on to the show under the mistaken belief that she's writing to another show, always confusing the chairman for some other programme host. Usually, these messages make some amount of sense. Sometimes, they're just...weird.
    Dear Mr. Nick,
    I'm on the train.
    Yours sincerely, Mrs. Trellis
    • This was an example of a joke about people on the train who answer their mobile phone (then a relatively new thing) and loudly and obnoxiously talk about inane things (stereotypically beginning 'I'm on a train'), to the annoyance of the other passengers. In The '90s they were so prevalent to be a time-specific Mattress-Tag Gag (see Trigger Happy TV).
    • The letters are usually puns, topical jokes, or, as stated above, jokes about communication. (An e-mail from Mrs. Trellis is usually filled with confused strokes and slashes, for instance.)note 
    Dear Dr. Clare,
    So glad that Tim Brooke-Taylor is back. Without him the show was like Hamlet without the balcony scene.
  • Comically Missing the Point: A frequent source of humour (as in Celebrity What's My Line?, where a celebrity is introduced and the panellists have to guess what they do for a living).
    • Often in Sound Charades, when the guessing team have figured the charade out, they'll name something humorously out of the blue.
    Graeme: A boy called Harry...who's doing something naughty.
    Barry: Or dirty.
    Graeme: Ah, yes. Dirty Potter!
  • The Comically Serious: Any time a patently ridiculous round is introduced, the chairman will explain the rules as if it makes perfect sense, and the teams will often try to play it "seriously", such as "Name That Barcode".
    • Several of the guests (notably Rob Brydon, Tony Hawks, Pippa Evans and Rachel Parris) are actually quite accomplished singers, and whenever they get a turn in "One Song to the Tune of Another" the show will invoke this by giving them a particularly ludicrous combination (such as the theme from Spider-Man to the tune of "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables, or the theme from The Muppet Show to the tune of "A Whiter Shade of Pale") which they will sing completely straight-faced.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: In one episode, Barry buzzed in to ask if an action wasn't in complete violation of the rules. Humph removed some of his marks for not knowing the rules, and Barry buzzed in again, stating that he knew the rules now and could he have his marks back please. Humph gave them back, but removed them again for interrupting.
  • Country Matters: Stephen Fry's alternate definition of "countryside" is the best-remembered, but there are plenty of other instances as part of the show's long history of double entendres...
    [During a round in which the panellists must change a movie title by removing one letter]
    Tim: I was going to remove the "o" from The Count of Monte Cristo, but The Count of Monte Crist doesn't make sense...
    • In the "Limericks" round, any line ending in "unt" (such as 'hunt' or 'punt') would always provoke masses of laughter.
    • This delight, again from Stephen Fry, during a round of Trail of the Lonesome Pun from a Series 72 episode...
    Stephen: ...and talking of piers, Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins visit Oxford to examine the Reverend Spooner's passion for the repair and maintenance of the city's traditional watercraft. That's Care of Punts, coming soon.
  • Creepy Monotone/Dull Surprise: Humph sometimes used this for laughs, such as giving the teams praise in a wooden tone that suggested he was wearily reading out a prescripted line. Probably the best example is when he used Anne Robinson's catchphrase in a round parodying The Weakest Link but without any of the viciousness:
    Humph: Who's. Not pulling their weight. Who's. Dragging you down. It's time to vote off. The weakest link.
  • Cure Your Gays: Referenced in one episode when Sandi Toksvig was the guest panellist. Jack was reading out some quotes from love songs for Closed Quotes and said, in an incredibly monotone fashion, "Baby, I'm hot just like an oven. I need some lovin'." Sandi proceeded to burst into giggles, then commented "Blimey, Jack, you could have me on the turn, I can tell you..."
  • Curse Cut Short: In a 'General Knowledge Quiz' round where Humph gives the answers and the team supply the questions, Stephen Fry responds to 'Scrape the flesh roughly with the teeth' by saying 'How do you not give a bl-... I can't say that.'
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In one episode, recorded in Milton Keynes, Jack states that it is definitely "a city in Buckinghamshire."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Humph. His entire persona was that of a bored old man who was baffled and annoyed by the entire show and everyone who was on it.
    Humph: In "Hunt The Slipper", I'll sit with my eyes closed while the slipper is passed around behind the teams' backs. After a few seconds of slipper-passing, I shall call out "slipper search on", and then I'll open my eyes. Obviously I shall have no idea where the slipper is, but the teams should keep passing the slipper around secretly, and I shall have to guess who's holding the slipper and challenge them by pointing and calling out "slipper holder". (beat) ...I'm seventy-eight, for Christ's sake.
  • Delayed Reaction: In Word For Word, Graeme will occasionally challenge for a connection on two words a long time after they've been spoken.
    Tim: Heckle.
    Ross Noble: Banjo.
    Tim: Butterfly.
    Ross: Creosote.
    Barry: Creosote Butterfly...Sixties rock band.
    Jack: No, uh, I can't let you have that, Barry...I think you wouldn't be able to name one of their albums if I asked you.
    Jack: Yes?
    Barry: Creosote Butterfly One.
    Jack: Apart from the eponymous first album, obviously.
    Jack: Yes, Graeme?
    Graeme: I think it is the duty of every good citizen to heckle a banjo. ...That was in there.
    • In rounds that didn't involve him very much (such as Mornington Crescent), Humph would sometimes do this to indicate he'd fallen asleep or lost interest.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "The first round this week is called Round One."
    • "The next game is called Word For Word. It's a word game."
    • Often invoked in the set-up to the One Song To The Tune Of Another game.
    • "Round One will be followed, in time-honored tradition, by Round Two."
    • Most incarnations of Cheddar Gorge (especially Letter Writing) will result in this when the panellists force each other to describe something with more than one adjective.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Sweep the puppet... at least, according to what Jack says he suggested. "Throttle Graeme? That's not very nice."
  • Didn't Think This Through: Played for laughs when the attempt to play "Hunt the Slipper" is brought to a halt by Graeme's innocent question "Humph, should someone have brought a slipper?"
  • Don't Explain the Joke: A couple of shows have featured someone doing this to cover a joke that didn't get a laugh, ending by adding "and I wish I was dead". In one recent episode, Tim did this, and Jack said "Tim, the audience are right."
    • Another variation is when someone tells a joke that doesn't get a laugh, wait for a joke that does, and then repeat the joke. If it doesn't get a laugh then, expect it to be turned into a Running Gag.
    • A further variation is to completely kill the joke with overexplanation, thereby making it funny again.
    [In the Historical Headlines round, the subject is Walter Raleigh presenting tobacco and potatoes at the court of Queen Elizabeth]
    Barry: "Hello magazine: Queen's potato goes out, exclusive pictures"? [Lukewarm response] The Queen tried to smoke a potato.
    Graeme: Instead of a cigarette?
    Barry: Yes.
    Tim: That would be a mistake on her part.
    Fred MacAulay: That would have great comic potential!
    Barry: Yes! Not now, but...
    • In one episode, Humph explained one of the jokes in his introduction long after the audience had finished laughing, then added "That was for any of the stupider listeners at home."
  • Dreadful Musician:
    • The show has constant jabs at Colin Sell, pretending he - a very fine pianist - is one of these. Just about every explanation of "One Song to the Tune of Another" ends with a shot at his apparently lack of ability. The "Bad-Tempered Clavier" round has to take the cake, though, with the host explaining how the panelist will struggle to sing properly as Colin Sell plays like an imbecile with his hands the wrong way round... and the difference is, this time it's deliberate.
