Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

December 18, 2014

panel quiz

My friend Keith Matthews has posted on my blog that the team at last night’s recording was Gyles Brandreth, Jenny Eclair, Marcus Brigstocke and Shappi Khorsandi.

Great to have Marcus on again, a real favourite of mine.

There’s another recording in London on January 23rd and another in Canterbury – I don’t have a date for that.

Now Keith has set us a challenge for a bit of fun.

He says the team for the January 23rd recording is Paul Merton, Julian Clary and “a regular guest who hasn't played it for ages”, and “an actor whose most famous character is a time traveller”.

So guesses please everyone! I’m guessing Pam Ayres and David Tennant... but post with your guesses.

And in another bit of news... it was the last recording for whistle blower Trudi Stevens, one of the more long serving production assistants. Anyone predicting we might get a bloke next time?

December 08, 2014

Kenneth interviews Nicholas

A video of Kenneth filling in as a chat show HOST and interviewing Nicholas has turned up on YouTube. Amusingly Nicholas tells Kenneth they couldn't do Just A Minute without him. He also admits to a "pompous personality". It's worth a look

December 04, 2014

Robin Ince on JAM

Robin Ince has now blogged on his JAM experience.... http://robinince.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/my-deviation-life-a-night-of-just-a-minute/

here's the relevant bit...

I am quite relaxed now before a gig, there is just a mild tremor of expectation in the last 30 minutes before I go on (stretch that to 14 – 24 hours when trying out new shows).

But tonight, all that red raw stomach blistering is there, for I am on Just a MInute. This is an iconic show to me. A show older than I am.
And I will be on with stalwarts – Paul Merton, Sheila Hancock, Nicholas Parsons and Graham Norton. What if the subjects are given to me and I blank? What if my brain, already tired from insomnia and touring, flicks the Vs at me and says, very publicly, “no more! these neurons are sick of having to make up stuff to make you look good, we have nothing left to retrieve or fabricate or imagine in the hope that some of the words within are entertaining. Let us switch off while you bang nails into wood or do something purposeful. Build something simple and useful. Sow seeds, watch them grow.”
I told Nicholas that I had been in a room of people shouting, “It’s Nicholas BLOODY Parsons!” a mere matter of weeks before.
The last time I was on, still in the times of Freud (Clement), my brain fired on all cylinders in the first round but, on the cusp of whistle blown victory, my mind was required to retrieve the name of a sitcom, it foolishly found “Allo! Allo!”
And there was Paul, so sharp and trained in the ways of Just a Minute, buzzing in with “repetition”, only Hi De Hi could have been worse.
In the 12 hours before the recording, I constantly rehearsed possibilities. Each object I saw, whether pedal bin, paperclip or Matthew Amroliwala, I imagined Nicholas Parsons telling me, “your subject is Matthew Amroliwala and your time starts now.” As it was, Matthew Amroliwala didn’t come up on the night.
At 18.45, they all assembled in the green room, with stories of vast book launches and gigs in cathedrals, I kept quiet about my parish church gigs and lack of interest from Tesco in my horror anthology. I was diminutive, some new thing, though grey and thinning – a remnant in an Alien Resurrection specimen jar.
I was slightly tethered by fear. My mind is always busy on such occasions reminding me that I am not good enough and people are disappointed, whether The Infinite Monkey Cage or Just a Minute or some benefit gig.
It was fascinating to watch the minds of them all at work on the show, Sheila had been doing it since series 2, the year before I was born, though I am not sure I have learnt enough in the intervening years. This was once a world of Nimmo, Freud and Williams.
It was filled with the sort of good nature and apologies rarely seen on TV panel shows. Interruptions followed by apologies that “I probably shouldn’t have buzzed in, it was barely a deviation, do continue Paul”.
I was repetitively kicking myself within. Every time I snatched a subject from someone else, I managed to repeat something within seconds, though I have no idea how I clumsily repeated both DNA and Schopenhauer. As with my last appearance on Just a Minute, Nicholas looked at me on a few occasions and said, “we have no idea what you are talking about, but it’s all jolly”.
Sheila Hancock remains one of my favourite Quakers.
I was disappointed with my performance, but drank some wine and talked about Laurel and Hardy with Paul Merton afterwards. I am going to watch Blockheads now.

