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Humphrey Lyttelton at 100. By Mark Bryant

Blog | By Mark Bryant | May 07, 2021

With Barry Cryer. By Andy Davison

Much-missed National Treasure, Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008), would have celebrated his 100th birthday on 23 May. Jazz trumpeter, broadcaster, cartoonist and journalist, he was perhaps best known as the long-standing chairman of BBC Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue comedy panel game (launched in 1972). Born in Eton College, the son of a housemaster (himself the son of the 8th Viscount Cobham), one of his relatives was hanged, drawn and quartered for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. While at Eton he fagged for Lord Carrington and formed a jazz band which included the future journalist Ludovic Kennedy on drums. After serving in Italy in the Second World War, he studied at Camberwell Art School with jazz clarinettist Wally Fawkes (later the cartoonist ‘Trog’). In 1949 he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist (‘Humph’) and was later also a scriptwriter on Fawkes’s long-running ’Flook’ comic strip. He left in 1956 to pursue his jazz career and the same year his ‘Bad Penny Blues’ became the first jazz single to reach the Top 20. In honour of his work on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, the Southampton Arms pub opposite Mornington Crescent station was renamed The Lyttelton Arms in 2010. He once said ‘As we journey through life, discarding baggage along the way, we should keep an iron grip, to the very end, on the capacity for silliness. It preserves the soul from desiccation.’