    • As for actual examples, perhaps none are more infamous on this show than Jeremy Hardy, who apparently had no idea what a tune even was when given a shot at a musical round. In one game of "Pick-up Song" where he actually did a passable job (with "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"), everyone reacted with shock.
    Tim: Where the hell did that come from? Your twin brother Jeremy couldn't sing at all!
    • David Mitchell's first attempt at "One Song to the Tune of Another"note  prompted the response of "I miss Jeremy."
  • invokedDude, Not Funny!: In one episode, Humph messes up one of his lines. The cast respond to it by pretending to treat him like a doddering old man. The audience generally reacts with laughter, but when Barry rubs it in by saying "Your trumpet went very well at the auction!", there's a pretty huge audience groan to signify he's gone too far.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: A lot of the show's familiar elements weren't present from the start - at first there was no Willie Rushton, no Colin Sell (there was another pianist, often Monty Python regular Neil Innes), no Samantha, no Mornington Crescent and no mention of "the antidote to panel games". And Humph awarded points and actually kept the score (though even then the points meant nothing). Barry Cryer was there from the first series but not as a panellist; instead he alternated with Humph in the chair (Humph was always the first choice for the job but prior commitments kept him from some of those early recordings).
    • In the earlier years of the show, it didn't tour, so the intro lacks Humph's routine about where the show is being recorded this week.
    • Samantha wasn't introduced until 1985, over ten years into the show's run.
    • In early rounds of Pick-up Song, the music would start from partway through the song rather than the beginning (and hence presumably making it even more difficult for the panellist to keep in time).
    • When Karaoke-Cokey was first played, the audience actually sang the song rather than humming.
  • Empty Chair Memorial: Played with, when Willie Rushton passed away he was never replaced as a regular, his seat was only ever filled by a guest performer.
  • The Eeyore: "Humph" is a very apt name indeed. Jack Dee was a worthy successor, having done a similar shtick for years.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: After Rob Brydon sang "Delilah" in Pick-Up Song (prompting a very long, enthusiastic ovation), this exchange occurred.
    Tim: We're going to have to throw all of these back now...
    Barry: Those Y-fronts were mine, Tim.
    • In an 1990's episode where Barry had sung "It's Not Unusual" in the same round:
    Humph: If we could have these knickers cleared away...
    Willie: Could I have mine back?
    Tim: Gosh, here are some women's ones!
  • Everyone Has Standards: Harry Hill does this to himself, twice in the same episode even. First during Uxbridge English Dictionary, and later on when he puts on a very exaggerated Irish accent during Sound Charades, suggesting he could walk it back if it's too much.
  • Evil Laugh: During the Opera rounds, Barry and Graeme frequently throw a burst of hammy evil laughter in their performances.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: One of the games is called "One Song to the Tune of Another". If you think of a song as being a tin of music, filled with lyrics, it involves removing the lid from one song and scooping out the lyrics, discarding the tune (which isn't necessary for the game and can be recycled according to your local authority's refuse disposal guidelines), and emptying out the tune of another song (discarding the lyrics, in this case, which can either be saved in a covered dish in the refrigerator, or thrown away). You should now have one set of lyrics, and one tune. The clever bit is that you now combine the two, singing the words of the first song to the tune of the second — analogous to putting the contents of the first tin into the second. As should be clear by this point, all this is a complete aversion of the trope, as what is inside the tin is not at all what it says on the tin, but what it says on the tin in the bin.
    • And speaking of bins, here's Colin Sell on the piano.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: In one episode, a variant on the "Mystery Illness" game was played called "Scandals". The scandal Tim and Jeremy had to guess they'd been involved in was accepting honours for cash. Barry and Graeme... had accepted a booking on Quote, Unquote.
    Jeremy: That's harsh!
  • "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome: in I'm Sorry I Haven't A Christmas Carol, Humph (or "Ebenezer Scrumph") sees visions of his past, present and future that prompt him to stop being a grumpy misanthrope and become nice - but when he tries to chair a panel game the panellists quickly realise that the programme doesn't work with a nice Humph. They send him back to normal by subjecting him to a round of Swanee-Kazoo.
  • Foreign Remake: Not the show itself, but one game involves coming up with foreign equivalents of British shows, such as Crimewatch Ukraine.
    Willie (about "One Man And His Dog"): The French could have One Man and his Frog...the Norwegians could have One Man and his Log...the Albanians could have One Man and King Zog!
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • An occasional game asks the players to suggest new meanings for real acronyms, such as text abbreviations adapted to the elderly.
    • Series 57, Episode 6 had this exchange.
    Jack: The answer is "It changed its name" - what is the question?
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: Translated Phrases, which gives us such translations as Film Noir = "my photos haven't come out", and variations of the theme of adapting song/film/TV titles or proverbs for foreign audiences.
  • Funny Background Event: Yes, on radio. Occasionally on Pick-Up Song, the panellists who aren't singing will banter, joke, make comments or otherwise fool around in the background, aiming to get the singer to crack up.
    Barry: (singing Charles Aznavour's "She") She may be the song that summer sings,
    May be the chill that autumn brings,
    May be a hundred different things—
    Tim: I love you, Barry.
    Barry: (laughing) Within the measure of a day...
    • In another round of the same, Barry sung "Delilah". Tim can be heard saying "No—no, put them back on, madam," to someone in the audience.
    • During one round of 'Pick Up Tune', the panellist singing 'Living next door to Alice' is accompanied by the audience very audibly joining in with 'Who the fuck is Alice?'note  Which was LEFT IN the edit!
  • Genre Refugee: Richard Osman, one of a very few guest panellists not to come from a comedy background.
  • Grandfather Clause: Back when ISIHAC started, it was common practice for radio comedy shows to have a pianist (or even an orchestra, in the case of The Goon Show) providing live music (indeed, Dave Lee, who provided the service for I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, was the pianist for the first few series). These days Colin Sell is pretty much the only example left.
  • Helium Speech: In a round of Pick-Up Song, Tony Hawks was tasked with accompanying Pinky and Perky's cover of "Baby Love", and was given helium to help him.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Whenever it would get a laugh. For some reason, Barry and Graeme are especially prone to it.
    Barry: (in an elimination round) So it's just you and me now, is it?
    Graeme: Yeah.
    Barry: I give it three weeks.
    • When Sven's standing in for Samantha as scorekeeper, the subtext is usually just plain text. ("Well, from the big hand sweeping around my little ticker...I see that Sven's up to his old tricks again.")
    • From a round of Notes And Queries:
    Humph: Okay, here's one—why do we kiss?
    Graeme: It was a moment of madness, Humph!
    Barry: We are what we are, Humph.
    Tim: There's no need to resign.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Especially in the "New Definitions" round, which posits phonetically-based new definitions for words, such as "Fervent: Device required when tumble-drying cats", "Cruise Control: Scientology", and "Countryside: To murder Piers Morgan".
    • The new series gave us "Farcical: A bike that makes you look like an idiot" and followed it with the sublime "Lackadaisical: A bicycle made for one".
    • Highlights were later collected into a book, the Uxbridge English Dictionary, itself a pun on the Universities of Oxbridge and the distinctly un-elite town of Uxbridge on the outskirts of London (although that town does have a university itself, Brunel university).
  • Hypocritical Humour: Often used in Humph's introductions.
    Humph: [Place where show is being recorded] ...was said to have England's lowest light racy rat. (beat) Literacy rate!
    • The typical introduction to Just A Minim is "The team will have to sing a song without repetition,, deviation, anthrax or repetition."