December 03, 2014

panel tonight

a very strong panel tonight - Paul Merton, Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton and Robin Ince.

December 02, 2014

Paul on why he loves JAM

and here he is on BBC Breakfast

JAM news

okay I have been quiet for a while but have been saving up lots of lovely news for you all.

Firstly, we have some dates for recordings – one is later today, Tues December 2nd, and the other is the 18th. I’m assuming there will be four recordings/eight shows as usual in the next season, so the others will probably be recorded in January, and the season will get under way in February.

Secondly, very exciting – a new JAM Classic Collection has been published. I know many of you will already have all the shows – but can I implore you to buy this if you can. The more that are bought, the more that get released, hopefully.

You’ll remember the first Classic Collection had 11 CDs with 22 shows. Two CDs each were themed around the five regulars and there was a bonus CD.

 This one is also themed around five players – Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth, Jenny Eclair and Stephen Fry – and as with the first there is a really nice cartoon of the five with Nicholas. The bonus CD has a Christmas theme. There are also potted bios of all five.

The shows all feature Nicholas Parsons of course – also featured are Clement Freud (13 shows), Peter Jones (eight shows), Derek Nimmo (seven shows), Kenneth Williams (six shows), Paul Merton (six shows), Jenny Eclair (six shows), Sheila Hancock (five shows), Stephen Fry (five shows), Tony Hawks (four shows), Graham Norton (four shows), Gyles Brandreth (four shows), Linda Smith (four shows), Kit Hesketh-Harvey (three shows), Julian Clary (two shows), Ross Noble two shows), Tim Rice (one show), Liza Tarbuck (one show), Chris Neill (one show), Steve Frost (one show), Fred MacAulay (one show), Maria McErlane (one show), Martin Jarvis (one show), Nick Revell (one show) and William Rushton (one show).

The packaging is very nice but does include one error – Graham Norton is cited as being part of a show when it should name Paul Merton.

Also the packaging thanks me and my website. Nice to get that acknowledgement.

Those interested can buy this through Amazon here
Thirdly there is also a Best of 2014 CD out – this features four shows from earlier this year. Featured players are Paul Merton (three shows), Sheila Hancock (one show), Graham Norton (one show), Gyles Brandreth (one show), Jenny Eclair (one show), Julian Clary (one show), Shappi Khorsandi (one show), Kevin Eldon (one show), Miles Jupp (one show), Paul Sinha (one show), Patrick Kielty (one show), Holly Walsh (one show), Joe Lycett (one show) and Vanessa Feltz (one show).

Again the packaging is nice but contains an error– there are 10 pics of JAM cast members on the cover which include Sue Perkins who doesn’t appear in any of the included shows.

You can buy this here

Also there is a new book out about Radio Four which has a JAM section – For The Love of Radio Four. It’s a great read and it also acknowledges me and the website.

You can buy this here.

I was also going to mention the recent BBC series, Frequency of Laughter on the hsitory of radio comedy – the 70s show includes John Lloyd talking about JAM and working with Kenneth Williams, although strangely the show itself is not named!

October 05, 2014

sad news

The woman who regularly introduced JAM in the mid 70s was the very talented Sheila Tracy... I see she has died.

See her obituary here

September 22, 2014

JAM book launch

has been almost three weeks since the book launch, so well over due to write it up. First a coupke of pics, the first is me on the right with a couple of JAM friends, Susie and Steph, the second is me with Nicholas.

