Iain Pattinson

15th February 2021

“I first met Iain Pattinson in the early nineties when he was writing wonderfully funny links for Barry Took on Radio 4’s ‘The News Quiz’ and I was a young producer with just a couple of series of ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’ under my belt. 

Iain was quite unlike most of the young, faintly unkempt, university-educated writers who then populated the BBC’s Light Entertainment Radio department.  After a short and unexceptional education in Sidcup, Iain had worked as a market stall holder, insurance broker and marketing executive in the oil industry, before taking early retirement to pursue a dream of writing comedy.

Despite his relatively advanced years, a fizzing resentment at the apparent preferment of his Oxbridge-educated peers seemed to lend him a certain youthful vigour.  Unlike the department’s other writers, Iain was not only ‘life educated’, he was also financially secure, having picked up a generous payoff from his last employer.  I remember how, quite early in his new writing career, he was offered a job on Channel 4’s all-new ‘Clive Anderson Talks Back’, an offer any of his colleagues would have jumped at.  Iain took one look at the fee and declined with the words: “That’s less than I pay my gardener”.  I liked that.  And I realised also that the wonderful material he was writing for ‘The News Quiz’ could be done infinitely more justice were it delivered by Humphrey Lyttelton.  It was possibly the best decision of my career.

Iain worked with me on any number of shows, writing lines for Jonathan Ross, Julian Clary, Graham Norton and Clive Anderson (clearly the money had improved). He helped me get ‘The Unbelievable Truth’ started on Radio 4, writing linking material for David Mitchell.  But I know it was his work on ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’ he’d consider his proudest achievement. For sixteen years with Humph and a further eleven with Jack Dee, Iain wrote some of the most unfalteringly brilliant and enduring comic lines ever heard on British radio.  There have been calls for his introductory monologues based around the places we’ve visited to be preserved for posterity in the British Museum (said Iain: “Clearly they think the jokes are that old”) and his double entendres are unquestionably amongst the finest in the English language.  At the end of last year an expert panel assembled by the Radio Times voted ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’: “The Greatest Comedy Radio Show of All Time”.  Not a bad legacy I think you’ll agree.”

– Jon Naismith, Producer, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue

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