    • In one episode, Jack begins a segment talking about some programs using celebrities to boost their profile... then gets interrupted by the angry squeakings of Sweep (of Sooty).
  • The Illegible: Humph would rag on the producer Jon Naismith for his terrible handwriting, at one point claiming he needed to pin it up on a board and run past it to have any chance to understand it.
  • I Am Spartacus: Before one round of "Pick-Up Song", Humph replaced "What do points mean?" with this. Most of the audience just cheered, but a few shouted back "No, I'm Spartacus!"
  • Improv: Tim Brooke-Taylor described about a fifth of the show as being ad-libbed, although Willie Rushton reckoned it was closer to half. (The live stage show, being a selection of "greatest hits", is nearly all scripted, although certain rounds which have to be improvised to work, such as Letter Writing, are different every night.)
  • Informed Attribute: Parodied with the "LASER DISPLAY BOARD" (sometimes extra words suggesting technical brilliance are added into the description) which allegedly informs the studio audience of whatever the secret is, as the Mystery Voice does for the listeners at home. Of course, like Samantha it's entirely fictional, and there's an audience laugh when the secret turns out to be written on an ordinary cue card which the show producer runs across the stage with.
    • One of the many features of the internet-linked liquid-crystal laser display board is to confuse the listeners at home who haven't been to a recording, and to make them wonder why the audience laugh when the title is displayed (although this was more effective prior to the advent of the internet; these days, everybody knows the secret).
  • Informed Flaw: There are incessant jokes about Colin Sell's terrible piano-playing, even though he is actually an excellent pianist and plays flawlessly in every episode.note 
  • Innocent Innuendo: Humph excelled at this, saying the secret was down to reading everything one word at a time so you don't actually know what you're reading. Often centres around Samantha.
    • And usually eliciting mock-shocked cries of "Humph!!"
    Humph: So I'll warn you, teams: Samantha's on the lookout, and I've got the horn.
    Willie: He looks like such a nice old man!
    • Barry tended to react to these with either "dear oh dear..." or loud, raucous laughter, depending on how good he was at keeping a straight face at the moment.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Ranges from surreal logic to out-of-nowhere assumptions to logic that makes sense in its own internal world. Many of the answers in Notes And Queries fall under this as well.
    Humph: Graeme, why are cashew nuts never sold in their shells?
    Graeme: Ah, that's because cashews are actually monkey kidneys. And monkey kidneys don't come in shells, they come in monkeys. That would bulk out the packaging too much.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: Sometimes.
    Andy Hamilton: (while Barry and Graeme are having trouble guessing a Sound Charade) It's like a documentary on Alzheimer's...
    Barry:'s like a documentary on what?
    • And another time:
    Tim: No, no, don't patronize him just because he's new.
    Graeme: Patronizing — that means talking down to people.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Graeme will frequently ask "What's it called?" at the beginning of the other team's Sound Charade. Unsurprisingly, it never works.
  • Kick the Dog: Jack Dee is particularly mean to Tim whenever he gets the chance. But it's all part of the act.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In the Limericks game, subverting the audience's expectation of the "obvious" rhymes. (It's not Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion because the substituted words do fulfill the rhyme as well... usually.)
    While out on the Cam in a punt,
    I saw Reverend Spooner in front
    He said, "What a day gay,"
    And, "Anchors aweigh!"
    And, "Watch out for my podding sunt!"
    • In some limericks, the competitors actually predict the rhyme about to come, with embarrassed mumbles such as "Oh, that one..."
    There was a stout person from Brum,
    Who lost twenty pounds off her tum.
    When people said "Great!",
    She replied: "Just you wait,
    'Til you see what I've lost from my...thumb."
  • Late to the Punchline: From one round of Closed Quotes:
    Humph: "The boy went down on the last few feet of rock..."
    Graeme: "...and began to thank Mr. Hudson profusely."
    (collective groan from audience, which eventually turns into hissing and jeering)
    Tim: ...Oh, I see!
    (audience bursts into laughter)
  • Law of Disproportionate Response: Humph put up with most of the show, whatever silliness was going on. However, he'd occasionally pause in the middle of a round of Closed Quotes or Notes And Queries to point out how stupid or boring the answers were.
    Humph: The answer [to the question "how can eggshells be used in the garden?"] is "put the eggshells in a barrel of water, remove them, and water your geran..." ...just throw the bloody things away.
    • In Straight Face (a round in which each panellist says a word, and whoever elicits "even the slightest titter" from the studio audience is eliminated), Humph would usually ignore massive audience laughter, but yell "Titter!" at the very slightest giggle, or even total silence.
  • Left It In: Jack once laughed at one of the Double Entendres in his introduction, then muttered "That'll be edited out or I'm finished". Naturally, it's left in.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: One episode intro includes a joke about Daniel Defoe naming a character in Robinson Crusoe after glancing at a calendar (the punchline being that despite the obvious assumption, the name in question is not "Friday").
  • Literal-Minded: Hamish and Dougal.
    Dougal: I've been taking tea and honey with Mrs. Naughtie.
    Hamish: Does she produce the honey herself?
    Dougal: ...Well, no, that's...that's not nature's way.
  • Long Runner: It's been going for fifty years, making it one of Radio 4's longest running programmes and the longest running Radio 4 panel game after Just a Minute. Beginning with Ross Noble in 2009, it has had several panellists who are younger than the show itself.
  • Long-Runner Tech Marches On: Averted for a time by the "Pick-up Song" round, which was still using a record player as recently as 2009 (as indicated by an episode where they accidentally played the record at the wrong speed). Eventually, however, they did switch over to more modern methods, as evidenced by recent selections including songs by Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber.
  • Lost in Transmission: One round of "Mornington Crescent" opened with Humph passing on an apology from the BBC that some listeners were experiencing local interference. He then went on to announce that he was going to explain the rules of the game. Cue an extended burst of static.
  • Low Count Gag: In a regular gag, the chairman uses variations of this joke to say the show has been deluged by an unprecedented number of letters, and it's from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales.
  • Lurid Tales of Doom: How The Sport is presented in Historical Headlines.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Some of the more hilarious examples of One Song To The Tune Of Another:
    • "Girlfriend in a Coma" to the tune of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips"
    • "Bat out of Hell" to the tune of "Postman Pat"
    • "Bigmouth Strikes Again" to the tune of "Over the Rainbow"
    • "Anarchy in the UK" to the tune of "Singin' in the Rain"
    • "My Favourite Things" to the tune of "The Funeral March"
    • It can become something of a Running Gag for one particularly downbeat song to be used as the tune for several completely inappropriate sets of lyrics; "The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" has been used for "I'm Too Sexy", "The Gummy Bear Song" and the theme tune from The Muppet Show.
    • There's also the "Opera Time" game, where they sing the words of something banal (like a recipe) as an operatic duet.
  • Lyrical Tic: The improvised blues songs were always filled with cries of "Yeah, man" or "tell it like it is" or "whoa" or anything else appropriate, fitting in with the scratchy-gravelly, 'deep American South' voices they adopted. When Stephen Fry was once filling in for Graeme, his immaculately clean voice made this complicated, so he simply said "various American noises from the back of my throat".
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: The Summer 2021 series, where all six episodes were recorded from Broadcasting House in London with a virtual audience, had Jack Dee open each episode by describing it as being "part of London's ______ district", and explaining they were in an empty theatre, which was "nothing to do with Covid regulations, just (explanation which was usually something insulting the teams)".
  • Malaproper: After he was awarded an OBE in 2001, Mrs. Trellis sent a letter congratulating Barry on "finally receiving an oboe".
