Cyril Fletcher

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VE Day: What was making us laugh 75 years ago?

A look back at the comedy on air in June 1945.

Chortle, 8th May 2020

Any ad-libbed, improvised show requires a special skill from the players, and in a professional sense they are living dangerously. There was an occasion in Just a Minute when the subject was snapshots. Kenneth Williams was unhappy about one of my decisions, which went against him on this subject, and he began to harass me. Peter Jones and Derek Nimmo joined in, which added to the pressure. In an effort to bring them to order, I said: "I'm sorry Kenneth, you were deviating from snapshots, you were well away from snapshots. It is with Peter, snopshots, er snipshots, er snopshits . . . snop . . . snaps." The audience roared with laughter. I added: "I'm not going to repeat the subject. I think you know it . . . and I think I may have finished my career in radio."

QI, however much it tries to be subtly different, is part of a glorious tradition. When radio first presented panel shows they cast them from those with a proven intellectual background. This mold was broken in the early 1960s, when Jimmy Edwards devised a programme for the Home Service, with himself as chairman, called Does the Team Think?. The panellists were all well-known comedians, Tommy Trinder, Cyril Fletcher and others, who proved that comics were just as intelligent as academics, and usually much funnier.

QI is a direct descendant. And when you have Stephen Fry, and contestants such as Alan Davies, Hugh Laurie and Danny Baker, and a producer of the calibre of John Lloyd, the BBC must be on to a winner.

Nicholas Parsons, The Times, 6th September 2003