Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

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Location: Wellington, New Zealand

August 26, 2015

more news

The team for the latest recording was very strong - Paul Merton, Julian Clary, Josie Lawrence and Susan Calman.

Also they played the first in the new series at 9am on Monday - one of the two JAM recordings. Presumably the rest will play in October and November.

August 19, 2015

Linda Smith tribute

those of you in Edinburgh with time on your hands this evening might like to go to this Linda Smith tribute

A very strong cast of comedians are gathering to pay tribute to dear Linda who sadly died so young - almost 10 years ago now.

JAM stars Fred MacAulay, Arthur Smith, Phill Jupitus, Jo Brand, Susan Calman, and Jo Caulfield are among those taking part.

Still one of the best remembered players of the game, and of course, a great cause.

August 12, 2015

JAM at Edinburgh

The two panels at Edinburgh today were

Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Janey Godley and Joe Lycett

and

Paul, Gyles, Susan Calman and Tom Allen

Great to see Susan back so soon - I thought she did very well last season.

August 03, 2015

last season

I've been meaning to write something about how much I enjoyed last season. The panels weree all good. It was great top have Pam Ayres back with her unique style, and Susan Calman was a great new addition. Her style reminds me a little of Peter Jones and Linda Smith - she pokes fun at the game and the others in a witty way.

Really enjoyed that season - now looking forward to the next one!

August 01, 2015

next season

Half of the next season is already recorded! This week they recorded shows with Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Sue Perkins and newcomer, actor and game show host Warwick Davis. I hope Warwick was able to get a word in with the other three!

The week before they recorded shows with the panel including Jenny Eclair and another newcomer, comedian Josh Widdicombe. Haven't heard who the other two were yet.

July 13, 2015

Keith obit

A lovely obit from the Camden New Journal for dear Keith

Keith Matthews - ‘life and soul’ of charity shop

Keith Matthews
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Published: 6 July, 2015
by ALINA POLIANSKAYA


A CHARITY shop manager who was the “heart and soul” of a Kentish Town book store has died aged 55.
Keith Matthews was loved by friends, family and customers alike, many of whom visited the Oxfam Books and Music shop just to have a chat. He was known for his “encyclopaedic literary and cultural knowledge”, no less than for his “great sense of humour”.
In 2005 Mr Matthews became the manager of the shop, where TV journalist Jon Snow once donated his vinyl LPs and comedian Noel Fielding was a regular visitor. Originally a general Oxfam store, the book section was doing so well that the store eventually became dedicated to literature.
One elderly shopper praised his patient and caring attitude to people who wanted to browse books – comparing it to certain other shops where customers are “told they are spending to long looking”.
Comedy was a passion of his, and he knew a great many faces in the world of entertainment, such as Eddie Izzard, Bill Bailey and Jo Brand.
Mr Matthews was also a big fan of Radio 4 show Just a Minute on which he was the “absolute authority”, even helping to write a book about the programme. He claimed to have attended every recording since he was eight years old.
Born in 1960, Mr Matthews was brought up in Acton. Close to his family, he acted as a carer for his mother who recently passed away.
He loved his godchildren who lived in Kentish Town, who said he was “very loved and gave lots of support”. Aside from volunteering, which was a big commitment throughout his life, he loved socialising, singing, acting and writing. He had trained in drama and spent time working as front-of-house staff at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill.
Despite a long illness, his passing was “unexpected”.
A fellow volunteer at the Oxfam bookstore said: “There will be a large hole in Kentish Town as a lot of people came in just to enjoy his company.”

June 23, 2015

Keith Matthews

As I posted, Keith has passed away. I think he is the number one greatest fan Just A Minute ever had. He was a man who suffered for much of his life from ill health, but when you met him, he had a boundless energy and enthusiasm for everything he did, but especially for Just A Minute.

Keith started in the late 70s taking notes on every show, listing the scores for each show, writing down the subjects and who started each round. He kept these old exercise books all his life, his notes scrawled in pencil, but with love.