    • Humph once introduced an episode of Letter Writing with "There's nothing like badly-written English to really make my goat boil."
  • Man in a Kilt: The Fan Disservice variant.
    Dougal: I see you're up a ladder.
    Hamish: Oh, it's a lovely view from up here.
    Dougal: I wish I could say the same.
  • Metaphorgotten: Humph's unnecessarily-complicated analogies to explain the concept of One Song To the Tune Of Another.
    "Anyone having trouble grasping this concept may care to consider a song to be like a tree. The leaves represent the words, which occasionally fall off to be replaced later by new leaves, or different words. Obviously, the discarded words don't form a slimy layer on top of your lawn like leaves do, that is why they should be swept up and placed in a heap to be burnt on bonfire night to the accompaniment of loud bangs as the hedgehogs explode. Now I come to think of it, there is no record of a few song lyrics ever causing an express train to sit outside Tunbridge Wells station for nine hours at a time, not that you would think leaves on the line would be such a problem these days, so few trains actually seem to stay on them. I can guess what you are thinking — what kind of species of tree is this? Is it an Elder? Is is an Ash? You could try asking a so called expert, but in all likelihood he wouldn't know his Ash from his Elder. At the piano, Colin Sell."
  • Medium Awareness: Routinely subverted. Since the show is non-fictional, everyone has medium awareness, but the trope is relevant because of the show's tendency to use visual imagery on the radio. For example, in the (now rarely played) round Call My Bluff, all of the panellists give their own definition of a word, then reveal which one was true. We hear the rustles of paper as the answers are shown (and possibly some interested mumbling), and that's it.
    • In an early episode, the audience were treated to the teams playing a round of Hide and Seek on stage. This was topped in a later episode by the teams playing another round of Hide and Seek, where the studio audience hid from the teams!
    • This sort of thing used to happen all the time, in fact — there would be rounds were panellists tried to eat an apple without using their hands (with scattered comments throughout), for instance. Not to mention the jigsaw puzzles and board games.
    • In a round of Songstoppers, Tony Hawks sang the opening lines of "With a Little Help From My Friends", and as he reached "Would you stand up and walk out on me?", Marcus Brigstocke stood up and walked offstage. Tony immediately lampshaded how the joke went down brilliantly in the theatre, but wouldn't work on the radio at all.
  • Minimalist Cast: The majority of episodes between 1974 and 1996 featured the same panel, and even the guest panellists tend to be drawn from a fairly small pool of names.
  • Monochrome Casting: Has featured precisely one non-white comedian (Omid Djalili) in forty-seven years.
  • More Popular Spin Off: I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again ran for eight years. I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue started in 1972 and is still going.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The entire point of the Opera round, which challenges the players to sing dull pieces of text in epic faux-operatic style.
  • Musical Gag: Colin will occasionally play a quick jingle or sting after a joke, and whenever the singing rounds get really off-track, he tends to change the melody around or segue into another song altogether, before continuing as normal.
    Jack Dee: (in Just A Minim) Don't even contemplate a short fling...or even an affair...because I'm quite nasty when I get cross...I have problems with rejection...
    (Colin plays the first five notes of The Sailor's Hornpipe)

  • Namesake Gag:
    • Coco Chanel, inventor of the popular bedtime drink.
    • In a Series 30 episode intro, Humph correctly states that the cardigan was named after Crimean War hero Lord Cardigan, then goes on to say that the Crimean War also produced a kind of woolly headwear named after the Battle of Bobblehat.note 
  • Never My Fault: If the music comes back in "Pick-up Song" to reveal that the panellist was significantly out of time with the original, they will often make some comment about the original singer "losing it".
  • New Rules as the Plot Demands: Lockdown Mornington Crescent, the rules of which change with literally every move, thanks to the ever-shifting tier system. Rory Bremner complains that it cheapens the whole game if the rules are that inconsistent.
  • Nintendo Hard: The announcement that Rory Bremner's "Pick-up Song" was going to be Tom Lehrer singing "The Elements Song" provoked gasps of shock from the audience, and Tim Brooke-Taylor can be heard sincerely wishing him good luck before the song starts. The music coming back to reveal that Bremner was exactly in time caused an extended ovation from the audience.
  • No Budget: The apparent lack of funding for the show is sometimes joked about. invoked
    • Mentioned in a round of "Word For Word". Paul Merton buzzed Barry and Graeme, and Humph initially overruled his challenge, saying that they only had one buzzer and that was with Tim and Paul. He then says "...oh, thank you, Paul" as footsteps are heard, and then Graeme says "For those of you listening in stereo — it's over here now!" Later, when Barry challenges Tim and Paul, Paul says "we'd better have the buzzer back then, hadn't we?" and footsteps are heard again.
    • There's also a round that's sometimes literally called "No Budget", where the panellists have to think up "cut-price" version of well-known media, such as Wuthering Hillocks or The Chihuahua of the Baskervilles.
  • No Fair Cheating: In a round of Bedtime Stories (one panellist tells a story, and their team member has to try and play appropriate sound effects, while wearing headphones making them unable to hear the story), Graeme tried to sidestep the rules by making his own sound effects. Tim loudly accused him of being a cheat throughout the rest of the round.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: At the more ridiculous answers to the questions in the "Notes and Queries" round, Humph would insist they were all "out of a real book".
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Part of Humph's ability to get away with scathing Take Thats and filthy innuendos was his befuddled persona, which managed to simultaneously make the jokes less offensive and more funny.
    • When rounds of Sound Charades get really obvious, the guessing team will usually beat around the bush with lots of humming and stalling.
    Barry: You're toying with us, but the listeners can't see that.
  • Official Couple: At a 2019 recording where both Barry and Graeme were absent, the recently married Rachel Parris and Marcus Brigstocke were teamed together.
  • Off the Rails: Where any game of Mornington Crescent is likely to go (even though, technically, they never leave the rails).
    • The round of "Word for Word" that ended in Tim giving words by himself.
    Tim: Catamaran... Slinky...
    Graeme: (Buzzes in) While I was waiting for my girdle, I bought a catamaran called Slinky.
    Jack: Again, it's another personal anecdote. Sorry, it's back to you, Tim.
    Tim: Brylcreem... castanet... polyunsaturated... monastery... kilogram...
    Jack: You realise that we're filming this and we'll show it as part of your obituary.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: The "Dummy Keyboard" round, played in one episode in series 30, involved Colin Sell tapping out rhythms and the contestants trying to guess what tune it was. When it came time for the contestants to guess, Colin started audibly answering "yes" or "no", leading to Humph complaining that he's not supposed to talk. Barry suggested that instead he should knock once for yes and twice for no.
  • Oop North: Frequently used for definitions in the Uxbridge English Dictionary.
  • Orphaned Setup: During the usual Take That! against Colin in an introduction to "One Song to the Tune of Another", Humph read out "Even after all these years, the sound of Colin's playing still makes me want to clap"; this alone was enough to get laughter and a round of applause from the audience, and he decided not to bother with the punchline.note 
  • Our Product Sucks: The show was punctuated by the host Humph commenting on horrible the programme was, both in concept and execution; implying that he wanted to be somewhere (indeed, anywhere) else; wondering why anyone would be listening to this; suggesting their listener numbers were in single figures; etc. The contestants often agreed.
  • Overly-Long Gag:
    • The lengthy analogies introducing "One Song to the Tune of Another", which build up to a Take That! at Colin Sell.
