I’ve been lucky enough in my medium-sized life to see two surprisingly long-lived Jazz men perform, Humphrey Lyttelton and George Melly.
Humph was presenting I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and building his increasing frailty and stumbling delivery into the act just as another of my radio comedy heroes Peter Jones had in his latter years on Just A Minute.
Harry Hill sang ‘The Ugly Duckling’ to the tune of ‘I Can’t Live if Living is Without You’ that night. It was one of the happiest of my life.
Nice one, Humph.
Melly, I adored too, particularly for the delicious omnisexual geriatric flirtation he and Maggi Hambling used to indulge in on a fairly snobby Channel 4 quiz show on the arts. Only a pair of surrealists with a shared passion for Max Wall and less genuine sexual attraction than Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis could have produced such screen magic.
When I saw Melly live he was incoherent, slurring, incompetent, but then the band started and he sang- note, pause, word perfect, sublime.
He told one great joke about getting old that night, if rather badly.
Now he was getting on he found he was having to come down to the loo more often in the night, sometimes several times, and thus, in one such middle of the night trip, had been delighted to discover his wife had set up a system in the downstairs toilet whereby the light came on as soon as he opened the door.
‘Excellent,’ he thought, and was rather happily relieving himself until his wife came up behind him and said ‘George, did you know you’re pissing in the fridge?’
I think Humph would have liked that one,