And he and a group of friends started attending each show, sitting up front near where Kenneth Williams's mother always sat. Kenneth was Keith's favourite and a few times Keith chased Kenneth as he walked home from the Paris Studio where most shows were recorded. As is well-known, Kenneth didn't always appreciate fan attention, but he seems to have tolerated Keith, as he was reasonably forthright in his opinions, describing one of his fellow panellists as a "silly bitch".

Keith and his friends would get together to attend recordings and play Just A Minute. And Keith used to record all the shows on to cassette tapes and keep them.

Keith first got in touch with me way back in 2001, I think. He sent me long rather rambly, but enthusiastic and appreciative emails about the website and JAM. He would send me copies of some of the letters he had sent producers and some of the answers he had. Kenneth was certainly his favourite but he had a deep appreciation of all of the players and treasured any contact he had with them.

One letter that I still have here was written just after Kenneth died to then producer Teddy Taylor. At the time Kenneth seemed to think Barry Cryer was being lined up to replace Kenneth as the regular and Keith wrote that Barry wouldn't be good enough because he had only just once won a game of JAM. He then sent a long list of people who he wanted to hear on JAM - they were all big names of British comedy, people like Bruce Forsyth, Spike Milligan, Ronnie Corbett and Barry Humphries (either as Dame Edna or as himself, Keith said). Keith also wrote that he wanted Nicholas to do the odd show on the panel with Peter Jones or Derek Nimmo or Clement Freud as chairman. He received a nice reply, although Teddy didn't respond specifically to the critique of Barry Cryer, he did respond to some of Keith's other comments, and thanked him for the suggestions.

Keith also sent me letters he had received from Sheila Hancock and Aimi Macdonald in answer to his requests that they return to the programme. Both seemed open to it. Aimi said she would love to "but you have to be asked". Sheila wrote back saying that she had been asked to appear on the show just after Kenneth's death, and then felt she would be too upset to do it, but that she might be open to a return now. And a few months later she did return to the show, after Keith had sent her letter to then producer Claire Jones.

Keith had a huge impact on the JAM website that I still run. His notes about shows and dates provided the nucleus of the complete list of shows that I always wanted to have. And he sent me literally hundreds of shows on cassette wich I transcribed and copied for others - the begnning of the sharing of shows that continues now. Many of the recordings you can hear on the Internet today come from Keith's old cassettes.

In 2002 I holidayed in London and spent a bit of time with Keith. We walked the famous walk, often mentioned on JAM, between the Paris Studio and Great Portland Street, near where Kenneth lived. I can remember Keith trying determinedly to get me into a closed theatre where the first JAM was recorded, arguing at length with a security guard. We went to a couple of shows together, though not JAM. He was great fun and was hugely energetic - I used to struggle to keep up with him as he charged down the street. And of course, he talked endlessly about JAM - there wasn't an aspect of the show he didn't love. We went to one of the evenings where he was playing the show with his friends.

It was one of my ambitions to see JAM recorded with Keith and we made plans to do this in September 2007. We travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon together to see the show. The story of the recording is told in detail on this blog - part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four here. It's worth reading. The sad aspect was that Keith became very ill and we were unable to go to the show together. He of course insisted that I go and I did. After I had left, Keith recovered a little and got a taxi to the theatre, but then became ill again and an ambulance returned him to the B and B where were staying. So my ambition of seeing a JAM with Keith remained unfulfilled, and alas, will now always be unfulfilled.

As Keith's health deteriorated, he was unable to send emails, but he was able to cope with writing on the blog - I think the darker colours helped - and would write delightful comments in the comments section, often describing at length the latest recording he had attended, or passing on news of who would be on the next one. If you look through the comments on this blog you will see many from Keith, his last just a couple of weeks ago.