    • In one round of Mornington Crescent, Jack was asked for ajudication, and said he'd check the rules. We then got the sound of footsteps going down a corridor, a door creaking open, a book being rustled, the footsteps again, and a cheer from the audience as Jack presumably returned to the stage ... to tell the teams "It doesn't say."
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Humph will often introduce a letter from Mrs. Trellis by saying they've received "slightly less than two letters" or "slightly more than one letter".
    • "This was by far the most entertaining letter we received out of several hundred others...from Mrs. Trellis."
  • Pet's Homage Name: One round of "Limerick" unfolded thusly:
    Humphrey Lyttelton: "My hamster is called Otis Redding..."
    Graeme Garden: "My goldfish is Joan Armatrading..."
    Tim Brooke-Taylor: "My dogs are The Platters..."
    Barry Cryer: "Not that that matters..."
    Willie Rushton: "No, we're all up to here with the wedding."
  • Pinball Gag: Referenced in a round of "Limericks" on a show from Edinburgh:
    The thing about wearing a kilt
    Is it tends to reveal how you're built.
    But should you chance your arm,
    It has an alarm,
    And your sporran lights up and says: "TILT!"
  • Plato Is a Moron: "Eton's most famous former pupils include The Duke Of Wellington, William Gladstone, George Orwell, and Humphrey Lyttelton, the jazz musician and panel game host. It doesn't say what those other three are famous for."
  • Player Elimination: Played for Laughs in-universe in an episode where they played an elimination-based version of Mornington Crescent (which was a pisstake of The Weakest Link and other elimination-based quiz and reality shows which were all the rage at the time):
    Graeme Garden: Well, I know Barry is my teammate, and he's consistently the best player in the game so far, and recently saved my family from drowning... but putting all that to one side... Barry.
    Humphrey Lyttelton: Graeme, why Barry?
    Graeme: Just a whim, really.
    Humph: Tim, why Barry?
    Tim Brooke-Taylor: Cheap laugh, basically.
    Humph: Barry, why not Barry?
  • The Points Mean Nothing: Or less than nothing, since points are rarely even mentioned except for the "Points mean prizes!" Running Gag before Pick-Up Song.
    • Humph mentioning which team he thinks "won that round" is enough to get a laugh in itself.
    • This was lampshaded heavily in one episode. Right after Humph has said "And points mean prizes", he pauses, then comments on how ridiculous that is, since he hasn't given a point since the old king died. "I mean...what do points mean?" "PRIZES!" "Shut up!"
    • In earlier episodes, points were sometimes awarded, but they were rarely added up to a total.
  • Politeness Judo: Occasionally, when the other team announce that their work for Sound Charades is a book / film / TV series, Graeme will casually ask "What's it called?"
  • Precision F-Strike: In one round, the teams are asked to imagine the result of certain companies merging. Barry says that and Firkin Breweries would merge to get "Last Firkin Minute", and Tim comes up with Kellog's All-Bran merging with Bernard Matthews Farms to get "something that's Norfolk and tasty". note 
  • Pun: Many of the round introductions.
    Humph: We're now going to play a radio version of the popular TV programme, Blind Date. But we're going to play the Italian version - Venetian Blind Date.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: In a series of interviews with the different cast members, one of the questions was "How was Samantha discovered?". Everyone has a separate story. (Humph claims she was working behind the bar at The BBC canteen — once-producer Paul Mayhew-Archer implies he discovered her in a strip club — Jeremy says she was working as a waiter and Graeme made her have extensive plastic surgery.)
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Humph would occasionally do it, and similarly he would say things like "That was a good round" in a wooden tone suggesting it was written into the script and his own opinion was quite different (sometimes specifically saying "or that's what it says here, anyway") or changing the emphasis of the phrase.
    Humph: It says here, "If that dies on its arse do another one. (beat) What does it mean when it's in brackets?
    • From a round of Call My Bluff:
    Humph: So teams, your word is ping hippopotamus. Oh, sorry, your word is [rings desk bell] hippopotamus.
  • Remember the New Guy?: "We're now going to play that old favorite, Spot The Ostrich!"
    • The first ever game of Mornington Crescent was introduced in the same way.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Word for Word, the disassociation round, in which various obvious connections are ignored in favour of more convoluted examples (often divided by several subsequent answers).
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: In-universe, after the infamous "Sopranos" Cluster F-Bomb, this was predicted:
    The end. Of our careers.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: As with Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud above, Humph would sometimes do this with the script.
    Humph: We're joined this week by the four most notable comic talents in the country. I'm sorry — that should of course read the four most not able comic talents in the country.
  • Rule of Three: More or less every round of Letter Writing will have this exchange.
    Barry: Adjective.
    Graeme: And.
    Barry: Adjective.
    Graeme: And.
    Barry: Adjective.
    Graeme: And.
    Barry: Yet...
  • Running Gag:
    • "Mornington Crescent" segments always start with Humph reading out the one letter they've had sent in this week, which is always from a Mrs. Trellis of North Wales, and is addressed to some other radio presenter.
    • "One Song To The Tune Of Another" is introduced by Humph explaining the simple concept by means of an impossibly obtuse and roundabout metaphor, always finishing with a crack at pianist Colin Sell.
    • Similarly, the show begins with Humph talking about the city in which it's being recorded this week (with jokes about its reputation and history) before segueing into an insult directed at the contestants.
      "Salisbury Plain is of course known for Stonehenge, but these days who really wants to spend half an hour staring at some ancient ruins whose true purpose is a mystery? (Beat) Let's meet the teams."
    • Humph would also close the show with a saying usually involving Fate, Destiny, Time and Eternity, but sometimes also Hope, Despair and Doom.
      "And so, ladies and gentlemen, as the short-sighted terrier of Time chases the startled stick insect of Hope, and the supple dachshund of Fate is knotted by the absent-minded balloon magician of Eternity..."
      • In earlier episodes he instead sometimes ended with a joke about looking at his watch and seeing they'd run out of time:
    "Looking at my watch, I notice that Mickey Mouse's arm is pointing upwards while Goofy's leg is pointing downwards, and I realise that my Rolex is a fake. And also, we've run out of time."
    • Members of Humph's posh family were often mentioned on the show as well.
      "[Guy Fawkes's] co-conspirators included one Humphrey Lyttelton, who was dragged in chains to Guildford and publicly executed. Imagine the shame brought upon my family. Apparently they were okay about 'publicly executed', but Guildford!"
    • The introduction to "Sound Charades" involves Humph comparing it to Give Us A Clue (the TV version of Charades) and making some homosexual Innocent Innuendo about that show's regular Lionel Blair.
      "On one occasion he had tears in his eyes as the rules prevented him from using his mouth to finish off Two Gentlemen of Verona."
      "Opposing team captain Una Stubbs watched open-mouthed as he pulled off 12 Angry Men in under thirty seconds."
      • In the last few years this has changed to Blair simply being insulted as untalented or unable to find work, likely because since the revelations about Jimmy Savile and a string of other high-profile entertainers the innuendos became considerably less amusing (and, with Blair's death in 2021, the gag has been retired altogether).
      • Following Lionel Blair's passing, "Sound Charades" has stopped referencing Give Us A Clue, and instead invites comparisons to classical mime, often with interesting pseudo-facts about Marcel Marceau.
    • Later seasons' "Sound Charades" also invariably feature Barry and Graeme's "Hamish and Dougal" characters, who begin every sketch with "Ah, Hamish!" "Ah, Dougal!" "You'll have had your tea?"
      • Played with in one episode where Andy Hamilton was standing in for Graeme.
        Barry (Dougal voice): Hello! You'll have had your tea?
