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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the radio show "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue", this book was released based around one of the rounds from the quiz. Panel members Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Gardener, Willie Rushton and Barry Cryer are given a first line by Chair Humphrey Lyttleton and must make up a limerick on the spot. This book collects together some of the best from the show's long history.
Making up a limerick might sound like an easy task but there is actually an art form to it. It needs to conform to the standard limerick meter, be amusing, topical or thought-provoking and be instantly understandable to a wide range of people. To have to make one up on the spot that meets all these criteria is even trickier, so hats off to the panellists.
What's particularly pleasing is the wide-ranging style of limerick in this book. Some are laugh out loud funny, others will make you smile; some are satirical or political in their content and a few might even make you think. The book is arranged into loose themes with a few limericks appearing under each heading and it's surprising how different they all are. Sure, there is the odd bit of repetition but on the whole they are mostly different and that means that the book rarely becomes dull. As you turn over the page and start to read the next section, you are never quite sure what you are going to come across next.
Some of the limericks are gloriously silly, and will have you laughing at their ridiculous nature (and possibly worrying about the sanity of the person who composed them!). Others are very cleverly written and make imaginative use of the English language to entertain or make a point. True, a few fall a little flat on their face - mainly because they are either just not funny or because they are political in nature and so have dated as political figures or situations have changed (some readers will find references to Heseltine, Parkinson, Gummer et al very funny; younger readers will simply be bemused). However, such entries are limited and for the most part, the compilers of this book have obviously shied away from the more topical examples.
It's a shame there is no attribution to any of the limericks. Whilst it's obvious who wrote a few, in most cases, they are anonymous. I found this slightly frustrating as some of them were so good I wanted to know who had come up with them.
The book is also illustrated with several black and white sketches and cartoons, most either done by the panellists or their relations. Whilst (from an artistic point of view) these are no great shakes, they do help to break up the text a little and some of them will even make you laugh in their own right. Occasionally, the choice of drawings is a little odd: some limericks that (to me) cry out for a cartoon don't have one; others (where a cartoon is not necessarily appropriate) are featured. Still, I suppose that is very much a matter of personal choice.
There are two main problems with this book. The first is that after a while things can start to get a little samey. Despite the variety in the limericks, there are only so many you can read at once before your attention starts to wander. As such, I would strongly recommend reading this book in small chunks, rather than working your way through from cover to cover in one go.
The second issue is a little more serious. Whilst the limericks are fun, the book is probably going to be a one-read wonder for most people. At around £7 for a new copy, that makes for quite an expensive read and I couldn't really recommend it at that price. Thankfully, a decent second hand copy can be bought for a few pounds, and there's enough here to justify buying at that price.
The nice thing about this book is that, unlike many TV/Radio tie-ins, you don't actually have to be a fan of the show to appreciate it. I've listened to I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue on the odd occasion, but could in no way be regarded as a regular, yet I found this book fun and accessible. People with little/no knowledge of the show will be able to enjoy it as much as the most avid fan.
So with apologies to the rather clever panellists from I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, it seems appropriate to sum up my thoughts in limerick form:
If you haven't yet read through this book
It's really worth taking a look
You'll laugh, smile and think
Though it's gone in a blink
And it's cheaper than buying a duck
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: the official limerick collection
Humphrey Lyttleton et al
© copyright SWSt 2012