BBC fury erupts as broadcaster urged to issue apology to Lionel Blair: 'Get his dues'

Mr Blair, a Canadian-born British actor, choreographer, tap dancer, and television presenter, died on November 4. He was best known for being a team captain on ITV game show ‘Give Us A Clue’ and BBC Radio 4’s ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’.

Throughout his stint on ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, Mr Blair was mocked constantly for his flam­boyant personality and for his dancing, and was subject to homophobic jokes despite being married to a woman.

They went on for nearly 15 years, made originally by host Humphrey Lyttelton and continued by his successor Jack Dee.

Mr Blair told the Mirror in 2013: “It was merciless and just plain mean.

“I didn’t mind for myself but my wife and family really hated it and became very upset.”

Continuing his remarks, Mr Blair added: “I don’t understand why they had to be gay gags either.

“Yes, I’m very over-the-top and flamboyant but I always have been. I’m theatrical, darling!

“I could have sued, I suppose, but that would have been breaking the comedians’ code – and you simply don’t do that.”

In 2009, he also said: “It was funny the first time but it went on week after week and became distressing.

“I have been happily married to Sue for 42 years. I have three children, two grand­children and one on the way and it was very hard on my family.

“Fortunately my kids decided to ignore it.” ­

READ MORE: Lionel Blair dead: Iconic entertainer dies aged 92

Dominic Cavendish, theatre critic for The Telegraph, wrote a tribute to Mr Blair and skewered the jokes at the expense of his personality.

He argued the BBC should make a statue for Mr Blair, with an apology note attached.

He also noted in the outlet one of the earliest tributes to the presenter after his death was a joke against him, which said: “Who can ever forget opposing team captain Una Stubbs sitting open-mouthed as he tried to pull off Twelve Angry Men in under two minutes!”


Mr Cavendish added: “What’s striking, listening again to some of those recordings, is the volume of audience laughter that greeted the dormitory-ready puerile joshing.

“Shrieks of sustained, quite cruel merriment follow that ‘joke’ from 1999, which was almost a vintage year for smutty digs at his expense (Take “The undisputed expert was Lionel Blair, but even he needed the whole two minutes on Harold Pinter’s Caretaker!”) although the year before had its, er, pearls: ‘No one who witnessed the event will ever forget the sparkle in Lionel Blair’s eye as he received Free Willy from Michael Aspel for two minutes!’

“What nominally saved this material from being denounced as homophobic was the notion that it was flagrantly incorrect – barking up the wrong tree on account of Blair’s flamboyant, ‘camp’ persona, whereas Blair was long married (from 1967) with three children, and latterly grand-children to boot.

“That marriage certificate, those involved presumably thought, afforded a licence to amuse the nation.”

Mr Cavendish continued and quoted insiders, who said in 2012 the gags against Mr Blair “have had a long enough run and it is time to move on”.

He then said: “It’s not really ‘done’, in that Blair should get his dues somehow, somewhere.

“I can’t think of a better tribute, actually, than a statue of him outside the doors to Broadcasting House, ideally in camp as Christmas tap-dance mode, with the permanently affixed apology in brass: ‘We’re Sorry, We Didn’t Have a Clue’.” has contacted the BBC for comment

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