        Andy (in his own voice): What?
    • In the Film Club round, Graeme will usually do some variation of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
      • In the "songbook" version, Barry often does one based on "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (for example, in "Pharmacist's Songbook", "Super canine pencil styptic, Ex-Lax and some douches".
      • Barry will also sometimes do an Anti Humour one where he just replaces one word in a list of media with the same word related to the subject without it being a pun, ending with a Comically Missing the Point one. For example, Entomologist's Book Club:
    "Pride and Wasp"; "A Tale of Two Wasps"; "Decline and Wasp of the Roman Empire"; "Wasp of the Flies".
    • In "Late Arrivals", another Hurricane of Puns game, if the players are having trouble coming up with names that the audience doesn't consider a lame pun, someone (usually Graeme) will inevitably resort to the old standby of a "Gordon Bennett"-based joke (e.g., "Mr. and Mrs. Bennett-look-at-the-size-of-that-crab, and their son Gordon Bennett-look-at-the-size-of-that-crab" at the Fisherman's Ball).
    • When a round went on for a bit, Humph would pointedly mention that he had a gig in Hull the following week.
      • Also to punctuate that a round had gone on too long, Barry sometimes mentioned that he had black hair when they started.
    • In "Complete Quotes", if the last word of the quote snippet is "an", expect a reference to hard-right politician and media personality Ann Widdecombe. For example, Complete Advertising Slogans: "Go to work on an..."note  "...Widdecombe".
    • In "Word For Word" (the "word disassociation game" where they have to say a word completely unrelated to the last one), Barry would sometimes challenge by claiming that two words put together were the name of a sixties rock band. This would sometimes be further elaborated on with Barry being challenged to sing one of their songs.
      • In the same game, if a challenge is awarded to Barry and Graeme, Graeme will sometimes begin by saying an affirmative word such as "Okay", or "Right", and, after a Beat, add "That was my word." Eventually subverted:
        Jack: Okay, carry on please, Graeme.
        Graeme: Me?
        Jack: Yes.
        [Beat; audience laughter as they expect Graeme to answer "That was my word."]
        Jack: Well, the next game is called "Word For Word", and it's where players — hang on, this is the next game, we've just done that.
        Graeme: Jack?
        Jack: Yeah?
        Graeme: That's my word.
        Jack: Oh, shut up.
    • In Cheddar Gorge, saying "comma" to buy time, or three contestants conspiring to create the phrase "...and yet strangely..." to force someone to describe something twice (or more).
      • In the introduction to Cheddar Gorge, Humph would sometimes define the noise made by the klaxon horn. "If I decide that a full stop has been reached, you'll hear this...(honk) I prod a baby elephant with a stick."
      • One person saying 'and' or 'yet' in Letter Writing, the two-man version of Cheddar Gorge.
    • In early seasons, Humph would say they were just about to play a game called "Wobbling Bunnies". There was either never enough time, or "the apparatus" hadn't arrived yet.
    • Quote... Unquote is one of the show's recurring targets, which frequent jokes about how unfunny it isnote .
    • Tim Brooke-Taylor's impression of Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Earnest, in particular the famous "A HAAAAANDBAAAAG?!" line.
    • Whenever Humph was particularly inattentive, Barry would respond by treating him as a senile old man. ("The visitors are coming in a minute! ...Put your trousers on!")
      • This once combined with the 'gig in Hull' gag, when the teams had just finished a round with no reaction from Humph. Barry yelled "We've finished, Humph! We'll go for a walk on the seafront later!", to which Humph responded "I've just left for next Thursday's gig in Hull."
    • In games like Just A Minim and Word For Word where challenges are allowed, Humph would occasionally accept a challenge, then let the subject go to anyone except the person who had challenged.
    • In Uxbridge English Dictionary, Barry will occasionally say a word ending in '-ish' or '-y', and define it as 'rather like [word]'. (Such as "Vanish: Rather like a van.")
    • Sometimes there are running gags that only last the length of that episode, such as in this round of Uxbridge English Dictionary:
    Graeme [speaking with a "pirate voice"]: Radar - an attack by pirates.
    Graeme: Doodah - a cool pirate.
    Graeme: Bazaar - Barry the pirate.
    • Whenever he's a guest, Tony Hawks tends to have his (rather good) singing tested to the limit by giving him the most ridiculously hard songs to sing along to in "Pick-up Song", often ones which are extremely fast-paced and / or in foreign languages (including Gangnam Style, Bamboleo and Macarena).
    • If an audience start clapping along to someone's singing, Jack Dee has developed a running joke of referring to it as something else (including rain, people eating crisps, and the audience trying to break down the doors of the theatre).
  • Russian Roulette: Played in one episode.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: The chairman will occasionally vary the "points mean prizes" catchphrase (such as "and points mean failures at Crewe"), while still expecting the audience to yell out "Prizes!" when prompted. Occasionally, however, one or two Sarcasm-Blind members of the audience will yell out the variation.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Everything the chairman says which isn't directly insulting, stealthily insulting, or leading up to a joke will be delivered like this.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: In one round of Closed Quotes, the quotes were taken from PSAs. A few of them were so hilariously horrifying that the panellists burst out laughing when the real answers were shown.
    • In a round of Notes And Queries, the questions were all taken from children.
    Child: What would happen if I didn't tidy my toys?
    Graeme: Well, the tidy-goblin would come and chop you into little bits and then file all the bits alphabetically. Now, go to sleep.
  • Schizo Tech: In the one-time game "Dragon's Den", the teams try to introduce "money" and "wheels" in a medieval setting, when buses, circular saws, and credit cards have been invented.
    Tony: Currently at the moment, you've got all these planes flying around the area, completely unable to land.
  • Scunthorpe Problem: An episode filmed in Nottingham has Humph recount how it was originally called "Snottingham", only to be renamed because Normans had difficulty pronounced "s". He then notes Scunthorpe resisted this renaming procedure, as the audience goes wild.
  • Self-Deprecation: A limerick.
    The teams are renowned for their wit,
    They're convinced that the show is a hit.
    They say: "Week after week
    We hit a new peak!"
    But the audience know that it's...rubbish.
    • Much of the chairman's material plays on this.
    "I'm often prone to bouts of misplaced optimism. This round's going to be a humdinger!"
    • The credits describe the show as "(contestants) were being given silly things to do by (chairman), with Colin Sell setting some of them to music".
  • Serious Business: The pretense is that the rounds aren't just sensible games, but important, especially Mornington Crescent.
    Humph: If there's one thing I can't stand, it's frivolous Mornington Crescent. It wrecks the whole thing.
  • Shaped Like Itself: From a round of Complete Quotes that used proverbs and sayings:
    Humph: "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing..."
    Graeme: "...isn't it?"
  • Shout-Out: In spades, especially the Songbook, Film Club or Book Club rounds, which revolve around making puns about popular films (or songs, or books). Then there are rounds like No Budget, which are about modifying book, film, or TV titles to reflect their, well, lack of budget.
    Barry: Titanic 2.
    • Sometimes the panellists will play their own versions of existing games, such as their version of Countdown:
    Humph: The letters are going up on the board now. G... G... G... G... Z... V... Q... Y... and... oh dear, G again.
    Willie: I suppose it's too late to ask for a vowel...?
  • Show Stopper: Many of the more familiar running gags and rounds such as the introduction to Mornington Crescent and "Your turn, Jeremy" in a singing round.
    • Any reference to The Goodies would invariably draw huge cheers and applause.