So to what happened.
The launch was held at the Ivy Club, a famous old club in the Theatre district of London. Having looked it up on the Internet, I noticed it had a dress code so dressed up a bit.
I thought it was within walking distance of the hotel, so I set off on foot, but I got lost so I had to double back and get a cab. But it was a very hot day and I arrived more than a little late, and a bit hot.
As I walked in, Josie Lawrence and Christopher Biggins were coming out of the room so I felt like I was already in good company. It was a smallish room where it was held and a bit stuffy so it got a bit sweaty. I'm not very good in this sort of sitaution anyway being crap at small talk and slightly deaf which makes it hard to hear people in a noisy room.
There were several JAM stars there - Julian Clary, Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Tony Blackburn, Suki Webster, June Whitfield. Derek Nimmo's widow, Pat was there. Annie Parsons was there, she had been very nice to me when I went to Stratford-on-Avon and said "Hello" as if she remembered me. Malcolm Messiter was there.
My old friend, Keith Matthews, who helped with the book, was there, and was in top form, getting everyone's autographs and chatting them up.
And of course Nicholas was there. At first he looked a bit frail and a bit worried, and I honestly wondered if he was a bit unwell. But it came time for speeches and it was like a light turned on. Suddenly Nicholas the performer emerged, and he looked younger and on top of things. He gave a brilliant very funny speech, full of anecdotes and reminscences. Keith and I got a mention, but it was mainly, as you'd expect, about the show and the book, with a bit of history, some memories of Kenneth, Derek, Peter and Paul, as well as Ian Messiter and David Hatch. He also quoted some of Julian's double entrendre lines. Of Clement Freud he said "he always used to womnder why everyone else got a laugh and he didn't" as a way of explaining how the show became more entertainment and less competition, against Clement's wishes. It's a good line and was meant as a joke, of course.
Nicholas was very kind to me. Keith told him I had been up at Edinburgh for the JAM recording - though I wasn't actually this year - and he thanked me for being such a devoted fan.
I didn't stay all that long as I felt like I was swimming in sweat, and as I say, these things aren't all that natural for me. Still it was a great occasion and it was clear what genuine affection the entertainment community has for Nicholas.

September 03, 2014

900 and other figures

I'm in London, and with a little time on my hands, a few thoughts.

Firstly, the matter of the 900th show. The BBC have been promoting this a little in the lead-up to the show which is to play next week. It does make you wonder how much more fuss there will be for the 1000th show which will preumably play in about 2019.

It is a grand total but it is a figure that is open to argument. To say it is the 900th edition of Just A Minute is perhaps an over simplification. Here's how the figure is made up (up to today)...

BBC Radio Four Just A Minute "ordinary" shows - 834
BBC Television Just A Minute shows - 30
ITV Television Just A Minute shows - 28
BBC Junior Just A Minute shows - 5
BBC Silver Minutes 25th anniversary compilation show - 1
BBC 40th anniversary compilation show - 1

TOTAL - 899.

Now there is room for argument. Do you combine both TV and radio? Do we include the Junior Just A Minute shows which are slightly shorter and have a  slightly different format? Do we count the two compilation shows or not?

It's perhaps the last question that I get asked about most. If you look at how other shows treat this sort of programme, in general, they do seem to regard these as broadcast shows to be included in the total. Both shows were played in the usual JAM timeslot and included some fresh material. The 40th special was attached to a season and advertised as the first show of that season. I think they should count in a total, but understand that others will disagree and my website does separate these out.

Should the Junior shows count? After all those shows even have a different name! I think they should count in a total, but should be separated from the other shows.

Ín some ways the adding together of TV shows into the total should be the most controversial. You don't usually combine mediums in that way. And as you can see above some of the shows were not even produced by the BBC.

So whether the figure of 900 is a correct one is a talking point. Still - if you do add EVERYTHING together, we do reach 900 next week. And that should count for something.

A couple of other stats points.

Paul Merton has now passed Peter Jones as the third most frequent appearing panellist. Paul is now creeping up on Kenneth Williams who he should pass next year. Then only Clement Freud will be ahead of him, but he will have to keep playing for another 10 years or so to pass the great man.

