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Sound Charades is a variant of charades played on BBC Radio 4's "antidote to panel games", I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. As with some other ISIHAC games, such as Celebrity What's My Line?, the game has been created by taking an existing one and removing the central concept. As the late chairman Humphrey Lyttelton put it: "In the original, the players were not allowed to speak, resulting in much hilarity. Our version differs subtly in two ways."
The format of the game is largely similar to the original. One team is given the name of a book, film, television or radio series. They announce the number of words and the format, and act out a short improvised play, conveying the title, usually by means of a rather forced pun.
- "I want some scratchcards."
- "Well, Edie, you just join that line of people."
- "I want some scratchcards."
- "Just stand behind that man there, Edie."
- "How can I get my scratchcards?"
- "Edie, how else can I put this?"
- ["Queue, Edie"]
Occasionally, truly masterful clues are given: for example the film Dirty Harry was clued with the single line "Potter! ... Don't do that.", delivered in an impression of Alan Rickman's portrayal of Severus Snape. Another memorable clue was for the film Monsters, Inc., in which Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden are about to do the washing up, at which point Barry cries "Good lord! You don't wash the dishes in this, do you? It's enormous!" ["Monster Sink"]
As the above shows, the sketches would often belabour the point somewhat. This was particularly true in later years when Graeme Garden and Barry Cryer invented the characters of Hamish and Dougal, two rural Scotsmen who featured regularly in the sketches, and later were given their own series, You'll Have Had Your Tea.
Another tradition in the later years was that Humph's initial explanation of the game would mention the television version of charades, Give Us a Clue. This would inevitably involve a double entendre about either Una Stubbs, or more often, Lionel Blair for example:
- The master of the genre was undoubtedly Lionel Blair, and who will ever forget him, exhausted and on his knees, finishing off An Officer and a Gentleman in under two minutes?
- We particularly recall one very early show when Una Stubbs scored maximum points after the teams took only a few seconds to recognise her Fanny by Gaslight.
A particularly memorable example occurred in the programme broadcast from the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, in May 2002. On this occasion, the guest panellist was Sandi Toksvig. Humph concluded his introduction to the round as follows:
- "...miming the titles...against a strict time limit. The most highly skilled of all was Lionel Blair — but how the tears of frustration welled up in his eyes during their Italian tour at not being allowed the use of his mouth to finish off Two Gentlemen of Verona!".
This caused Toksvig to corpse, and the game was held up for almost a minute while peals of laughter echoed from the audience in response to Sandi's hysterical laughing that had rendered her completely helpless. This is possibly the only time that the Radio 4 has broadcast a minute of uninterrupted laughter.
Just before the "mystery voice" tells the listeners the title of the subject, Humph usually announces that the team to perform it and the audience are being shown it on the "laser display screen" (sometimes described in more elaborate terms). This is, in fact, the programme's producer running on to the stage holding a large card with the title written on it — a joke only for the benefit of the studio audience (and to make listeners wonder why they laugh a moment after the words "laser display screen"). Occasionally, particularly if the apparatus has been described with more ridiculous lavishness (with terms such as "multiplex", "digitally enhanced", etc.), Humph has added another joke based on its actually being a big card by saying it has been "so generously funded by our hosts".
In keeping with the nature of the show, sometimes the team giving the definition purposely make it so obvious that the opposing team pretends not to know what the title is, and has to be given numerous hints, for comic effect.