  • Show the Folks at Home: In any round such as Sound Charades or Scandals, the "mystery voice" reads out what the other team has to guess.
  • Signature Sound Effect: Humph had a car horn which made a distinctive honking noise, used for Cheddar Gorge or to signal the end of a round. Since Jack took over, a gong has been used for the same purposes.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Humph wasn't exactly a small name, but his opinion that the role of chairman made him the most important person in the world was part of his persona. Woe betide the one who discussed the rules of Mornington Crescent and came to a conclusion — he'd always burst in with a statement of "You haven't decided anything, it's not up to you to decide anything, I'm the chairman".
  • Smurfette Principle: When Sandi Toksvig first appeared in 1997, she remarked how thrilled she was to be 'in the long line of women who have appeared on the show' (she was the third, and the show had been running for twenty five years). This provoked considerable laughter from the audience, and a sort of 'oooh' noise from Tim Brooke-Taylor.
    • Barry Cryer proceeded to make the apologetic comment: "Well, they were all in the factories when we started!"
  • Sophisticated as Hell:
    • From a round of Closed Quotes, using insults:
    Jack: Graeme, one here from Oscar Wilde. Some cause happiness wherever they go, others...
    Graeme: ...are complete bastards.
    • "Gardener's Question Tim" has Alan Titchmarsh get away with saying "bitch", on a BBC Radio 4 show pre-watershed no less... because he's asking about a female dog urinating on lawns.
  • Spin-Off: You'll Have Had Your Tea? The Doings of Hamish And Dougal, a surreal sitcom about two elderly Scottish gentlemen Cryer and Garden invented for the "Sound Charades" skits.
    • A one-off Mockumentary In Search of Mornington Crescent, in which top BBC journalist Andrew Marr completely fails to find out what the rules of Mornington Crescent actually are.
  • Spiritual Successor: To I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, and in some ways to The Goodies.
  • Stealth Insult: The final sentence of the introduction to the town they're in will invariably double up as an insult to the contestants.
  • Stock Sound Effects: In the DIY round (where the panellists are forced to improvise a story around sound effects) and in Cow/Lake/Bomb (the ISIHAC version of Rock/Paper/Scissors). If the players are given access to sound effects, they can often be expected to keep popping up later in the show, such as the sound of a punch in retaliation for an insult. Very often any attempt at playing the game will be abandoned in favour of playing as many random sound effects as quickly as possible.
    • On one show, the players and the chairman were surprised to discover the teams regular buzzers had been inexplicably replaced with sound effects - Tim and Willy had a chicken, Barry and Graeme had a foghorn. This resulted in several bouts of chaos (*foghorn* "Samantha!") and a unique round of Censored Songs.
      Humph: It's come to a pretty pass when the buzzers are funnier than the games.
  • Strongly Worded Letter: The letters from Mrs Trellis of North Wales would sometimes veer into this territory; not helped by the fact that she was often unaware of exactly what programme she was writing to.
    "Dear Kenton, I was appalled on tuning in this morning to be bombarded with a torrent of blatant filth. With terms such as "large firm", "holding up well", "satisfying performance" and worst of all "job blows", it was the most offensive edition of the Today Programme Business Report ever.
    Yours disgustedly, Mrs Trellis, Wild Shag Cottage, Upper Sheepsbottom Lane, Much Humping on Sea."
  • Studio Audience: Recorded in front of one. They've got such a wide range of responses that they often add to the show — truly bad puns are given a Collective Groan, most of the Running Gags provoke cheering, and then there's the strange honor of having a single person applaud a joke, which Barry has fondly dubbed an "applau".
  • Subverted Punchline: This was a staple. For example:
    Butler: This is Lord Bedside.
    Lord Bedside: How do you do. Welcome to Bedside House.
    Butler: I thought you were going to say "Manor", sir.
    Lord Bedside: Yes, so I was. Welcome to Manor House.
  • Surreal Humor: A serious problem for the teams whenever they have to do closed quotes from famous people or children, with the actual answers usually being far more bizarre than anything the panellists can dish out.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Jeremy Hardy once had to accompany Joe Cocker singing "With a Little Help From My Friends" in Pick-Up Song. He immediately laughed at the first line, "What would you do if I sang out of tune?"
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted after Willie Rushton's death. Recognising that he could never truly be replaced (and the possible replacements were mostly much younger comics with different styles), his seat was instead turned into a rotating guest spot.
  • Take a Third Option: In a round of Blind Date, Tim has a choice between three contestants (who are, of course, Barry, Graeme and Willie). He chooses number four - Colin Sell.
  • Take That!: Humph gets to deliver a lot of them, mostly against the team members and Colin Sell, occasionally against other broadcasters.
    • And sometimes the panellists:
    [In the Mystery Illness round, Barry's complaint is that he is turning into Ricky Gervais]
    Graeme: He was alright until he left The Office, then something weird happened...
    • Tim and Graeme both sometimes name-check and mock the BBC executives who hate The Goodies and try and stop it being released on DVD.
    • The team members take friendly shots at each other quite often, as well.
    (in a round of Household Hints)
    Humph: Well, the correct answer is that you take a cardboard box, fill it with chocolate bisc—(begins laughing)—I don't believe this—
    Barry: Fill it with what?
    Humph: Barry, did you write this?
    Barry: No I didn't, Humph.
    Tim: Barry didn't write it; you're laughing!
    • The show was parodied in the 1990s in a brief sketch on On The Hour. According to The Clue Bible note  Graeme Garden said he enjoyed the sketch, adding that he looked forward to hearing On The Hour's fiftieth series.
    • Whenever Chelsea supporter Andy Hamilton is on the panel, some of the jokes will invariably be against a rival football team:
    [In a round where the teams have to come up with punchlines to jokes written by children]
    Child's voice: What's funny and has eight legs?
    Andy: Crystal Palace's back four?
    • On one occasion, the intro to a round of "Straight Face" claimed that the idea of a comedy routine in which the aim was to avoid making the audience laugh had been pioneered by Hale & Pace.
    • On one occasion when Jeremy Hardy is asked to sing when the show was recording in Liverpool, Jack Dee gets defensive and tells the audience "even the Beatles let Ringo sing sometimes!"
  • Take That, Audience!: Aimed at the Studio Audience more often than the listeners at home, since they're the ones responding enthusiastically to this show which the host apparently hates.
    Humph: ...and what do points mean?
    Audience: PRIZES!
    Humph: Now go and invade Czechoslovakia.
    • Sometimes even simpler.
      Humph: Points mean prizes, what do points mean?
      Audience: PRIZES!
      Humph: (hissing) Shut up.
  • Temporary Substitute: In one game of Sound Charades, Tony Hawks was substituting for Barry Cryer. His sketch with Graeme Garden was played between Angus and Dougal ("Where's Hamish?" "He's having his tea.")
  • Tempting Fate: Humph once introduced a round of Mornington Crescent by saying "I hope we won't have any of the pointless bickering that has plagued this round in the past", and said that Tim could start. Graeme immediately snapped "Why does he get to start?"
  • Terrible Pick-Up Lines: There have been two rounds based on this. One was "themed pick-up lines" for a given profession or hobby (so for example, for birdwatchers "If I told you I knew Bill Oddie, would you hold it against me?") The other was suggesting replies to terrible pick-up lines:
    Jack: Are you tired, because you've been running through my mind all night?
    Barry: It was full of wide-open spaces.
  • The Show Must Go On: Mildly — there've been a few episodes in which the buzzers have malfunctioned or been mislabelled.
    Humph: Challenge from somebody, but the light hasn't come on!
