I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
This is 'I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again', an extravaganza especially written for the wireless by several persons, and featuring a number of performers.

I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again was a popular BBC Sketch Comedy show which ran between 1965 and 1973, with a one-off "25th anniversary" show in 1989. It was something of a spiritual successor to The Goon Show, featuring numerous awful puns, funny voices and bizarre situations. The program originated from a broadcast of the 1963 Cambridge Circus revue, followed by three preparatory shows in April 1964, which were followed by the first series proper a year and a half later.

The cast, all Cambridge alums, included Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, who later went on to create The Goodies, John Cleese, who along with occasional writers Eric Idle and Graham Chapman later went on to form Monty Python's Flying Circus. Also in the cast were Jo Kendall and David Hatch.

The format of the show was rather slapdash in the beginning, but eventually was streamlined into a Cold Opening sketch followed by the tongue-in-cheek opening announcements, followed by two or three unrelated sketches, a (usually) comic song by Bill Oddie, and then the extended central sketch of the week, usually an Affectionate Parody of either a specific film, book, or play, or just a genre.

I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again was responsible for the creation of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue a few years later.

Tropes used in I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again include:
  • And Starring: Invoked in the intro of one episode, in which no one can agree about the casting and billing.

John: This is I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, with special guest John Cleese.
Tim: Featuring Tim Brooke-Taylor...
David: Starring David Hatch!
Graeme: Surprise celebrity -- Graeme Garden!
Jo: Introducing Jo Kendall.
Bill: With...(sadly) Bill Oddie.

  • Butt Monkey: Bill Oddie, and occasionally David Hatch.
    • Example:

Jo Kendall: And now a little song about a one-man band, sung by our little songster, Bill Oddie, who should be one man banned.

  • Camp Gay: Often played by Tim Brooke-Taylor, and sometimes John Cleese as well.
  • Car Meets House: Bill and Graeme park inside Tim's house in the 25th anniversary episode.
  • The Cast Showoff: Bill Oddie's songs.
  • Catch Phrase: Usually avoided, although "I'm the king rat!" stands out as an exception, as well as Jo Kendall's characters' "Hello, sailor!" and Bill Oddie's "How de do dere, honey!"
    • One episode featured Bill attempting to turn "Terrapins!" into a catch phrase, only for the rest of the cast to keep telling him there was nothing funny about terrapins.
    • Another episode included characters randomly blurting out the word "teapot" in the hope that the audience would be conditioned to find it funny. And by halfway through the episode they were.
    • Catchphrases seemed to keep happening, whether the performers wanted them or not. In one later episode, they ran through all the catchphrases from the show's run right at the start to get them over with, with John Cleese commenting "Honestly, it's like feeding time at the zoo" at the audience's cheers.
  • Character Development: Unusual for a sketch show, but still present -- for many seasons, David Hatch usually played himself playing a generic announcer, and was otherwise either dull or snarky. Then, towards the end of season 7 and throughout season 8, he started identifying himself more as a producer, becoming more assertive, occassionally power-mad, and actively trying to stop the surreality/filthy-mindedness of other cast members rather than just providing a contrast to it.
  • Cross-Dressing Voices: Lady Constance De Coverlet, played by Tim Brooke-Taylor.
  • Deadpan Snarker: David Hatch and John Cleese, but John especially. A running gag was him breaking character or otherwise interrupting to snark.

David: London is home to many people.
John: ...London is home to many people. Oh, well done. David Hatch, the boy genius.

John: Aren't you a little past it, old man?
Grimbling: No, I'm a little dirty old man.

  • Double Entendre: Almost every joke that wasn't a pun was this.
  • Exact Words: The unfortunate name of an arts show is caused by this.

David: No, no, that's not going to cut it. Look, we need an arts show -- but something with a bit of a kick in it.
(theme music)
Tim: We present A Kick In The Arts.

  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Many, many times, the most notable being the numerous jokes about masochism and other sexual deviance.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Many times.
  • Impossible Insurance: In one sketch, a character buys a ridiculously-specific insurance policy that will only pay out if he's trampled by a herd of bison in the middle of Whitehall. As he is explaining to a skeptical friend (while standing in the middle of Whitehall) what a good deal it was, he is indeed trampled by a herd of bison -- but it turns out they're buffalo, not bison.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: By the bushel.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Favorite frequently-used funny words on the show included "ferret", "rhubarb tart", "gibbon", and "terrapin".
  • I Resemble That Remark: Unintentional on David's part. From their version of Alice Through The Looking-Glass:

David: Oh my, oh my, oh my--I'm late, I'm late, I'm late--oh my ears and whiskers--oh my, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late...
John: It was a loony.
David: I am not! I'm a little white rabbit!

Egyptian Man: Offendi, offendi! I have nice sister!
Lord Luvaduck: How dare you?! I'm an English lord!
Egyptian Man: Oh, I apologize. Offendi, offendi! I have nice brother!

  • No Accounting for Taste: John and Mary, played by John Cleese and Jo Kendall. Usually Mary is a Love Martyr, but sometimes she hates John as much as he hates her.
  • Old Shame: On a late-'80s radio interview, John Cleese spent several minutes thoroughly denouncing the show and said he thought it was a waste of his time to be doing it.
    • Even though a surprising number of ISIRTA sketches, not always written by Cleese, Idle or Chapman, found their way into Python. An example being the "Joke-swappers" sketch.
  • Punny Name: Many.
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: The show seems to have gotten exponentially faster and funnier each series.
  • Reunion Show: The 25th Anniversary show in 1988.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: The final episode of the Professor Prune And The Electric Time Trousers serial opens with all the characters dying. They get better.
  • Running Gag: Many, such as Tim Brooke-Taylor playing all women's parts, the phrase "promises, promises" to signify a Double Entendre, David Hatch playing all boring bits, ferrets, gibbons, OBEs, and John Davidson (who?).
  • Show Stopper: Once she becomes an established recurring character, Lady Constance's first appearance in any given episode always causes a prolonged audience reaction.
    • And from the serial Professor Prune And The Electric Time Trousers, any time the Dog Spot appears, there's huge audience applause. Eventually, John Cleese gets jealous.

David: Oh, come now, John -- you've got a sports car, a mansion, a career -- all Tim's got is his woof! You don't begrudge him that, do you?
John: Yes.

  • Show Within a Show: All the time, since the setting of the show was a radio station. Most notable is the weekly Prune Play Of The Week and the two serials, Curse Of The Flying Wombat and Professor Prune and the Electric Time Trousers.
  • Straight Man: David Hatch, who claims he "only does the narration and boring bits". Occassionally he bemoans it, and occassionally he uses it to avoid taking part in the latest shenanigans. (He did often get his share of puns to deliver, though. Just not as many silly voices.)
  • Talking to Himself: Occasionally, and usually Lampshaded when used.
  • Take That: Tony Blackburn, David Frost and many others.
  • Take That Us
  • Translation: "Yes": In the "Schmurtot Yach Proxyl?" sketch, an episode of a program teaching a fictional Eastern European language.

"Did you notice that word 'apklaptischmurkschlagomfarawak'? Yes, it means 'with'."

They built a boat and crossed the Atlantic in a record sixteen years.

Narrator: They basked in the sun merrily.
Crowd: Bask, bask, bask...
Voice: Merrily!