Did everyone notice the return of Claire Jones to produce the Edinburgh shows. I am not sure if this was a brief return or not though I gather Katie Tyrrell is moving on. Claire has been producing the show on and off since 2000 - the first season without both Peter Jones and Derek Nimmo. She has now produced more shows than anyone else, so no-one can doubt her genuine commitment and passion to the show. I do hope she is back for a while as she and Tilusha Ghelani will be a formidable team.

August 17, 2014

the book

I have now read through Nicholas Parsons' new book, Welcome To Just A Minute, a history of the show.

As I've said, there are a few statistical pages at the end of the book, which I compiled, and it's obvious that the book has made plenty of use of the website which Nicholas generously acknowledges in the preface. The book also includes some other statistical question type pages which I also contributed to. I say this early so you can take into account any "bias" on my part.

The book is not without the odd error, but there is nothing of major significance which is a compliment to the team that produced it.

I expected the book to be a coffee table style book with plenty of photos, as Nicholas has already written extensively about the show in his two autobiographies, and talked about it endlessly in recent years. Would he have anything much new to say, I wondered.

Well as it happens he has plenty that will be new to even the most devoted fan. There are no great revelations, but to be fair to him, Nicholas does not shy away from addressing the show's "controversies", such as they are - his clashes with Clement Freud over his style of chairmanship, the tensions that led to Wendy Richard being quietly dropped from the show.

The book is a chronological look at the show, with chapters on the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and the 21st century. Nicholas runs through the show's development, how his style has changed, how the style of comedy has changed, commenting in detail on panellists and just about every imagineable aspect of the show. I guess about half of the text is taken up by transcripts of shows, artfully chosen to illustrate the points Nicholas makes.

I'\ve always thought the transcripts stand up well to text reading, and of course the way they have been chosen - to highlight the especially funny moments - makes then hugely enjoyable to read. It will be hard to get through many pages of the book without chuckling and it will ceratinly send many people looking for online versions of the various shows to hear the segments in their full glory. Most of the transcripts have a date attached which will make this possible.

Slightly surprisingly to me, the emphasis of the book is more on the "gang of four" days rather than the show as it currently stands, which may make the appeal of the book partly nostalgic. The book has 464 pages, but discussion of the post-Kenneth Williams era - more than half the show's history - doesn't begin until page 287, and even the chapter on the 21st century begins with lengthy tributes to Peter Jones, Clement and Derek Nimmo.

There are good analyses of the styles of Kenneth, Clement, Derek, Peter, Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth, Andree Melly, Jenny Eclair, Julian Clary, Sue Perkins, Tim Rice, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Ross Noble, Linda Smith, Aimi Macdonald, Wendy Richard, Liza Tarbuck, Steve Frost, Josie Lawrence and Stephen Fry, while a few of the most eccentric guests, Magnus Pyke, Richard Murdoch, Patrick Moore, Elaine Stritch and Stanley Unwin, also get a rundown with well chosen excerpts from shows.

Nicholas also writes at length on such matters as the show's travels, the whistle, how the subjects are chosen, the success and failure of the TV versions, the JAM stage show of the 90s, how his rulings have changed (he's very critical of his early efforts), theme music, the show's international appeal with partocular mention of India, and many other aspects.

There are also short sections written by Gyles, Graham, Jenny and Sue - presumably Paul Merton is saving his thoughts on the show for his own book out this month. Theese are all good fun. Interestingly Gyles writes at length on Nicholas, Clement, Kenneth, Peter and Derek but has nothing to say about any of his current fellow panellists.

The disappointment of the book for me was the photos. There are a few, largely old publicity shots, but I was hoping for a few more.

I wonder if the BBC will be tempted to turn this into an audiobook. Nicholas reading this with the various excerpts from shows all added in would surely make a great Christmas present.

I'll be interested to see how the book sells. It is a long book, but Nicholas has a friendly chatty writing style and it has been very well edited - the book would score well in terms of lack of repetition and deviation. Because the transcripts have been chosen to illustrate points Nicholas is making, they don't break up the flow of the story at all.

It's a book perhaps for having nearby for light reading and dipping into, rather than one where yoiu feel compelled to read it in a day or two as I did, and I look forward to going back to it for a few dips!