    [After some deliberation]
    Humph: Oh, hold on, I'll tell you what's happened, it's quite interesting. They've stuck your names on here with sticking-plaster, and Barry and Graeme's names have been stuck over the little light that comes on...
    • Or, in some cases, Humph just got confused about who was challenging:
    Humph: Tim? ...Barry? Graeme?
    Tim: Anybody in the audience?
    • In another episode, Graeme had Bell's Palsy while recording. He didn't bring it up until it was his turn in One Song To The Tune Of Another.
    Graeme: That reminds me, I've got 'pink' and 'blue' in this song, and you won't have noticed this, but I have a touch of what is called Bell's Palsy at the moment...which means half my face has frozen. So I have trouble saying 'p' as in 'pink', and 'b' as in 'blue'...and it's rather cruel of them to call it 'Bell's Palsy'!
  • Technology Marches On: Played for Laughs in a 2012 episode where the "laser display board" was replaced with the "conference size laser display board app".
  • Thing-O-Meter: One episode features one.
    Humph: According to our clap-o-meter, Tim won that one.
  • Thrifty Scot: Hamish and Dougal. Many listeners don't realise that their starting Catchphrase "You'll have had your tea?" is a stereotypical Scots phrase with the subtext that "...because I'm certainly not spending money to feed you if you say no".
    Dougal: Will you take a dram?
    Angus: I am no longer a whisky drinker, as well you know!
    Dougal: Indeed, that's why I offered.
  • The Trope Formerly Known as X: In S25E04, "The artist formerly known as Prince" was the subject for a round of "Limerick" which, in five lines, managed to work in just about everything that was ludicrous about the situation.
    The Artist Formerly Known As Prince;
    On stage he would waddle, and mince.
    Then just for a giggle,
    Changed his name to a squiggle,
    And nobody's heard from him since.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: During a particularly long and tortured pun in the "Late Arrivals at the Vicar's Ball", Barry Cryer exclaimed "Come on, lemming, over the cliff!"
  • Tomato Surprise: A few games rely on the fact that there's no visual aspect for the joke. During a round of "Who Am I?", where the panellists had post-it notes with the name of a celebrity written on them attached to their heads and had to ask questions to find out who they were, all four of them managed to correctly guess the celebrity almost instantly. At the end of the round?
    Jack: I think next time we might try the other version, with the names written on the outside.
  • To the Tune of...: 'One Song to the Tune of Another', of course.
  • Trivially Obvious: A Running Gag with Jack Dee is his introducing wherever the show's being recorded at as being "indisputably a town / city in [county]".
  • T-Word Euphemism: An inversion by Jeremy Hardy during his first appearance in 1996. Hardy fumbles a line, swears and then apologises 'for using the fuck-w'. (This has been left in the CD of the live recording, but obviously was edited out of the broadcast.)
  • Underwater Fart Gag: One "Good news, bad news" exchange, has the good news be "I got a new jacuzzi" and the bad news be "It wasn't a jacuzzi when I got in."
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: It was a Running Gag in the "Politician's Ball" episode, where they played a game of 'Strip Quiz', which built on the 'old-fashioned principles of strip poker', that Tim got all the impossible questions, whereas everyone else got very elementary ones.
    Humph: Now, pay attention here, because I'm going to go quite fast, and these are quite tricky questions. Barry, you first — what is the capital of England?
    Barry: London!
    Humph: Willie — what is one and one?
    Willie: Two...?
    Humph: Graeme — what is the name of the Queen of England?
    Graeme: Elizabeth.
    Humph: Tim — what is the pharmacopean name for turpentine?
    Tim: ...Nigel?
    Humph: No, I'm sorry — the word is 'terebinthina'. Tim loses his shirt on that one.
  • Unfortunate Names: As "willy" is a term for penis in Britain, mentioning Willie Rushton can often lead to this, usually at Humph's expense.
    Humph: I'll accept Willie's.
    Grame: In lieu of what?
  • Unwinnable by Design: The variation of Mornington Crescent where stations with faulty elevators are wild, played when Mornington Crescent had a faulty elevator.
    Graeme: As a point of information, mister chairman - How does this game end?
    Humph: I've been saying that for seventeen years.
    • Also, the variant where rule 12 no longer applies - Rule 12 being the one that says 'The first person who says "Mornington Crescent" is the winner."
    • When they played "The Quiz of Quizzes", an intentionally absurd mash-up of various quiz show formats:
    Humph: Barry, what's the first letter of the word 'aardvark': is it A, B, C or D?
    Barry: Can I go 50-50, Humph?
    Humph: Very well. Computer, take away one wrong answer and one right answer. Barry, you have two wrong answers left. Which do you go for?
  • Unwinnable Joke Game: The basis of several one-off games (such as the teams' variation on Linking Cities, which involves one person saying a city and the next player saying a city that begins with the last letter of the previous city... whereas their version used months of the year, and then days of the week).
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Neither the chairman nor any of the panellists have any qualms about making insulting jokes about one another. Despite this, the close friendship of everyone on the show is obvious.
    • Humph mentioned in an interview that Colin's mother had been upset with him regarding the "awful things" he said about her son. He clarified that, off-stage, they were very good friends.
  • The Voiceless: Samantha, and her occasional replacements Monica and Sven.
    "As is customary, Samantha spent some time down in the gramophone library earlier, fetching the hit singles she's chosen. She's become quite friendly with the two elderly archivists, Jack and Arthur. They've recently gone part-time, so Samantha's come to a working arrangement — she does the paperwork, Arthur gets her 45s out and Jack's off all afternoon."
    • Colin Sell is also voiceless insofar as he has no microphone and can't return any of the endless shots taken at him. (Occasionally he says something loud enough to be heard in the background or communicates via the piano, like falling on the keyboard in response to being "killed".)
      • In Christmas Clue he played the part of Cratchit but, as the character is too poor to buy a microphone, he's still only barely audible.
      • He got a couple of properly audible lines in the Hogmanay Special of spin-off show Hamish & Dougal when he played himself (with Humph as the Laird's butler, Lyttleton)
    Colin: I'm Colin Sell, you ordered a pianist?
    Humph: Yes. Where is he?
  • Welcome to My World: In the opening of "Murder by Moonlight":
    Humph: One very popular recent series was Life On Mars, where the lead character slipped into a coma and woke up to find himself in 1973. Hmm. Welcome to My World.
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: Often.
    Humph: Since our special guest today is Phill Jupitus, we all agreed it would be a waste not to make a round to fit his unique talents. ...Still, there you are, that's life.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: In one round of "Sound Charades", one team is given "Dances With Wolves" and adopt Wolverhampton accents that almost immediately start slipping, leading to them going on a tangent about how they sound more South African now before getting back on track.
  • With Lyrics: "One Song to the Tune of Another" can become this if the second song doesn't normally have lyrics.
  • Word Salad Title: "Cheddar Gorge", the game where the panellists take turns saying one word at a time to keep the sentence going on as long as possible. The introduction often claims that the title is self-explanatory. By contrast, "One Song to the Tune of Another", which is as self-explanatory as you could ask for, is treated as a Word Salad Title and introduced with an overly-elaborate analogy to make things "clearer".
  • Yes-Man: Panellists would occasionally play this for laughs, sucking up to Humph in the most obvious fashion. Once subverted, when Barry mentioned what a marvellous chairman he was and what a great job he was doing. Humph awarded him and Graeme ten points for prefacing with that, and awarded Tim and Willie fifteen points for not starting with that.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: subverted - see "Flowers for Algernon Syndrome", above.