He became interested in the idea of writing a book about Just A Minute and would occasionally give me updates on how this was going. He spent a lot of time at the BBC archives going through the old correspondence about the show. I always had some doubts that he was a good enough writer to get a book professionally published and encouraged him to aim to have a book published by himself which he could share with friends. Keith had no doubts though, and wrote off to the BBC and others with his plans.

But in the end, Keith did get his book published in a way. He had struck up a friendship with Nicholas Parsons who would ring up occasionally and chat to Keith. He would put aside tickets for Keith to attend the shows and pass on info on who was appearing. This info would be passed on to me and put up on the blog.

When Nicholas mentioned his plans to write a book, he asked Keith to help with some of the research for the book which of course Keith did with enthusiasm and the book - with commendably few mistakes - was published last year. I went to London for the book launch and Keith was there, as happy and energetic as ever. I don't remember exactly what he was wearing but he was certainly wearing the loudest clothing in the room and he was in typical Keith fashion, bowling up to every celeb in the room, insisting they autograph the book. He also found time for me and his other friends who were there. It was a special evening and I know Keith was delighted that he had been able to contribute to Nicholas's book.

So it seems the illness Keith suffered from for years, a form of epilepsy, has taken him from us. JAM will never have a better friend. And I'll miss a dear dear man who contributed so much to me, to the website and through that to many JAM fans around the world.

A couple of friends have written to me... I won't name them as I haven't asked permission, but here's a little of what they had to say...

one - I’d known Keith for about 10 years through JAM and since the time that we first got talking he’d been kindly taking me along to shows about twice a year. I live close to the Oxfam shop where he was the manager and it’s a popular port of call for many who live in Kentish Town, not just the bookworms but those who enjoyed the relaxed social conviviality which Keith and his team managed to generate. Keith alerted me to your blog a few years back, which I’ve been frequenting ever since.

 two - I know you and Keith were very good friends and go back a long way. Keith spoke about you an awful lot when we were working on the book. He was very appreciative of all your help on that specifically and in general over the years, sharing your passion and interest in Just a Minute with him.
So rest in peace, dear Keith. We'll miss you.

Hei maumaharatanga ki te tino hoa. . Kei konā te aroha me te whakaaro.

the greatest ever fan of Just A Minute

Very very sad to report that my dear friend, and the greatest ever fan of Just A Minute, Keith Matthews, has died.

I'll write a lot more about Keith and how much he helped me and Just A Minute. Just too upset right now.

RIP Keith and sincere condolences to Keith's family and many friends.

June 10, 2015

a new Just A Minute

a TV station in Atlanta has created a new programme called Just A Minute, where well known journalists comment on the news in "just a minute". The programme airs at 5.56pm each day.

No word yet on whether any repetition, hesitation or deviation will be allowed....

Read about it here....

June 02, 2015

Is JAM scripted or rehearsed?

There was an interesting exchange on Twitter the other day after Gyles Brandreth went the full minute on the subject of "Alice in Wonderland".

Christopher Ager@ager2734
: BBCR4 Just a Minute. Gyles Brandreth's faultless recitation on Lewis Carrol is proof of scripted rehearsal.

Gyles @GylesB1: Absolutely not. Repeat the suggestion and I'll sue!

Janey Godley @JaneyGodley: I have done Just A Minute and have never heard of a rehearsal. It was always in the moment - I have no reason to lie.

Gyles: Thank you Janey!

Susan Wilson @Sukey99: It clearly wasn't scripted - he is just jealous of you, Gyles! (I was at the recording.)

Gyles: This is a nice tweet: thank you!

It's interesting, so many people do feel that really good improvisation must in some way be a con. A few years ago now a former producer said the panellists did have the option of seeing the subjects they were going to start. But anyone who has been to a recording must know the show is not scripted. Could it be that some panellists think ahead about what they are going to say? Maybe.

But the reason that Gyles is so good is - well because he is so good. I think he's a great foil for Paul Merton and a real asset for the show.